One of the greatest dangers to high mileage cars is also one of the least well known. We all know how to maintain our engine oil and to prevent cases of transmission failure, but the death of many high mileage cars is caused by the failure of the timing belt. Lucky for us, its maintenance is predictable and can be scheduled far enough in advance to ensure your vehicle’s health and to give you time to budget for the service. In many vehicles the timing belt is hidden in such a way that it takes hours of disassembly to get to it for inspection and repair, making it a long and expense bit of maintenance.
The timing belt serves a very important role when it comes to making your engine run. Namely, the timing belt is the belt that controls the camshafts in your engine and keeps the entire operation running smoothly. Timing belts are found in cars with overhead cams. The cam shafts open and close the valves in your engine, letting air in to combust and venting it out after firing. The timing belt is calibrated so it moves in time with the motion of the pistons. If the belt breaks or slips, it causes a collision that can be catastrophic to the engine.
You will know it is time to have it looked at when the service interval outlined above is approaching. When it comes into the shop we base our main judgement on the manufacture recommended mileage for your timing belt replacement. Because the timing belt is hidden it takes quite a lot of labour just to get a look at it, it is not something that we can just look at to determine that it needs to be changed.
A timing belt failure is extremely easy to prevent, and although it may not be the cheapest or easiest operation in the world, it is definitely better than purchasing a new engine (or a new car). A good general rule of thumb is that a timing belt should be changed every 100,000-140,000KMs. Some belts are designed to last much longer, and we can give you a good estimate based on your vehicle’s make and model, but this is a good starting point. Some manufacturers are also including a date stamp in the owner’s manual to let you know the exact time to bring it in to be changed.
Your engine would come to an immediate halt potentially causing catastrophic damage. Timing belts are connected to the camshaft and the crankshaft. When the belt snaps, the turning momentum of the crankshaft that the pistons are attached to will hit the valves in the cylinder head and seriously damage your engine.
Most cars are of an interference design which means a snapped timing belt would cause catastrophic internal damage. A minority of vehicles are of a non-interference design, and in that case the engine would just shut off and it would have to be towed in for repair.
No you can’t. Timing belts does not show indications of how much life it has left. Unfortunately we can’t look at the belt and know if it needs to be done, when it doubt, change it out.