Car Service Guide: When To Change A Timing Belt?

November 9, 2023

Ever found yourself cruising down the open road, wind in your hair, music playing, and suddenly a nagging question pops into your head: When was the last time I changed my timing belt?

Fear not, fellow road warriors, because we’re unlocking the secrets of the engine’s unsung hero in this thrilling dive into the world of car care—the timing belt.

In this blog post, we embark on a journey filled with insights, excitement, and the crucial knowledge you need to keep your four-wheeled companion purring like a contented cat.

When does the rhythmic dance of pistons and valves need a change? Join us as we unravel the mysteries of the timing belt and ensure your ride is always in perfect harmony.

What Is A Timing Belt?

What Is A Timing Belt?

A timing belt is a critical component of a vehicle’s internal combustion engine, ensuring proper synchronization between the crankshaft and camshaft. It operates by harmonizing pistons and valves. It allows a correct mixture of fuel and air to be ignited in the combustion chamber.

How Does It Work?

The timing belt coordinates the crankshaft and camshaft rotation, ensuring that the valves open and close at precise moments. This process is essential for proper fuel combustion and exhaust emission control.

Differences Between Timing Chains And Timing Belts

Timing chains and timing belts serve the same purpose: connecting the camshaft and crankshaft to ensure the engine runs properly. However, key differences between the two are important to note.

First, timing chains are typically housed within the engine and receive lubrication from engine oil. This means that they tend to last a long time, with some manufacturers claiming that they can last the lifetime of the engine.

On the other hand, timing belts outside the engine tend to dry out and crack over time, leading to costly engine damage if not replaced on schedule. Another difference between timing chains and belts is how they are constructed.

Materials Used in Timing Belts and Timing Chains

Timing belts are typically made of rubber or synthetic material and have teeth on the inside that connect to the teeth on the camshaft and crankshaft. On the other hand, timing chains are made of metal and have links that connect to the camshaft and crankshaft sprockets.

This means that timing chains are more durable and less likely to stretch or break, but they can also be heavier and noisier than timing belts. Timing chains and timing belts also have different maintenance requirements.

What Are Timing Belts and Timing Chains Lifespan?

Timing belts typically need to be replaced every 100,000 to 150,000 kilometres. Depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation, timing chains can last much longer.

However, if a timing chain does need to be replaced, it can be a much more involved and expensive repair than replacing a timing belt, which can be done in a few hours.

Signs Of A Worn Timing Belt

Signs Of A Worn Timing Belt

Unusual Engine Noises

Unusual engine noises often indicate potential engine issues that should not be ignored. One common sound that many drivers may hear is a ticking noise coming from the engine. This could be an indication that the timing belt is starting to wear out and needs to be replaced.

Engine Misfires

When your engine misfires, it can indicate potential damage to your timing belt. In most cases, engine misfires are a tell-tale sign of a faulty timing belt that needs immediate attention.

If your timing belt is worn or damaged, it can cause the engine’s timing to be thrown off, leading to engine misfires, which could ultimately harm your engine.

If you notice your engine misfiring, you must get it inspected by a certified professional mechanic. They will examine your timing belt, valves, and pistons to determine the root cause of the misfire.

If they find that your timing belt is worn or damaged, they can replace it before it causes any costly damage to your engine.

Oil Is Leaking From Your Motor

Oil leaking from your motor is one of the most common signs of a worn timing belt. A series of nuts holds the timing belt in place.

When these nuts loosen, the timing belt cover can dislodge and cause an oil leak. This leakage is usually seen around the timing belt cover.

However, it is important to note that other factors, such as a damaged oil pan or worn-out seals, can also cause an oil leak. Therefore, it is crucial to consult an experienced mechanic to diagnose the root cause of the leak.

Reduced Engine Performance

Reduced engine performance is one of the most common signs of a worn timing belt. The timing belt plays a critical role in synchronizing the engine’s valves and pistons.

However, as the timing belt wears out, it can jump teeth or even break. Which will cause misalignment between the valves and pistons, leading to reduced engine performance.

When the timing belt is worn, the engine may experience a significant power reduction, particularly at higher speeds or when accelerating. The engine may struggle to reach its maximum RPM and may also produce a rattling noise or even a whining noise.

Also, the engine may shut off completely, particularly when driving at high speeds or under heavy load. This is because the engine relies on the timing belt to control key components such as the camshaft timing. Which if not synchronized, can lead to engine misfire or stall.

Dashboard Warning Lights

Dashboard warning lights are typically used by vehicles to alert drivers when there is something wrong with their car’s systems or parts. A common warning sign that your vehicle’s timing belt is worn is when the check engine light is activated.

This light is an early warning system that something in your vehicle’s engine is not functioning properly. So it is critical to take immediate action.

The Timing Belt Replacement Process

The Timing Belt Replacement Process

When To Replace

1. Manufacturer’s Recommendations

Following the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to replacing your vehicle’s timing belt is essential. To ensure your engine runs smoothly and avoid costly repairs in the future. While the specific timeframe may vary, staying on top of your vehicle’s maintenance schedule is a small price for the peace of mind that comes with a well-functioning engine.

2. Mileage-Based Guidelines

Most car manufacturers recommend replacing the timing belt around every 100,000 kilometres or every 5 years, whichever comes first. However, it’s worth noting that this is only a general guideline, and the specific timeframe may vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

3. Time-Based Guidelines

When it comes to maintaining your vehicle’s engine, changing the timing belt is a crucial component that should not be overlooked. As a general guideline, timing belts should be replaced every 4-5 years of usage to ensure optimal performance and avoid potential engine damage.

Cost Of Replacement

The cost of replacing a timing belt that has already worn out varies between $500 and $1,000, depending on your vehicle’s make, model, and location. However, the price to pay for failing to replace a faulty timing belt before it breaks can be significantly higher, often costing upwards of $2,000 or more.

DIY Vs. Professional Replacement

Replacing a timing belt yourself is not easy, but it is possible. You will need special tools like pullers torque wrenches, and regular ones like jacks, wrenches, screwdrivers, and sockets.

To make it easier, you should also have things like shop towels, a drip pan, gloves, and a flashlight handy. Make sure your work area is clean and clutter-free too. You will need knowledge – use Haynes Repair Manuals or watch videos online to learn what you need to do for the job.

When you get the timing belt replaced at a good service centre, they will also change the tensioner and idler rollers. They will also check the crankshaft and camshaft seal.

In many cases, they will replace your water pump too. This is not related to engine timing, but it is easier to do when you are replacing your timing belt, so it saves money in the long run.

Importance Of Timing Belt Kits

  • A timing belt kit is crucial for the proper functioning of an engine. It consists of a timing belt, tensioner, and idler pulleys, which work together to maintain the correct alignment of the camshaft and crankshaft.
  • The timing belt ensures that the valves open and close in sync with the pistons, allowing for optimal air intake and fuel combustion.
  • Regularly replacing the timing belt kit according to the manufacturer’s recommendation can prevent unexpected breakdowns and prolong the life of the engine.

DIY Timing Belt Replacement

DIY Timing Belt Replacement

Tools And Equipment Needed

If you’re planning on replacing your timing belt on your own without seeking the aid of a car mechanic, having the right tools and equipment is essential. Here is a more comprehensive list of what you’ll need:

Socket set: A socket set is a basic requirement when it comes to car maintenance. Ensure you have a socket set with all sizes matching your car’s bolts.

Torque wrench: Accurately tightening bolts to the recommended torque is essential when it comes to a timing belt replacement. A torque wrench will prevent overtightening that may damage the bolts or result in a poorly done job.

Combination Wrenches: Combination wrenches are useful for those hard-to-reach areas that sockets cannot fit into.

Screwdrivers: You’ll need a variety of screwdrivers, including Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, to help remove screws and bolts retaining some parts.

Jack and Jack Stands: A jack and jack stand are used to lift the car and keep it safely in place while working underneath. It is important to ensure that the jack and jack stands can support the weight of your car.

Step-By-Step Instructions

1. Safety Precautions

  • Before beginning the replacement process, it is essential to ensure that all power sources are disconnected. Remove the battery cable from the negative terminal and remove the ignition key to prevent any chances of accidental engine startup.
  • Ensure that the engine has cooled down to an appropriate temperature before proceeding with the replacement.
  • Safe personal protective gear, like gloves, goggles, and clothing that covers the entire body, should be worn to reduce the likelihood of injury from rotating parts.
  • Also, always use the correct tools and equipment to avoid damaging the engine components.
  • Avoid using tools that don’t correspond to the required specifications, as it can increase the risk of damage and compromise the quality of the replacement.
  • Keep an organized record of which parts were removed. It is critical to put them back in their correct place when the replacement is completed.
  • Avoid running the engine until you are confident that everything is in good working order.

2. Removing The Old Belt

First, loosen the bolts holding the belt tensioner to remove the old timing belt. Then, remove the bolt that holds the tensioner and timing belt cover. After that, remove the main adjustment bolt for the tensioner and remove the freed tensioner and spring. When you do this, you can slide off the old timing belt.

3. Installing The New Belt

To install the new bolt, carefully thread it onto the crankshaft by hand. This helps to ensure that the bolt is threaded correctly, and you can avoid cross-threading, which could cause serious damage. Once the bolt is threaded correctly, use the torque wrench to tighten it to the manufacturer’s recommended specification.

4. Timing Belt Tensioning

Ensuring your car’s timing belt has the right tension is important. If it is too tight, it can wear out quickly. If it is too loose, it may damage the engine.

You will need a straight edge, a tension gauge, and something to measure with to check the tension. Attach that item to the tensioner and apply a consistent force across the belt.

Then, measure how far you can push down on the belt with your known force. This will tell you if your belt’s tension is correct or not.

5. Reassembling Engine Components

Put all the pieces of the engine back together when you replace the timing belt. Put in all the wires, sensors, and screws and tighten them properly. Connect the battery again and turn on the engine to ensure your new belt is working well.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

Replacing a timing belt is an important part of maintaining the health and longevity of your vehicle’s engine. However, drivers make some common mistakes during the replacement process. Avoid these mistakes and ensure that your vehicle remains in good running condition and avoids costly repairs down the road.

  • The first mistake is neglecting your vehicle’s fluids. During the timing belt replacement process, it is important to change the oil and coolant to prevent contamination of the new timing belt. Skipping this step can lead to premature wear and tear on the new belt and potentially damage your engine.
  • Waiting for the pros to take charge is also a mistake. While it is important to have a knowledgeable mechanic perform the timing belt replacement, educating yourself on the process and knowing when it is due for replacement is also important. This will help you avoid waiting until the last minute and being caught off guard by an unexpected failure.
  • Putting off quick fixes can be costly in the long run. If you notice any signs of wear or damage to your timing belt, it is important to address the issue immediately. Waiting until the damage becomes severe can cause serious engine damage and costly repairs.

Professional Timing Belt Replacement

Mad Man Motors Service Centre

Choosing A Trusted Mechanic

When it comes to replacing the timing belt in your vehicle, choosing a trusted mechanic is paramount to ensure the job is done properly. A reputable mechanic should have relevant experience, education, and certification in working on timing belts. They should also comprehensively understand your vehicle’s make and model and the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule for its timing belt.

Warranty And Guarantees

Timing belt replacement comes with the recommendation of the vehicle’s manufacturer. The suggested timeframe for replacement can vary depending on the specific make and model of the vehicle, but it’s typically between 100,000 and 150,000 kilometres or after four years of use.

It’s crucial to follow these guidelines and not neglect or ignore the need for a timing belt replacement. As a failing timing belt can lead to significant engine damage and expensive repairs.

Frequently Asked Questions (Faqs)

What Is The Average Lifespan Of A Timing Belt?

Timing belts need to be replaced between 100,000 and 150,000 kilometres or after a specific number of years, depending on which comes first. However, it is essential to note that some vehicles have different recommendations, and you should always follow the manufacturer’s specific guidance.

Can A Timing Belt Break Without Warning?

No. One of the most concerning aspects of timing belts and chains is that they can break without warning. Unlike other engine components that may exhibit symptoms of wear or failure, such as oil leaks or strange noises, timing belts and chains can snap suddenly without any noticeable warning signs.

How Can I Check The Condition Of My Timing Belt?

To inspect the belt, first look at the outside. The metal-reinforced belt should have smooth rubber with no chunks missing and only a few small cracks in the shiny coating.

To inspect the teeth, try to flip the belt over or look at it from different angles. If you see even one broken tooth, it could cause serious problems, and you need to replace it right away. Missing teeth can make your spark plugs and valves not work together properly.

Is It Safe To Drive With A Worn Timing Belt?

No. Bad timing belts can cause the engine to run poorly. This can cause big problems and even make the engine break down while you are driving.

What Is The Cost Of Timing Belt Replacement?

A timing belt kit usually costs between $100 -350. Getting a mechanic to put it in will cost about 3-5 hours of work, an extra $400 – $1,000. Make sure to get the whole kit and not just the belt alone. If you only get the belt, it might break again soon and cost more money.

Can I Replace The Timing Belt Myself If I’m Not A Mechanic?

It depends on how much you know and what tools you have. If you know a lot and have the right tools, then maybe it is possible. But if not, taking your car to a shop is better. Be careful! If the timing isn’t correct, it could damage your engine and cost more money to fix.


As we end our thrilling ride through the intricacies of timing belts, one thing becomes crystal clear: maintenance is the heartbeat of a healthy car. Much like a well-tuned engine, your vehicle thrives when each component plays its part seamlessly. Now, armed with the knowledge of when to change a timing belt, you’re not just a driver but a guardian of your trusty steed.

But hey, we’re not done yet! If the thought of timing belt replacement has your palms sweating, fear not! Enter Mad Man Motors—the wizards of automotive service and repair. Our expertise, passion, and a touch of mad genius ensure your timing belt dances to the perfect beat.

Don’t gamble with your engine’s rhythm; let the mad scientists at Mad Man Motors fine-tune your ride to perfection. We also offer fix-now-pay-later mechanic services with Humm, Openpay, and Afterpay. After all, your car deserves nothing but the best.

Schedule your timing belts or timing chains service today and keep your engine humming in harmony. Because at Mad Man Motors, we’re not just fixing cars but orchestrating automotive excellence. Give us a call or visit our service centre today.

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