When and Why to Replace Timing Belts

There are so many belts in a car engine, it is hard to keep up with them all. One of the most important belts in the engine is the timing belt. Without this belt operating properly, it can throw off the entire operation of the engine. It’s purpose is to turn the camshafts exactly half as fast as the crankshaft. Some manufacturers have toyed with a chain instead of a belt. The chain is preferred by many owners because it never needs to be replaced. The only problem with the chain is he noise it creates. For this reason, many manufacturers opt for the belt and ask you to replace it periodically.

How often timing belts need to be replaced will depend on the type of engine. Some belts will only turn one camshaft, while others may turn as many as four. The more camshafts the belt has to move, the quicker it will wear out. The standard school of thought is to replace the belt between 60,000 miles and 105,000 miles. Many people like to put this off beyond this time period because of the expense involved. This is a mistake as not replacing the belt can lead to several other mechanical nightmares which will cost far more to repair. Replacing the timing belt is one of those precautionary measures you do not want to say later on that you wish you would have just gone ahead with. Pay a little now to save a lot later.

Let’s say you do not replace your timing belt when it is recommended, or simply did not know that you needed to. This will sometimes happen to people who buy a used car. The previous owner will have good maintenance records, but neglect to tell you the car is well past needing a timing belt. Signs of a bad belt include change in the engine’s performance. This includes such things as stalls, backfires or running roughly with a lot of vibration. Squealing noises and smoke are two other obvious signs you are having a problem with a belt in your engine. It is recommended you take the car in immediately to an expert before the problem gets worse.

Keep in mind when replacing timing belts, many mechanics will offer to replace your water pump. This is generally a precautionary measure. Most water pumps last the life of the car without any problems. This does not meas they are exempt from malfunctioning. The reason the mechanic will offer this service is because with the belt off, replacing the pump is very simple. They are not trying to take you for a lot of money as they will not be able to charge you much for labor. A good idea here is to simply ask the mechanic what the history is on the water pump in your model car. If the water pump generally does not fail, it is a procedure you can go without.

Those with higher performance cars may want to entertain after market timing belts. These belts are made to handle a little more abuse than the average timing belt. While they cannot handle the abuse a race car driver will put on the belt, it will handle a higher revving engine better. This is because the belt is more reinforced than the average belt. You will pay more for the part, but you will be able to enjoy the knowledge that your belt is secure.