Timing belt: Break, Change, Replacement Cost & more

The timing belt is a fundamental part of a vehicle because it synchronizes the engine’s internal components.

The timing belt is of vital importance for the proper functioning of our vehicle. If we do not follow the recommendations by the manufacturers, the life of the engine of our vehicle could be significantly shortened. In fact, the consequences of a belt breakage produce the most expensive breakdowns that we can face in a mechanic.

What is a timing belt?

Timing belt
Timing belt

The timing belt is a piece of rubber, among other materials, that transmits movement from the crankshaft to the camshaft, coordinating the movement between the valves and pistons. It is a fundamental but straightforward device since it can synchronize the internal operation and the gear of all the engine parts. A failure in the distribution can cause a rather costly or even irreparable loss.

That is why it is essential to know how to keep the timing belt in good condition and what signs indicate we must attend.

When to replace timing belt?

To prevent the timing belt from breaking, the manufacturer’s recommendations should first be observed. It is essential to follow them at the bottom. Beyond that, it is critical to change the belt based on two factors: the number of kilometers and the time of use.

Number of kilometers

For automakers, when to change the timing belt has to do with the number of miles. But the range is extensive. Depending on the make and model, we can find that the belt lasts in good condition, a maximum mileage that will range between 60,000 and 160,000 km approximately.

In general, the conservation of the belt will depend on where we are driving. The wear suffered by the timing belt is not the same if we usually drive on the road as if we do it by braking every so often in a city with a hell of traffic.

Therefore, in case we frequently move in urban environments, the advice of the experts is to shorten this mileage by 20% since the belt will be “working” intensely even if the car does not travel kilometers.

Time elapsed

Another factor associated with changing the strap has to do with the time of use. Even if you haven’t driven many miles, manufacturers still recommend checking the timing belt at least every three years for nicks, cracks, or discoloration that indicate wear. 

If you don’t find anything problematic, you can safely continue using it. But, if five years pass and you did not cover the number of kilometers, it would still be advisable to renew it.

It should be borne in mind that this element is basically made of rubber, and nylon, a material that ages and deteriorates. Obviously, the weather also acts on the belt, especially in extreme temperatures and high humidity. In those cases, it is better to be cautious and check the condition of the strap in shorter periods of time.

In any case, it is crucial to have a reputable workshop to check or change the timing belt. If the belt is not installed correctly, the motor will not work correctly and will have malfunctions. If some teeth are knocked out, or the pulleys loosen too much, the engine can suffer severe and costly damage.

How much to replace timing belt?

The average timing belt replacement cost for a typical car can range between $300 and $1000 since the price of the kit, and the amount of labor required is highly variable.

The replacement cost of a timing belt is minimal compared to its breakage. To give you an idea, the breakage can cost you at least $1,500 and, depending on the extent of the damage, can go up to $6,000.

The price may vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle. The belt is changed, and the timing kit, consisting of the belt, a tensioner roller, can also contain several winding rollers, gaskets, screws, nuts, etc.

The price of changing the timing belt will also change if the water pump has to be replaced with a new one, but it is advisable to do so.

How to change timing belt?

Changing the timing belt is not easy. It is one of the most complex mechanical maintenance tasks, and we must do it very well so that the car continues to function properly.

Anyway, with a little patience, skill, and the right tools works, it is possible to carry it out without the help of an expert. We tell you to step by step:

Tools needed

  • Hydraulic jack: to lift the car and remove one of the wheels
  • Stand: to keep the car elevated while changing the timing belt
  • Toolbox: cross wrench, spanners, sockets, ratchet, screwdriver, and Allen keys
  • Gloves: to protect hands from motor fluids

Procedure

Raise the car and remove a wheel

Depending on your position on the motor, access to the belt will be on one side or the other of the motor. Review the technical data sheet of your vehicle to know which side you should work on. 

Raise the car with the hydraulic jack, use the stand to keep it in that position, and remove the wheel with the cross wrench.

Lock the pulleys

Next, you will need to block the pulleys propping up the motor. For this, depending on the model, you may need a special lever, but a fine screwdriver should be enough.

Remark motor position

This step is crucial. Now you will need to turn the engine with the crankshaft bolt until it lines up completely. 

Next, you will have to mark the position of each of the pulleys to record the exact position of each of them concerning the belt and the motor. You can use an indelible marker.

Loosen the tensioner roller and remove the timing belt

The tensioning rollers can be automatic, spring tension, with hydraulic or manual lift. Depending on the type of tension, you will have to loosen them in one way or another.

After loosening them, you can remove the timing belt from the engine. After removing the belt, you will need to remove the take-up rollers and the water pump.

Fit the new timing belt

Now is the time to reassemble the rollers and install the belt, looking at the marks you made earlier to realign it. Adjust the tension on the idler roller when it is properly aligned and give the engine several turns again with the crankshaft bolt.

Final procedures

Start the car and check the operation of the belt. Accelerate several times sharply to check if the belt has correct tension. If the belt is too loose, it will vibrate and hum when you decelerate, while if it is too tight, it will hiss when you accelerate.

If the belt has adequate tension, you will only have to replace the wheel with the cross wrench, and you will have finished with the change of the timing belt.

Timing belt vs chain

Some cars have a timing chain instead of a strong-toothed timing belt. Both are completely valid today; just like the belt needs to be replaced every X kilometers, the chain also needs to be changed to keep a series of elements in perfect condition.

However, both the chain and the timing belt have several advantages and disadvantages that can decline the purchase of a vehicle to one side or the other.

The advantages of timing belt

  • Cost savings for the brand:  Manufacturing the belt is much cheaper than the chain, so it is an element that firms value when designing and manufacturing their engines.
  • Noise: The belt is in continuous friction with the metal pinions to which it is attached, so since it is made up mostly of rubber, noise transmission is less problematic.

The advantages of timing chain

  • Durability: That a chain break is very unlikely because being made of metal has greater durability.
  • Maintenance: A chain does not need maintenance other than checking that the tensioners are in good condition. In some models, the timing chain goes up to 250,000 kilometers without any replacement.

The disadvantages of timing belt

  • Possibilities of breakage: The belts, despite being made of resistant materials, are not immune to wear and tear, so their useful life will depend on their quality.
  • They are made of a material that degrades because of that they must be replaced every 120,000 kilometers.

The disadvantages of timing chain

  • Just as the belt needs to be changed, the chain tensioners can show wear and therefore cause slack. This problem usually appears when the vehicle has traveled at least 250 thousand kilometers, and it is solved by changing the tensioners and adjusting the chain.
  • If the engine is poorly soundproofed, the noise will be evident (not annoying) so its solution is to incorporate more sound-absorbing material.

Timing belt: Break, Change, Replacement Cost & more

Hi, this is Viney Bhatia, a blogger, an engineer, and your virtual mechanic. You'll get all the latest information about cars, reviews, tips, service methods, and various other things related to automobiles on our blog.

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