Timings belts are one of the most critical points of your car’s engine. Due to their light weight and durability, timings belts have been a mainstay in automotive engine design. But what exactly is a timing belt? To some drivers it may sound vaguely familiar; only to conjure up images of costly repair bills. Others may not have heard of them at all – not every car uses timings belts, after all. Let’s look at how timing belts work, when they should be serviced, and why some cars don’t use them. In either case if your car needs timing belt replacement in Downriver Michigan this post will help you better understand the procedure and why it’s so important.
Does the Timing Belt on Your Car Need to Be Replaced? The Answer May Surprise You
What is a timing belt?
Simply put, a timing belt is a toothed belt responsible for keeping the camshafts properly synchronized with the crankshaft. These terms may be unfamiliar to those without basic knowledge of automotive engines – and that’s okay – but having a passing understanding of how your engine works should help impart the urgency associated with engine-related service intervals.
Inside your engine sits a piston which moves up and down in a cylinder. The piston is connected to the crankshaft. At the top of the cylinder is a set of valves, which allow fresh air and fuel to enter the cylinder, and exhaust to be expelled. As the piston descends, the valves briefly open to introduce fresh air and fuel, which is then compressed as the piston travels upwards. Once at its highest point, the piston has fully compressed the air and fuel mixture which is ignited by the spark plug. The force generated by combustion drives the piston downward, and the process repeats. Just after the fuel is ignited, the exhaust valves open to allow waste materials to exit. Nearly all vehicles on the road today use at least four pistons and cylinders, in order to make the power expected of a modern car. As the piston moves up and down, it turns the crankshaft. The crankshaft essentially takes the reciprocating energy of the piston and converts it to a more usable rotary energy which is then sent to the wheels. But what does any of this have to do with timing belts?
A motor’s valves are opened by a camshaft, which has a series of lobes. The profile of the lobes decides how far and for how long a valve remains open before it’s snapped shut by a spring. It’s critical that these valves open at very specific intervals, and that’s where the timing belt comes in. The belt is linked to the rotating crankshaft, which is responsible for spinning the camshafts. This way, the camshafts can spin in accordance with the engine’s speed. Without timing belts, the camshafts wouldn’t be able to properly open and close the engine’s valves to allow fresh fuel to enter, and exhaust gases to exit. At best, the car would cease to run. However, many vehicles on the road today have what is a called an interference engine. Should the timing belt fail on an interference engine, the piston will likely collide with the valves and cause catastrophic engine damage.
Is it time for a change?
Timing belts themselves are relatively inexpensive. However, they are often located in difficult to reach areas of the car which drives up labor costs. Certain vehicles may require the engine to be partially dropped or fully removed to service the timing belts.
Lousy fuel economy, a loss of power, excessive engine vibration, and cylinder misfires are all symptoms of failing timing belts. Modern belts are generally good for 100,000 miles; give or take. It’s best to check with your service manual if in doubt. Servicing other areas of the engine may require the removal of the timing belts, and it’s generally not advised to refit a belt once it has been removed. On many cars, the water pump is powered by the timing belt, and should the pump fail, new belts are recommended at the time of installation.
Due to the critical nature of timing belts, it is one area of service that absolutely cannot be neglected – a ruined engine could result.
Not all cars use a timing belt. In recent years, timing chains have made a bit of a resurgence. Some manufacturers favor a timing chain due to their resilience; they are strong and nearly maintenance-free. Should a chain fail however, the engine will likely suffer a similar fate to a broken belt. Generally, timing chains produce a bit of noise as they begin to slacken and ultimately fail. A failing timing chain may also produce similar symptoms to that of a belt, but with the advantage of an easier diagnosis due to the noise coming from under the hood. Although chains have made a comeback, many vehicles (especially performance-oriented ones) will feature belts due to their light weight and reduced rotational mass. If in any doubt, it’s best to check with the manufacturer or trusted technician.
The ASE-certified technicians here at Good Care Auto are ready to service your timing belts. Be it a preliminary inspection of a possible new vehicle, or a car due for service; Good Care Auto is standing by. Our clean and modern service bays allow fast turnaround time at affordable rates. Take the guesswork out of timing belts and call Good Care Auto at (734) 285-1188 today!