Here’s the thing: the timing belt is a big deal. It runs the engine camshaft by ensuring valves open and close correctly, but since replacing it can come with a hefty price tag, many owners skip this recommended step. Unfortunately, timing belt failure can damage the engine and ultimately cause it to stop working. So, if you’re driving at a high speed and your timing belt breaks, you’d be in a rough spot. At the core, it’s a safety issue.
When Should it be Replaced?
In many cases, there are no warning signs before a timing belt breaks, which is one reason following manufacturer guidelines is vital. Most suggest replacing the timing belt between 50,000 and 100,000 miles (depending on the make of the vehicle) since it naturally wears out around this time. If unsure about timing, check your owner’s manual.
Why Does Replacement Cost So Much?
The cost of replacement can run anywhere from $500 to $1000, and most of this comes from labor, since accessing the timing belt can be a complex venture. Although expensive, it costs much more to replace an entire engine that fails when the timing belt breaks– around $2,000. In some cases, the repair can cost so much that you may need to buy a new vehicle.
Note: Many technicians recommend replacing other hard-to-reach components (water pump, tensioner, idler arm) at this time, as well, since preventative maintenance keeps your engine running smoothly.
Can Someone Inspect It Instead of Replacing It?
Nope. Timing belts hide under engine parts (like dust covers) that prevent mechanics from being able to see them.
What If a Timing Belt Breaks?
Depending on the engine (interference or non-interference), the damage from a break will differ. With an interference engine, you’ll have bent valves and cylinder head, camshaft damage, and possible harm to the cylinder wall and piston.
With a non-interference engine, there will be no valve or cylinder damage. However, a timing belt break can leave you stranded on the side of the road, so you should still be diligent about replacing it.
What’s the Difference Between the Timing Chain and Timing Belt?
Some vehicles have a timing chain instead of a belt, and it doesn’t wear out and rarely requires replacement. Your owner’s manual will tell you which one your car has.
Following recommended maintenance guidelines not only saves money but keeps you safe. As an integral part of a well-working engine, timing belt replacement should not be ignored.