What is a timing belt? Everything You Need to know
If you are driving an automobile, it is essential to know some intermediate car maintenance scheduling and troubleshooting. This does not only save you a lot of time and effort but allows you to protect several hundred or thousands of dollars from unwanted irreversible damage from breakdowns. While you may already be aware of some maintenance schedules such as oil change, wheel alignment, and the like, one of the most overlooked parts is the timing belt.
The timing belt may be a tricky part of a car to check and “feel” during troubleshooting since it is hard to see it, unlike other elements. Pop the car’s hood open, and you will not see where it is right away as it is housed beside the main engine block. In some cases or if you are lucky, you may actually see how it looks like especially in some custom designed tweaks in the engine with some shown parts such as the serpentine belt and drives cogs.
You may have a glimpse of a similar belt that you may see connected from the engine to the alternator usually also referred to as a timing belt, but is actually a misnomer. While the material is pretty much the same as with the actual timing belt being used inside, the arrangement and placement among the drive cogs are very much different. The rubber belt that you may immediately see does not contribute to the timing of the engine combustion but only allows the mechanical power derived from the engine to be transferred to the alternator, and in most cases with the air condition compressor.
What is Timing Belt in Automobile?
So what does it do exactly? The timing belt is a rubber belt connected to the crankshaft which is responsible for controlling the pistons to be pushed and pulled in its bore, and the camshaft which is responsible for allowing intake and exhaust to alternately occur. As the term itself suggests, the timing belt is responsible for the activity of both shafts to be synchronously interacting. In order for the engine to have a complete and proper combustion, the compression brought about by the pistons from the crankshaft should be in accordance with the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves. Without the timing belt, there would be nothing to turn the crankshaft and camshafts in harmony, which would result in zero output, or worse, a damaged engine.
Basically, you may sum up a timing belt as that rubber belt which makes the engine combust properly. Here is a quick video by Dayco that shows the overview of what timing belt is all about:
While an already missing timing belt may pose no immediate concern on engine damage, the main trouble occurs when the engine is already running and the timing belt snaps. Though timing belts are made to last quite a long time, they are not exempted from damage and overuse. Timing belts may be made of high-tensile fiber rubber, integrated teeth that add grip and stability on the drive cogs, and industry standard quality control but several factors contribute to wear and tear. When timing belts finally decide to let go of an engine run, the damage would come from the momentum that would still keep both crankshaft and camshafts spinning.
In the absence of a controlling mechanism to synchronize the spins of these shafts, there would be totally different revolutions for each, therefore creating chokes and misfires in the combustion. With these shafts, spinning from several hundred to several thousand per minute, having your timing belt suddenly lose control over them would most likely damage the piston and the poppet valves, not to mention what other damages the improper timing of gasoline combustion may pose to the overall integrity of the engine.
Two Schools of Thought: Timing Belt or Timing Chain?
You may probably ask why to use rubber if the metal is a more durable material for engine control. During the earlier days of car engine design, metal chains were actually used. Timing chains were popularly used until the late 1970’s before the use of timing belts boomed as a substitute. These timing chains as they are referred to are still seen in some car engines such as those in Mercedes-Benz models. While there are two schools of thought in the usage of either timing belts or timing chains in engine design, both have their pros and cons. The pluses and minuses of having an engine with either of the two timing mechanisms lie in the design and requirements it poses in the engine itself.
One of the main advantages of using timing chains over timing belts would be the huge disparity in the traveled distance before ever needing a major checkup maintenance or replacement in remote cases. Timing chains are deemed as more robust and sturdy, thanks to the material they are made out of as compared with rubber. However, they require constant lubrication, noise reduction measures, sturdy tensioners, sturdier infrastructure to hold the engine in place, and greater force to have them continuously spin the drive cogs. Advances in engine design nowadays have addressed the noise problem with the addition of quieting shoes. As for the durability, the tensioners play a key role in keeping it in check and functioning well, but not without periodic maintenance to keep the tension of the timing chain within specifications.
Its lighter composition and density also allows engines utilizing timing belts to reach higher resolutions with lower translated momentum. And while the major setback of using these would be the higher incidence of breakage from poorly maintained engines, they make up for not having to depend on lubrication and its relatively cheap and easy maintenance and replacement costs. Still, traveled distance is a problem as compared with timing chains as timing belts need to be replaced periodically every 60-90 thousand miles, depending on usage and other factors.
When to Replace Timing Belts
Since timing belts are more prone to wear and tear, and probably being used in most cars, it is highly recommended to know how to detect signs of timing belt failure before it starts to work its way into eventual breakage and engine damage.
Unless you are very much into cars with a knack in getting under the hood to manually check your timing belt, getting the feel of how the engine revs up or during casual driving would help you better in determining if there is timing failure. The cardinal sign of timing failure is the other noise your engine creates especially when starting or stopping the engine. Squeaks, rattles, rumbles, or squeals are the most common with squeals being the most frequent. Squeals may denote a loosely placed timing belt, or stripped integrated teeth which slide off the drive cogs during revolutions.
In some cases, your car may not start when you turn the key. Even if you hear the ignition click, there is no reaction and may be a sign that the timing belt has snapped. This is because their camshafts do not turn as the crankshaft rotates, thereby producing no combustion. However, be wary as it may also be a sign of a dead battery or a busted alternator.
Another sign occurs when your car starts to “choke” and bucks when you reach try stepping on the gas pedal, thereby giving you higher revolutions. Sudden changes in the revolutions such as having your car lurch or vibrate weirdly while speeding up may reveal a problem in your timing belt. This kind of sign is quite serious in nature as it is most probably nearing an impending breakage. The occurrence of this in a more visible and frequent nature should already warn you to have your car checked immediately or face the possibility of a damaged engine block which could cost several hundred to thousands of dollars.
Sometimes, replacing the timing belt does not need to meet the maximum mileage or traveled distance or any of these symptoms to occur. For example, a car that has been sitting in the garage for several years or has been subjected to extreme temperatures over a lengthy period of time is bound to have its timing belt affected and probably damaged. Remember that timing belts are still made out of main rubber are bound to dry rot, or get stiff. Even is the car mileage reading is still far from the recommended mileage for replacement, it would be wiser to do so. You would not have to worry much as the replacement cost and maintenance is quite cheap. On average, timing belts cost less than a hundred dollars, including service fee from a local car mechanic.
Driving a car is not just about filling the gas tank and driving around. It takes a particular kind of consideration for good drivers to know what is happening in and out of their cars, and even a better kind of knowledge and intricacy in knowing the inner workings of the engine. After all the engine, along with its pistons, valves, shafts, timing belt, and what have, you are essential in giving you the satisfaction of that “well oiled and running” engine performance, and servicing you in comfort and peace of mind wherever your travels may take you.
Bad Timing Belt Symptoms
Timing belts control the timing of the valves in a car’s internal combustion engine, connecting the camshafts and the crankshafts together. The absence of or damage on it may result in the engine’s ruin. It is therefore essential that the belt is replaced as soon as the first symptoms of wear and damage become evident. Below are just some of them:
Worn Belt. Most timing belts are made from rubber, and it comes with a life expectancy depending on the manufacturer and length of use. It is highly recommended that the timing belt is replaced once the number of miles prescribed in the manual is reached. Failure to do so might cause accidents. Some cars use chains instead of belts, and it usually lasts for a lifetime, unless other factors indicate otherwise.
Excessive Exhaust. Aside from looking out for damage on the belt itself, one must also observe if the car is spewing more exhaust than it normally does.
Hard Start. Timing belt replacement is also advised when the vehicle is having difficulties in starting its engine. This is usually accompanied by the previous symptom mentioned. Take note, however, that a hard start may not always indicate a damaged belt. In any case, the car owner must make sure that everything else is in order before getting the new belt.
Leaky Engine. As mentioned above, damaged timing belts can be dangerous to the engine. But the opposite is also true. Since the rubber belt is more vulnerable to high temperatures, damage on the engine may cause the oil to spill on to the belt, gradually destroying it.
Shaky Cars. A fully-functional timing belt operates harmoniously and it has perfect timing in controlling the pistons and valves. Damage on the belt will make the timing go awry, and as a result, the car would vibrate unpleasantly.
Where to find spare parts for your car engine
It is such a hassle to have parts of your car breaking down, and probably not an easy job to find the time and waste extra effort searching for auto parts store that can deliver your needs. Over the years, the internet had a paved way for easy access to getting what you need.
This is certainly good news for people who have no time rushing into personally getting what they want. Compare to offline retail stores that just takes too much energy to deal with, opt for a better solution: order your car parts and auto needs online. It doesn’t only give you the convenience that you need; it also makes transactions way easier. Most of the online stores also give you reasonably lower prices than your regular retail store.
Why is this so: these online stores have direct from manufacturer connections which mean that it takes a fewer chain of command before the product is presented to the end-user. They also offer bigger discounts especially on bulk orders, some offering free shipping fee on a case-to-case basis. You would be surprised to find a wide variety and availability of the auto parts that you need. Online shopping also offers great deals and excellent customer service that will provide you enough information regarding the auto parts that you need. Some of the sites also have their online forum that will allow you to interact with other customers and know their feedbacks about the products and services.
Where can you find a trusted site to buy your goods? Your major offline stores often have their online counterpart, so if you are one who considers your provider, just simply go to their online store and do your shopping. A few clicks of your mouse and your package will be delivered on your doorstep in just a matter of days. So easy!
Timing Belt Replacement Cost
A timing belt is a very important part of your vehicle. It is responsible for controlling the timing of the engine’s valves. It serve as a connection tool between the crankshaft and the camshaft which opens and closes the valves that keep the engine from running. Basically, timing belt should be replaced with car mileage of 60,000 – 10,000 miles. Failure to do so, there is a bigger possibility that it will be damaged as miles go by. In this case, you should know the different symptoms of timing belt failure to avoid car breakdown or worse, accidents.
A car in perfect condition has a smooth running and quiet engine. The difficulty of starting an engine and unusual noise from the engine are some of the symptoms that indicate that there is something wrong with your car’s timing belt. The moment you notice this warning signs, it is best to have it replaced right away to avoid further damage. A professional consult is highly recommended. But, you also have to make sure that the person you will hire to fix your car is credible. At that point, charging you with the amount beyond the usual is minimized. Usually, a timing belt replacement cost range from $250 to $750 depending on the extent of the damage. There are even professional mechanics who charged $40 per hour for the labor.
Apparently, the replacement will cost you that much that is why, it is advised that you adhere to routine maintenance. At that point, hassles from car breakdown due to engine malfunction is definitely avoided. Also, the inevitable such as car accidents will be minimized. So, have your vehicle checked first before using it. From there, car parts that need replacement will be managed, besides, every part of your vehicle has a time frame of until when it will last. Taking time to consider all of this will give you a more stress-free life in relation to owning a car.