July 19, 2024

Timing Belt 101 What It Is and When You Should Replace It

Brake service cost

Although cars are increasingly governed by complex computer systems—making it harder for the average auto owner to completely understand how his or her car works—there are still some parts it’s vital to understand in order to prevent damage and costly visits to auto repair shops throughout the years. One of these parts is the timing belt.

What Is a Timing Belt?

Without getting too technical, the timing belt is a rubber belt that synchronizes the crankshaft and the camshafts. This is vital to opening and closing your engine valves at the proper times—and thus is an essential aspect of engine operation. It’s located in the engine compartment, behind the drive belts.

When Is Timing Belt Replacement Necessary?

If your timing belt breaks, your car simply won’t start. This is bad news if it leaves you stranded! There may be warning signs, so listen for slapping, scraping or squeaking noises that may indicate a worn or loose belt. Your camshaft sensors may also send trouble codes to your car’s computer, turning on the check engine light.

But since there aren’t always symptoms that your timing belt is about to break, it’s very important to follow manufacturer instructions on regular replacement intervals. Depending on the car, the recommended replacement schedule might be anywhere between 50,000 and 90,000 miles. A timing belt that malfunctions can cause serious engine damage, so the upfront cost is always worth it to replace it on schedule.

What Does Timing Belt Replacement Cost?

The procedure for a timing belt replacement can be difficult. First, all accessories that block access to the engine timing cover need to be removed so that the cover can be taken off. Then, it’s recommended if there’s a problem with the timing belt that the water pump, pulleys and tensioners be replaced as well before the cover is put back into place. If these other components fail soon after the belt is replaced, valve or piston damage might require even more expensive repairs. Depending on your car, timing belt replacement might cost between $300 and $700, factoring in the actual timing belt cost, other parts and labor.

Have you needed to replace a timing belt? How much did it cost you? Share in the comments.

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