Your engine is like a finely choreographed dance. All the parts have to work together. If the timing is off at the ballet, dancers crash into each other and fall down. If the timing is off in your engine, it may not run at all. One of the most intricate dances in your engine, has to do with the combustion cycle.
Your engine has cylinders in which a piston travels up and down. At the top of the cylinders are valves open to bring in the air and fuel. And there are valves that open to let out the exhaust after the fuel has been burned.
It’s critical that the values be timed to open and close at precisely the right time in the combustion cycle, or the engine will run poorly or not at all.
The timing belt is responsible for rotating the shafts that control the valves. It’s vital and precision work. Timing belts are made of very tough flexible material. They can last a long time. But they eventually wear out and can break. The consequences can be disastrous.
In some engines, the valves actually protrude far enough into the cylinders that they could come in contact with the piston. If the timing belt breaks, the pistons will smash into the valves. Valves get bend or broken. If the engine is spinning fast enough, the broken parts will shred the cylinder head as well. Repairing this damage can cost several thousand dollars.
It’s a sad day when this happens – especially since it usually can be avoided. Manufacturers have issued recommendations for when you should replace your timing belt. For some engines, it’s at 60,000 miles. For others it’s at 90,000 miles or more. If you’re approaching 60,000 miles – or have passed it – make sure your check your owner’s manual or with your service adviser for when the timing belt should be replaced. Don’t let this one slip by.
Now some timing belts are visible and can be inspected. Others are hidden under a protective cover and are hard to get to. Some timing belts also drive the water pump. If you have a leaky water pump, the coolant will contaminate the timing belt and could make it fail sooner. So if you have this kind of engine, get it in for an inspection right away if you have a coolant leak.
Most people with this engine design end up with a new timing belt when they replace the water pump. And when you’re having your timing belt replaced on schedule, check with your service advisor to see if it makes sense to install a new water pump, even if it isn’t currently having problems, since most of the labor is already being done any way for the timing belt replacement.
A heads up, larger engines will often have metal timing chains rather than belts. The chains don’t need to be replaced like belts.
We’ve already told you how very expensive it can be to get your car running again after a timing belt fails. You also need to know that replacing the timing belt is very labor intensive and is one of the most costly maintenance services you will have. So if you will be at the point where your timing belt should be replaced in the next year or so, ask for an estimate so you can begin to prepare for the expense.
We at AutoNetTV are committed to helping you make your driving experience as safe and economical as possible. Your service center can be a valuable partner. Please take advantage of their knowledge and experience. And check out http://AutoNetTV.com for more tips.