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When do I Need to Replace My Timing Belt and Why?

What is a Timing Belt? 

A timing belt is a common piece found in most car engines. It is responsible for synchronizing and controlling the rotation of the camshaft and crankshaft, as well as the opening and closing of the engine’s valves that allow air and gas in and out. This control ensures the fuel will ignite in the combustion chamber and the valves will push the pistons down.

Engine timing belt

When do I need to Replace My Timing Belt?

Car owners may seem reluctant to replace their timing belts due to their steep cost. On average a new timing belt can range from $500-$900, and that does not include the service fee to have someone install it.


Instead of being surprised when your timing belt goes out, you can plan ahead for the expense by recognizing one of these 8 signs your timing belt needs to be replaced.

Cracking

Signs of a worn timing belt

With age, cracking is a natural sign of wear of a timing belt. When you go to have your car inspected, the mechanic will examine both the topside and underside of the belt and will identify if you have a neoprene timing belt with multiple cracks. If your belt has an excessive amount of cracks, you will want to have the belt replaced immediately.

Belt Abrasion

Belt abrasion is apparent when the belt’s edges have worn down to the filaments inside. This wear occurs when there is a pulley misaligned or a tensioner out of place, bearing failure or excessive heat in your engine.

Material Loss

Similar to tires, as you lose grip and traction your timing belt can slip and become damaged. Material loss is common when you are pulling a trailer or heavy load or in wet weather.

Glazing

When a timing belt is glazed or appears glossy on the underside of the belt, a mechanic will test the elasticity or flexibility by trying to put an indent into the surface of the belt. If the mechanic is unable to leave a mark, this means the belt has gone stiff and will need replacing.

Pilling

As a timing belt ages, the material that is naturally worn down can build up in the rib cross-sections or brake pulleys. These buildups can cause shaking, belt noise and excessive vibrations. A mechanic will be able to assess where the buildup is and whether your belt will need replacing.

Elongation

Material loss also impacts the overall tension and overall performance of your timing belt. As a belt loses material due to natural wear, it can reduce the length of the belt, moving the tensioner beyond its take-up limit thus reducing tension.

Misalignment

A mechanic can diagnose misalignment by looking at the tensioner’s internal components. If they have failed, it will result in your engine producing excessive noise, vibration and heat.

Hydroplaning

This phenom occurs when water cannot be dispersed away from the belt and pulleys. With excess water, the belt will hydroplane between the belt and pulleys resulting in a loss of power to engine accessories.

Why do I need to Replace My Timing Belt?

In most cases, the need for a timing belt replacement will not be made clear until it breaks. As a general rule of thumb, mechanics recommend replacing it every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. You also can look in your owner’s manual to verify manufacturer recommendations as well.

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