What Is A Timing Belt And Why Is It So Important?

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What is a timing belt and why is it so important?  A timing belt connects the crankshaft to the camshaft(s), and controls the opening and closing of the engine’s intake and exhaust valves.  Since that can be like “Greek” to someone who doesn’t know very much about engines, what is important to understand is that the timing belt is critical to the basic operation of your vehicle’s engine.

If it breaks, which it will do eventually if not replaced, the damage is generally catastrophic.

Does your vehicle have a timing belt?  If you don’t know, the easiest place to look is your Owner’s Manual.  Your manual is a wealth of information on common maintenance items and manufacturer’s recommendations that will keep your vehicle running safely and reliably.  Our Service Advisors will always keep you informed as to the recommended maintenances that are coming due on your car, so that you can budget accordingly.

With time and age, many parts of your engine will wear and break down.  As the timing belt ages, it will stretch, crack, weaken and become susceptible to breakage.

Since timing belts in most engines are not easily accessible or visible, it is not possible to actually see when the belt should be replaced.  Therefore, manufacturers recommend replacement of the timing belt based upon mileage and age – usually 90,000-100,000 miles or 6-10 years, give or take a few miles or years – again, your Owner’s Manual is your best resource.  Our Service Advisors will also advise you on the recommendations for your particular car.

Although replacing a timing belt is not an inexpensive repair, it is significantly less expensive than repairing the resulting damage should that Timing Belt slip or break. Damage will most likely occur to the engine’s head, pistons, and/or valves.  Often, the repair involves actually replacing the engine ($3-5,000).

However, most timing belts can be replaced for under $1000. Many other parts are inspected and/or replaced during a “timing belt service”.  Since the automotive technician is deep into the engine, it is cost effective to replace the water pump, tensioners and drive belts during this service.  The idler pulleys, as well as camshaft and crankshaft seals, will also be checked and replaced, as necessary.  Since the coolant must be drained when the water pump is replaced, fresh coolant will also be installed.

Years ago, replacing the timing belt was less involved, because there were fewer engine components.  Today’s engines are more complex and, therefore, the procedure is also more complex.

Recently, we had a car in the shop after a customer had replaced his own timing belt … the car was not running well.  We took everything apart once again, in order to make the proper adjustments.  The timing belt was just off one tooth on each cam, but that was enough to cause significant running problems.  We were happy to help him out, but it would have saved him a lot of time to have had the service done all at one time.

Having an honest and accurate ASE Certified technician service your car is strong insurance against being stranded on the side of the road with severe engine damage.  Be proactive and have this important service done before your timing belt breaks or jumps a tooth! Schedule an appointment today for timing belt replacement in Colorado Springs.

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