When to Replace Your Timing Belt

Keeping your car running properly saves money, both in daily gas mileage costs and in repair costs. The timing belt is one of the most critical internal components of a car’s engine, and timing belt failure is catastrophic. It can completely ruin an engine, making the cost to replace and repair the damage more than the value of the car. With this in mind, it is important to know when to have the timing belt changed.

You can prevent unnecessary extra costs and damage to your car by paying attention to a few important things.

• For new cars, check the owner’s manual for timing belt change intervals. Write down the mileage on the car inside the manual when you have the belt changed.

• If you purchased a used car, check under the hood for a sticker giving the mileage of the last change. If there is no sticker, have the belt changed just to be safe.

• Consult your mechanic or dealership. They can examine it and determine if there are signs of wear or damage that indicates the belt needs changing.

• Many car manufacturers and mechanics recommend changing timing belts every 60,000 to 75,000 miles. Even if your owner’s manual indicates the belt does not need changing until 100,000 miles, many mechanics recommend doing it before 80,000 miles.

• If you live in a climate with temperature extremes, timing belts need replacement more frequently than those in milder climates.

• Periodically have your mechanic inspect yours during routine maintenance. They check for cracks, chips or missing teeth or ribbing. Mechanics also look for spots of coolant or oil. If any damage is noted, do not delay changing the belt.

• Listen to your car during engine start-up and idling. If you hear a high-pitched shrieking or whirring sound, it is in trouble. Replace it immediately.

• If your car has trouble starting, or the engine takes several tries to catch and start, a damaged one is a likely cause. Have the issue checked by your auto shop immediately.

• If your engine suddenly stops and the car will not start, you have probably experienced a failure. You will need to have your car towed to your mechanic for repairs.

• Change your timing belt according to the recommendations of your mechanic and the car manufacturer, even if you detect no symptoms of problems. This will prevent expensive damage later.

Have a professional replace your timing belt. Often, many other internal components must be removed to access the belt. The belt may need to be ordered from a parts warehouse. After replacing the belt, the mechanic synchronizes the internal workings of the engine using special procedures, tools and machines.