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Checking Timing Belt Condition

Update:10-12-2016
Summary:

Timing chain tensioner and guides.This is because as th […]

Timing chain tensioner and guides.This is because as the chain wears out, it stretches and the ignition and valve timing becomes more retarded. A worn timing chain, guides or chain tensioner can also cause variety of noises originating from the timing chain cover area of the engine. The timing chain noises can range from rattling to whirring, whining or buzzing. If the timing chain is worn, usually it’s replaced as a kit with a new tensioner, guides, and other parts of the chain drive mechanism. Many autos have two or even three chains in their motors and often your auto repair shop may recommend replacing all the chains at once. Prices for timing chain replacement may vary anywhere from $370 to $1,500 depending on the car. If you plan to replace a timing chain yourself, you will need to find the correct procedure to set the timing when a new chain is installed.

No such luck if you have a modern front-wheel drive car with a transversely-mounted engine, as the space in the engine compartment could be very tight. To avoid timing chain problems you should maintain your engine properly and have the engine oil changed at recommended intervals. Using premium quality engine oils and oil filters will also help. Keeping the proper oil level will ensure that the timing chain is always lubricated. In a well-maintained engine a timing chain can last up to 300,000 miles and even longer.

Checking timing belt condition:

1. This timing belt is still in good shape

Your mechanic can remove one of the covers and visually assess the condition of the timing belt. For example, this timing belt in photo 1 belongs to an Acura TL with 52,000 miles. The owner wanted to check the timing belt condition before going on a long road trip. According to the mechanic, this belt is in a pretty good shape and can last for a while longer. The timing belt in the photo 2 below belongs to a Toyota Celica with 150,000 miles. The engine was still running fine, but upon the inspection, the mechanic found that the timing belt is in poor shape (you can see many cracks). The owner rightfully decided to have it replaced.

What happens if a timing belt breaks? There are two types of engines: an interference and non-interference. In an interference engine, if a timing belt breaks while driving, there is a good chance that the engine might be severely damaged. A non-interference engine will stall, if a timing belt breaks, but further damage might be limited. The difference is that in an interference engine, valves that are fully open will be hit by the piston as it travels to its top position. In a non-interference engine, there is still some clearance between fully open valves and a piston in the top position. How to know if your engine is an interference engine? Here is the link to Timing Belt Replacement Interval Guide, courtesy of Gates corporation. In this guide, the interference engines are marked with the star sign.

2. Worn timing belt

Another reason to replace the old timing belt is that over time it stretches. As a result, the engine timing might become too retarded (delayed). Symptoms of a retarded engine timing include lack of power and slow pick-up. In some cars, a stretched timing belt can also produce a dull rattling noise coming from the timing belt area. Usually the noise is noticeable at idle, but disappears when the engine is revved. How much does the timing belt replacement cost? It depends on an engine. Timing belt replacement in a 4-cylinder engine may cost from $250 to $600, plus a little extra if you want to replace the water pump and other hardware. In a V6 or V8 engine, the timing belt replacement cost can run from $380 to $780.

Is it necessary to replace a water pump, as well as timing belt tensioner and other hardware along with the belt? It’s not necessary, however, it’s usually recommended, because a very little extra labor is involved in replacement of additional parts. Water pumps do wear over time, so it might make sense to replace the water pump along with the belt. Do all cars have a timing belt? The answer is no, many modern cars have a timing chain instead. A timing chain is a maintenance-free unit and rarely need replacement. Read more: When a timing chain needs to be replaced.

How to know if a car has a timing chain or belt? First, you can check your maintenance schedule or call your dealer. Another option is to ask your mechanic during your next oil change. Some car manufacturers publish the list of models that have a Rubber Timing Belt online; for ex