What causes a timing belt to go bad?

All About Timing Belts

The timing belt is one of the most crucial parts of your engine system, and one of the most important to maintain. The timing belt is a ribbed belt that works to keep the upper and lower parts of your engine working in time. It is arranged in a certain configuration in order to keep the cylinder heads and valves in sync with the crankcase and pistons.

But how do you know how to best care for your timing belt? Does your car even have one?

Do I Have a Timing Belt?

If your car was made in the 90's or before, it has a timing belt, and you should pay attention to its maintenance! If you drive a more modern car, it is possible your engine uses a metal timing chain instead of a belt, a change that gives this part much more longevity. There are some modern companies, like Audi, who still build their cars with timing belts, so your best bet is to check your owner's manual to know what is keeping your engine in time.

When Should I Change My Timing Belt?

Of course, most manufacturers specify their recommended interval of changing the timing belt, but the general rule is to change them every 60,000 miles, or every 5 years, depending on which comes first. Check your owner's manual if you are unsure.

Snapped Timing Belt

So, what happens if my timing belt snaps? This all depends on the configuration of your belt. There are two types of configurations, interference and non-interference. With an interference type system, the stroke of the piston and the stroke of the valve take up the same space in he cylinder, but occur at different times. If your timing belt snaps and can no longer keep these systems in sync, they will likely collide and cause bent valves or damage to the cam shaft or cylinder head.

Timing Belt Issues

Misfiring of the Engine

A worn timing belt can negatively affect the fire rate of an engine. This happens when the timing belt beings to slip away from the gears and fall onto the camshaft. When this occurs one of the cylinders will begin to open and close too soon. If this is happening to your vehicle, your belt may need to be replaced right away. The longer you wait the higher the risk of permanently damaging your engine.

Shaky Idling of the Engine

Timing belts are designed with “teeth” which grip the gears as they rotate various engine components. If these teeth become worn or ever start falling off, the timing belt will have a difficult time gripping the gears correctly and may begin slipping away from them. In this situation, the teeth fall directly onto the gears and can cause a jolt in the engine. Ultimately this can cause engine stalling, and in some cases, render your vehicle inoperable.

Smoking Engine

Excess smoke from the exhaust may relate to a timing belt problem. On the top of every cylinder there are two holes whose job is to let exhaust out and fresh air in. If your timing belt is worn down, then the cylinder holes can become unsynchronized causing exhaust and air to flow incorrectly in and out of your engine. This results in excess smoke coming out of your exhaust system and potentially dangerous engine failure in the future.

Southern Orange County Automotive Service

At Saddleback Automotive, we strive to provide you with an alternative to dealerships by providing the vehicles, and you, with excellent service and the best possible repairs.

We are continually updating and upgrading all of our diagnostic equipment in order to serve our clients confidently, knowing that despite all the changes in technology, we are prepared for any automotive challenges, including damaged timing belts, that come our way.