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Symptoms of a Bad Timing Belt

Someone noticing symptoms of a bad timing belt

You never realize how much you rely on a synchronous belt until it no longer works. Also called the timing belt, this little piece of the engine is responsible for opening and closing the valves on your engine’s camshaft in time to the engine’s crankshaft. If that doesn’t happen, the engine doesn’t turn over, and when that doesn’t happen, your car stops running. Whoops.

Luckily, there are several signs of a faulty synchronous belt. If you learn to look out for them ahead of time, you can get the car to the shop or replace the timing belt parts yourself before anything dire occurs.

Let’s take a look at what a faulty timing belt is, what the signs are, whether you can drive with it, how to replace it, and more.

Faulty Timing Belt

The timing belt is a long piece of rubber with teeth on the side facing the camshaft, that runs around and around inside your engine, keeping time. More specifically, the camshaft times the valves, which let the air and gasoline into the engine in concert with the crankshaft, which in turn moves the pistons inside the cylinders. It’s a delicate dance that can’t go off or the engine stops working.

When the timing belt is faulty, this dance can fall apart quickly. If the camshaft and crankshaft aren’t working together, the engine runs poorly or not at all. The timing belt may even fall off or shear, causing damage to other parts in the engine, especially if it happens while you’re driving.

For that reason, it’s critical to get out in front of a belt problem by recognizing the signs of a faulty synchronous belt.

Signs of a Faulty Timing Belt

There are many signs to watch for if you want to avoid a synchronous belt blowup. The symptoms of a bad timing belt include:

  • Clicking sounds from the engine: Rhythmic ticking or clicking from the car’s engine is a sign that the timing belt may be starting to wear out or act up. It can also mean the oil pressure in your car is low, but you want to double-check that either way.
  • Oil leaks near the motor: When timing belts start to wear out, it will often result in oil dripping from the timing belt cover. If you see oil on the ground under the hood, that’s another sign that needs checking out.
  • Exhaust issues: A faulty synchronous belt can require the car to work harder than it’s designed to, which may create a cloud of exhaust far thicker than you’re used to. Even when this isn’t related to the timing belt, it’s a serious issue that needs attention.
  • High RPMs: Are your revolutions per minute higher than usual? That could also be the timing belt.
  • The engine won’t turn over: If it straight up won’t start, that could also be due to a broken timing belt. Either way, you’ll need to get your car towed at that point, unless you can work on it yourself.

Can You Drive With a Faulty Timing Belt

If you see or hear any of the signs of a faulty synchronous belt, stop driving! If the timing belt breaks, your car will stop running immediately, and you won’t even be able to drive it to a shop. At that point, your only choices are to call a tow truck or to abandon the car forever. (Which is illegal, so back to calling a tow truck.)

In any case, we’re assuming you don’t want to abandon the car, so it’s best not to drive with a faulty timing belt, especially as that can lead to other damage in the internal combustion engine and your potentially having to replace more parts than you otherwise would have.

Instead, you’ll want to look into replacing it immediately. If you like to work on automobiles yourself, this may prove an engaging task.

How Long Does a Timing Belt Last?

Even with knowing some signs of a faulty synchronous belt, it's unfortunately still difficult to tell exactly when a timing belt needs to go. Usually, timing belts can fail without warning. But don't panic, knowing how long timing belts last can help you dodge this issue.

With older vehicles, the expected lifespan of a timing belt is at the lower end, around 60,000 miles. You can get away with waiting closer to 100,000 miles on newer cars. This is a fairly standard range for most vehicles, but it will vary. Check with the vehicle manufacturer in your car's owner's manual for their recommendation and make sure you stick to the schedule to avoid problems down the road. If in doubt, it's always better to replace the timing belt early than to wait until it is too late.

Luckily, a timing belt is an inexpensive component to replace. Even with the cost of labor, you will be saving a decent chunk of change by preventing an even costlier repair in the event your timing belt fails.

Illinois Pulley & Gear: Your Timing Belt Pulley Provider

Pulleys are integral to the synchronous belt’s operation. Whether you’re replacing your timing belt yourself or work in a shop and need to order batches of pulleys, we can help. Here at Illinois Pulley & Gear, we specialize in automotive racing parts and would love to help you find the high-quality, American-made supplies you need to keep cars running sharp. Please feel free to get in touch with us today!