Everything about the timing belt
Your car relies on perfectly timed cooperation amongst its various components in order to function, which is why the timing belt is so important. Learn about when and how to replace your timing belt to prevent catastrophic engine failures in the future.
When you start your car, a series of precisely timed explosions generate the force necessary to turn the vehicle’s drive wheels. Car components are designed to function at high speeds and searing temperatures, where even a slight discrepancy in timing can cause damage to your car. To prevent this, your engine is kept in perfect sync by a piece of equipment called the timing belt. This thick, toothed rubber strip connects and regulates interactions between your vehicle’s crankshaft and camshaft. The crankshaft converts the energy generated by the engine’s pistons into rotational power for the vehicle’s drive wheels, while the camshaft controls the various valves that make fuel combustion possible. If these two components are not synchronised, your engine’s pistons can collide at extremely high speeds with the valves, causing engine failure. For this reason, it is important to know your car’s recommended timing belt lifetime and mileage, and to change the timing belt when necessary.
How expensive is it to replace the timing belt?
The timing belt itself is fairly inexpensive, which is why so many car owners are surprised to hear that replacement of the belt is generally a very costly prospect. The reason for this is the sheer amount of mechanical knowledge and labour necessary to access, remove and properly change the timing belt. The belt is located near the heart of an engine, and a significant number of components must be disassembled to allow access to it. Furthermore, the belt must be precisely tightened, and your vehicle’s cam and crank shafts properly aligned, or your engine will be out of sync when it is restarted. If you are feeling uncertain about your vehicle repair experience or are in a rush, it is strongly recommended to take your vehicle to a professional service station.
Replacing the timing belt at home
Should you decide to replace the timing belt yourself, be sure you have enough time to complete the repairs. Depending on your vehicle, it may take up to eight hours to perform the maintenance. You will need a standard wrench set, a torque wrench, a socket wrench, a drainage pan, a car jack and vehicle jack stands, protective gloves, and a screwdriver. Vehicle owners can also replace their water pump and hoses at the same time, since these components are relatively inexpensive and will need to be removed to gain access to the timing belt. Which components need to be removed, and in which order, will vary by vehicle, so follow your service manual closely, separating components and labelling wires and hoses as necessary to ensure all components are reassembled correctly.