Car Care

Replacing The Timing Belt: What You Need To Know

The Timing Belt Is The Most Important Component Of An Engine, And It Should Be Replaced Regularly.

If the internal combustion engine was an orchestra, the timing belt would be the conductor. This simple piece of rubber ensures that pistons are in perfect synchronization with the valves to deliver the required mix of fuel and air to keep the engine running. 

Like spark plugs and fuel filter, replacing the timing belt is a scheduled maintenance item on many cars, and here’s what you need to know about the timing belt including when you should replace it and whether or not you should attempt this as a DIY repair.

What Is The Timing Belt?

timing belt on camshaft

All engines require exact amounts of fuel, air, and compression, and all of that must be delivered to the combustion chamber at precise intervals. The timing belt is a rubber belt that fits on gears mounted on the crankshaft and the camshaft(s) to sync the pistons with the valves.

The rubber belts should be replaced at regular intervals, while some vehicles are equipped with a metal timing chain or even timing gears that can be designed to last the life of the engine. Regardless of whether you have a timing belt, timing chain, or timing gears, all of these serve the same purpose to keep the engine’s timing exact.

When Should You Replace a Timing Belt?

timing chain on camshaft

Generally speaking, most automakers suggest that the timing belt should be replaced every 100,000 miles. Some check engine lights for cylinder misfire, crankshaft position, and/or camshaft position can also suggest problems with the engine’s timing. 

In addition to these, you should consider replacing the timing belt if you’re preparing to have any other major engine work done around this mileage. Taking advantage of any possible overlap can help save time and/or money on a repair that is extremely time consuming and expensive.

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Is This An Easy DIY Repair?

front view of timing chain on engine

Simply put, replacing the timing belt is not an easy DIY repair. It’s not often that I advise someone to not attempt a DIY repair, but the timing belt is a job best left for the professionals or advanced DIY mechanics. The cost to replace a timing belt is expensive, but failing to do so and dealing with a broken timing belt will be a far costlier repair.

How To Replace Timing Belt?

timing belt kit

The timing belt runs from the crankshaft to the camshaft, so it is located at the front of the engine where the drive belts are. Being an integral part of the engine, the timing belt is protected by a sturdy cover that usually requires significant disassembly to remove. The year, make, model of the vehicle determines how difficult the timing belt is to replace, but generally speaking, vehicles with a transverse-mounted engine (the drive belts at the front of the engine compartment) are the easiest on which to perform this repair.

The biggest challenge when replacing the timing belt is properly setting the time, which means even if the belt is off a single tooth on the gears, the engine isn’t going to run right. This job can be even harder on engines with overhead camshafts, especially dual overhead cams.

Conclusion

All scheduled maintenance items are important if you want your vehicle to run properly, but replacing the timing belt is one repair you definitely don’t want to overlook. Installing a new timing belt is an expensive maintenance repair, but if not performed as recommended, you could be looking at replacing the entire engine!

Whether you do it yourself or take it to a professional shop, this scheduled maintenance item should be a top priority to keep your vehicle on the road.

Jeffrey-Ross

Lifelong automotive enthusiast with a soft spot for offroading. Wrencher turned writer, but I still love to tinker on just about anything with an engine. Dream car: tie between a ‘71 Hemi ‘Cuda and a ’91 GMC Syclone. #GirlDad #SaveTheManuals

Jeffrey N. Ross
Lifelong automotive enthusiast with a soft spot for offroading. Wrencher turned writer, but I still love to tinker on just about anything with an engine. Dream car: tie between a ‘71 Hemi ‘Cuda and a '91 GMC Syclone. #GirlDad #SaveTheManuals

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