What is a timing belt?
In many engines, a timing belt synchronizes the rotation of the crankshaft with that of the camshaft(s), with the purpose of keeping the movement of the pistons in harmony with the opening and closing of the valves. Most belts are made of a rubber with fibreglass or kevlar fibers. One side of the belt is smooth and the the other contains teeth or cleats that mesh with the crank and camshaft sprockets. Over time, high temperatures, stress and contamination will cause the belt to weaken, either producing cracks in the teeth or stretching the length of the belt. If the belt breaks or stretches the result will incapacitate the engine, many times with catastrophic damage.
What are the symptoms of a faulty timing belt?
Think of the timing belt as similar to the serpentine belt on the outer part of the engine, except with more important consequences. When you serpentine belt starts looking cracked, brown and shiny, the time has come to change it before the belt breaks or falls of and we are left calling the tow truck. We cannot see the timing belt, therefore the car manufacturer leaves instructions in the owner’s manual to change the belt at a specific mileage or time frame. Usually, the manufacturer will recommend the changing of the water pump and the timing belt tensioner at the same time in order to save on redundant labor.
What is the severity of a faulty timing belt?
This repair should be understood as preventive maintenance, and completed before the timing belt has broken or worn to the point where the engine suffers damage. If the timing belt is ignored, when it breaks or stretches to the point where the engine jumps teeth, you will be stranded by the side of the road waiting for a tow truck. Best to find a good mechanic who specializes in timing belt replacement, and set an appointment where it may be convenient to drop off the car for a day or two.
What is the typical cost for timing belt replacement?
- Estimated part(s) cost = $300 - $400
- Estimated labor cost = $350-$800
In general, timing belt replacement is one of the more costly preventive maintenance repairs, much of the price depending on the type of engine rather than the make or model. Parts for the repair are sold as a kit and usually include a water pump and a timing belt tensioner, and this will run about $300 to $400 dollars. Installation will run from $350 to $800 dollars with engine size and orientation determining price.
Keep in mind, pricing will vary by location and your vehicle make and model. Check out Openbay to compare timing belt replacement costs from top repair shops in your area.
Service article written by an ASE Master Technician