In a variety of applications, rubber timing belts serve a critical purpose: synchronizing movement in a pulley system. One of the most common applications of the timing belt is within vehicle engines, synchronizing action between the camshaft and crankshaft. Within an automobile, a properly functioning timing belt is absolutely critical – in fact, a failed timing belt could leave you stranded.
Below, we explore the ins-and-outs of timing belt failure, including symptoms indicating that repair might be needed in the near future.
How Does a Timing Belt Work?
Ultimately, proper synchronization between the camshaft and crankshaft open and close an engine’s valves, letting air and gas in and out at the right time. When valves open and close properly, fuel ignites in the combustion chamber.
Owner of a car shop in Las Vegas, Carl Roberson says: “In order for the process to take place, the valves have to open and close at the right time. The valves have to be in the correct position as well as the pistons. The valves open at different times for each cylinder. It’s a mechanical ballet of sorts.” If the timing belt breaks or fails, the vehicle’s engine will stop properly functioning.
How Do I Know When it’s Time to Replace My Timing Belt?
Although it is not always possible to prevent timing belt failure before it occurs, understanding signs of wear can help you replace your timing belt preventatively. Preventative repair is almost always less expensive than reactive repair, because a broken timing belt can cause further damage valves, pistons, or other engine components.
#1. Material Loss
Rubber timing belt wear resembles tire wear. Over time, the belt loses traction as material is worn down. Less traction results in timing belt slippage. Often, the effects of material loss are especially felt when pulling a heavy load such as a trailer or operating in wet weather conditions.
#2. Belt Abrasion
Belt abrasion occurs along the edge of the belt for a variety of reasons, including pulley misalignment, extreme weather conditions, or bearing failure. When the filaments along the edges of the pulley belt are exposed due to wear, replace your timing belt immediately.
Cracking along the pulley belt can occur on the top or bottom, especially in neoprene timing belts. Of course, excessive cracking along the timing belt indicates excessive wear and likely failure. Cracks are an excellent warning sign of timing belt failure and should be taken seriously.
To check for glazing, observe the underside of the timing belt. A glossy appearance indicates that the belt is not providing adequate flexibility. As an additional check, try to put an indent on the belt itself. If the indent does not leave a mark, replace your timing belt.
Material loss, resulting from demanding usage conditions, can begin to build up, causing excessive noise and vibration. If you notice either of these physical responses to build up, it may be time to replace your timing belt. Additionally, you may check accessory break pulleys for similar build up.
Pulley belt wear often produces a chain reaction of negative effects. Hydroplaning is among these. Vehicle owners understand the frightening sensation of hydroplaning on a rainy day. For a moment, your tires lose traction with the road, and you seem to be skimming the surface of the concrete. A vehicle’s timing belt hydroplanes in a similar way! When the rubber belt begins to wear, water caught between the belt and pulleys causes the belt to hydroplane, ultimately removing power from the engine.
As one may imagine, material loss also results in changes to belt length. Elongation reduces the overall belt tension, hampering performance. Sometimes, material loss can adjust the tensioner beyond the take-up limit.
Misalignment is the result of tensioner failure. Thankfully, tensioner failure is often easy to notice, accompanied by loud noises, excessive heating, and vibration. In this circumstance, immediate action should be taken to repair your vehicle.
#9. High-Pitched Sounds
A few of the aforementioned symptoms of timing belt wear have included loud, abnormal engine sounds. In addition to these, pay attention to high-pitched screeching when you first start the car, when you’re idling, or when you’re accelerating. Listen for ticking as well, seeming to come from directly inside the engine. These noises could indicate timing belt malfunction.
#10. Heavy Exhaust Fumes
Excessive smoke fumes billowing from the exhaust is another sign that your timing belt may be malfunctioning.
#11. Car Stops Working
Finally, the worst-case scenario indicates a failed timing belt and, occasionally, major engine damage. If your car stops working abruptly, a comprehensive inspection should be completed, including the timing belt system.
How Often Should I Replace My Timing Belt?
As a rule of thumb, a vehicle’s timing belt should be replaced – or at least inspected – every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. However, manufacturers’ recommendations must be considered as well, because some models last longer than others. Pay attention to mileage recommendations based on your specific vehicle. As mentioned, proactive timing belt repair is more cost-effective than reactive replacement.
How Much Can I Expect to Pay for a Replacement?
The precise cost of a timing belt replacement will depend on the extent of repairs required or if the entire belt needs to be replaced. In general, preventatively replacing a timing belt – before significant malfunction and additional engine damage – may cost between $500 and $900. Entirely replacing a broken belt may cost over $2,000, especially if damage occurred to other components of the engine.
Of course, an exact cost cannot be determined until a mechanic has thoroughly inspected your timing belt!
Illinois Pulley & Gear: Timing Belt Pulley Manufacturers
At Illinois Pulley & Gear, we are passionate about producing high-quality timing belt pulley systems, built to last. Every timing belt pulley is made-to-order to customer specifications, depending on your precise need.