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Not all cars have a timing belt - many newer cars use a timing chain instead of a belt. A timing belt wears out over time and needs to be replaced at a certain mileage. A timing chain can last as long as the engine itself and doesn't need to be replaced unless there is a problem with it.
A timing belt is a asperous belt that connects the engine crankshaft to the camshaft or camshafts .
A timing belt synchronizes the camshaft to the crankshaft position, so the valves will open and close at the proper timing in relation to the position of the pistons. The camshaft rotates at exactly 1/2 speed of the crankshaft; meaning two revolutions of the crankshaft are equal to one revolution of the camshaft.
In some engines a timing belt can also drive additional components such as a water pump, balance shaft, intermediate shaft, injection pump and an oil pump. A balance shaft, an intermediate shaft and an injection pump must also be synchronised with a crankshaft.
To work properly a timing belt needs to be under certain tension that is controlled by a timing belt tensioner. Some older cars have an adjustable timing belt tensioner that must be re-adjusted if the timing belt gets loose. Most of the newer cars have an automatic timing belt tensioner that doesn't need any adjustment. If the timing belt gets loose, it may skip a tooth and the able timing will be lost.
When a timing belt is replaced, it's actual important to set the timing properly. Before a a new timing belt is installed, the crankshaft, the camshaft and added apparatus synchronised with a crankshaft accept to be accumbent in a assertive way. A adjustment chiral has able instructions and a diagram with timing marks. Improperly set timing will could cause a array of problems such as abridgement of power, Check Engine light, vibration, misfiring, etc.