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Is It Time to Replace Your Timing Belt?

By April 21, 2011

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Most responsible car and truck owners know that at some point in their vehicle's lifetime they will need to replace the timing belt. The problem is knowing when it's time to replace it. You can inspect your timing belt, which is a good idea to do at every maintenance check, but if you want to really stay on top of your engine maintenance, you should replace your timing belt at the manufacturer's interval. These intervals vary from car to car and engine to engine. The good news is we have a database that can provide you with that information for most vehicles. Check out the Timing Belt Info Page to check up on your next timing belt replacement.

Comments
April 22, 2011 at 6:20 pm
(1) Mike says:

Why would an auto maker build, or even be allowed to build and sell a vehicle with such a design fail. If it were to break or fail at the wrong time it could cause a potential hazardous condition possibly life threatening [@70 mph on a freeway].
Also there is a distinct possibility that unscrupulous Mechanics would use this condition to, should i use the term fleece the customer.
Buyer beware

April 24, 2011 at 12:08 pm
(2) Casey says:

^+1.

It doesn’t help that information in some timing belt databases is just flat-out wrong. For example, the engines used in the Ford Escort since the mid-80s (1.8L, 1.9L, and 2.0L SOHC and DOHC) are all non-interference, but some databases say that any one of those engines are interference. This particular database states that the 2.0L DOHC is an interference engine, but personal experience of lots of Escort owners say otherwise.

Casey

April 25, 2011 at 11:56 am
(3) Dusty says:

Timing belt replacement interval seems sometimes to be more voodoo than engineering.

My Camry has a Toyota suggested interval of 60K miles, last I checked. The belt was replaced at 90K; the belt looked fine, the water pump was a basket case. The new belt is now a little over 60K miles old. The independent shop owner does not want to change it. His argument is that his Lexus is 150K miles old, same engine, still has its original belt. The dealership will change it if I want, but acts dodgy and clearly does not think it is necessary.

This is a non-interference engine: I think I will just wait until the belt breaks or the water pump clearly is leaking. Or otherwise I get some kind of ‘Voodoo’ signal from the engine that it is time!

What to do when the belt breaks? THINK about how to deal with emergency situations while driving. Then there will be an emergency procedure in your brain and it will not be a completely unmanageable disaster when things go wrong!

And an amazingly cheap road service through my car insurance company, phone number glued to the dash and on a paper in the glove box.

April 26, 2011 at 12:10 pm
(4) Billy says:

Most people scoff at timing belts, but don’t realize that some sophisticated aircraft use timing belts.
The B2 stealth bomber is one example.
It takes a crew of 500 highly skilled mechanics to replace it’s timing belts. Yes, there are more than 1 on this plane.
Mechanics, like guards at WW2 Nazi gas ovens, are just doing what they are told.
Prison guards use timing belts to carry nude prisoners to the showers. 2 are required for this. (1 for each leg )
In summary, there is no problem with timing belts, just a problem with those who can’t afford otherwise.
Segways rule !!!!!!

April 26, 2011 at 12:12 pm
(5) John says:

My timing belt went just on the manufacturer’s spec. It cost me a fortune. I would also advise changing the water pump at the same time as mine started leaking shortly after and guess what? The timing belt went again because of the water!

Last month, I had some work done onthe front end of the engine so I changed the timing belt for good measure.

In “the olden days”, I did have a timing chain go on me when I was on holiday. So the problem has been around since we went from side-valve to OHV!

April 26, 2011 at 12:31 pm
(6) Techniker says:

Mike,

Do you even know what a timing belt is? I’m embarrassed for you by your post. Heck, by your logic, vehicles that use timing chains are trying to rip you off as well! Why aren’t they using timing gears?! As for Casey…I’m going to just assume you’re a girl. It makes it easier that way.

Timing belts cost a lot less to produce and use than timing chains. By being made of metal, timing chains add a whole new level of requirement for QC. It may appear on the surface that a timing chain lasts longer as well, but eventually they will fail and they do lose their tension. This requires either dropping a link out of the chain (but most likely just replacing the entire chain) and considering replacing the tensioner as well.

Timing belts are also much quieter- someone who actually knows vehicles will be able to tell whether or not the vehicle has a timing belt or chain by listening to it. Timing gears are even worse for noise.

In newer vehicles, timing belts could actually be considered even more reliable than a chain. Timing chains may have worked okay back in the day when the cam was right next to the crankshaft, but today the cams are further and further away from the crank. The belt configuration is almost a serpenting sort of configuration and could be almost four feet long or so- try doing that with a chain! The chain wouldn’t last a week.

Most customers, when they replace their timing belt, will also agree to have their water pump replaced along with it so in multiple ways it’s an act of preventative maintenance. Water pump failures tend to be seen more on timing chain vehicles because the owner never replaced the water pump.

April 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm
(7) Indiana Bob says:

My ’92 Subaru Legacy (I sold with 243k) had the belt changed at about 120k (past recommendation); they asked if I wanted to change water pump-I declined as I had never replaced a water pump in any of my veichles; the water pump went out at 160k and they put in another belt; at 220k a tensioner went out and the belt had some damage and had to be replaced.

Bottom line, replace belts as recomended, replace water pump when the second belt is replaced and maybe the tensioner(s); I just replaced the 1 tensioner and the car was running well when I sold it.

April 26, 2011 at 5:00 pm
(8) Speed says:

Timing belts are relatively cheap,and not that hard to change. I always replace the belt on any car I get,just so I know how many miles it has on it. I rarely keep a car for over a year,though,so I’m not too well versed in how often to replace the timing belt. Also,let me say that several times,while replacing the timing belt on a new-to-me car I’ve discovered other problems I might have missed otherwise.

April 27, 2011 at 10:08 pm
(9) Casey says:

@Techniker: You assumed wrong.

I was agreeing with the part about an unscrupulous mechanic using a timing belt as a way to possibly rip people off, and claim that if the belt broke, that it would cause engine damage.

I may be a poor (male) college student, but I have had a mechanic try to rip me off by telling me I needed to replace the timing belt on my ’97 Escort. According to him, the teeth showed signs of wear, and that if the belt broke, the cylinder head would have to be removed to replace the valves. I might have had him replace it, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I replaced the belt myself just a couple of months before.

Casey

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