In order for your engine to perform effectively, the pistons within the combustion chambers must synchronize perfectly with the opening and closing of your intake and exhaust valves. The timing of your pistons and valves is influenced by a number of parts. One of them is your timing belt (TB). It replaced the chains that were used in vehicles long ago. The advantage is that they make less noise and they’re less expensive to produce. The downside is that they’re less durable than chains.
This article will explain the reasons you should replace your timing belt according to the factory-recommended maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual. Every make and model is different. On some cars, the belt should be changed at 60,000 miles. On others, the job can wait until 100,000 miles. You’ll discover below why neglecting to change it can end up costing you thousands of dollars in the long run.
Potential Damage To Your Engine
Your timing belt is made of rubber and reinforced with fiberglass. After continuous use over tens of thousands of miles, it suffers wear and tear. The rubber begins to degrade from heat stress, age, and the breakdown of the various chemicals used to manufacture it. It eventually loses its integrity, which can cause it to snap or slip a notch. Both circumstances can lead to extensive engine damage.
The type of engines that use a TB are called interference and non-interference assemblies. While the belt should be replaced periodically in both types, it is the former that poses the biggest – and potentially, the most expensive – problem. If the timing belt breaks or slips on an interference engine, the pistons can slam into the intake and exhaust valves. The valves will bend while the pistons break. While replacing the snapped or slipped TB can be relatively expensive, the cost of fixing the valves and pistons is even higher.
One of the problems with timing belts is that they usually fail unexpectedly. They’re difficult to check. That’s the reason you should follow the recommended interval in your owner’s manual.
Finding Replacement Parts
A lot of automakers stop manufacturing certain engine components after several years. They do so because they expect the vehicles to be retired by their owners. In older cars where the owners have not replaced the TB, there is a chance that a failure could lead to a problem locating necessary parts.
For example, finding replacement pistons might be difficult. The crankshaft and camshaft may be also difficult to replace in the event they suffer damage. If these components cannot be replaced easily or affordably, you may need to retire your car sooner than you would have done otherwise.
Can You Replace It Yourself?
In a word, yes. If you have the appropriate tools and few extra hours to spare, you can replace your timing belt on your own. However, it’s worth highlighting that the job can be difficult, especially on front-wheel drive vehicles. If you intend to do it yourself, have a shop manual nearby for reference. The manual should also list the tools you’ll need to complete the job.
What About Your Water Pump?
A lot of mechanics suggest that you replace your water pump while changing your TB, even if the pump shows no signs of failure. The reason is because most of the work necessary to replace the timing belt is also necessary to swap out the pump. If you change the former without changing the latter, and the pump fails later, you’ll end up paying twice for what amounts to the same repair job. Many mechanics suggest playing it safe and replacing both at the same time.
The takeaway is this: replace your car’s timing belt as soon as you reach the mileage interval recommended in your owner’s manual. Neglecting to do so can be an expensive mistake.