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When is it time to change your timing belt?

timing belt

If you are planning a long journey, it is a good idea to check that you will not go over the advised mileage for your next timing belt change. If you are close to the advised mileage, it would be better to change it before your journey.

Most cars will need to have their timing belt changed between 60,000-120,000 miles, the exact figure can be found in your car’s service manual.

It can be a little expensive to change the timing belt. Not because the timing belt itself is expensive, but because it's often in a difficult place and can be quite time consuming to change.

Most of the time the water pump is also replaced at the same time as the timing belt, just because it's hard to get to. With these type of time consuming jobs there are certainly savings to be made by shopping around.

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What does the timing belt do and what is a cam belt?

The timing belt controls one of the engines main functions; the interaction between the pistons and valves. If they are out of sync, it can have disastrous consequences, in addition to an irregular and wasteful operation.

The timing belt is a transmission belt operated by the crank shaft and also operates the cam shaft. It ensures that the valves and pistons in the engine are in line. Technically, what happens is that the intake valve opens and the piston draws air into the chamber. Then the valve closes and the piston depresses.

The fuel containing compressed air ignites and explodes. It pushes the piston and drives the process in the other chambers. When the piston is fully open, it is pulled back again, while the exhaust valve is open. Then the process starts all over again.

The valves must be open at the intake and exhaust, and the pistons must have be in the correct position when the fuel-containing air ignites. The timing belt has teeth like ridges along the belt, these teeth fit within ridges in the cogs that are in turn pushed and pulled by the timing belt.

A cam belt also operates the same processes, but here it is not as important whether the process is precise.

The cam belt is a belt that usually has (slightly) sloping sides. The cam belt wedges into the pulley groove, to get a firm hold. They do the same job, but operate ever so slightly differently, that’s why people sometimes say they are the “same thing”.

At Autobutler you can get 3 quotes for a timing belt change, and compare the garages both on price but also on other car owner's reviews. You can even select your usual garage for a quote. We assist you in clear and simple way, to find the best garage for your budget or needs.

What happens if the timing belt is not replaced?

The timing belt is extremely durable and can take many years of use, however it will have general wear and tear that will eventually result in the timing belt needing to be replaced. You can find the manufacturer reccomendations in your service manual. Usually cars will need their timing belt changed after a certain mileage or after a certain time period. Even if you do not drive very much, there is a risk that the timing belt becomes weathered and damaged.

The timing belt consists of steel wire, fiberglass, polyester and Kevlar cables. If you do not change the timing belt, you risk that it frays, and bits become loose around the engine compartment and out onto the road. Here it may contribute to cause Flash Rust.

The most dangerous thing that can happen is if it becomes so worn or defective that it no longer synchronizes pistons and valves. Some engines have plenty of space, while others are built so that there is no room if the pistons and valves are positioned wrong. The piston simply hits the valves if they are open when the piston is depressed. If that happens, it could mean that you need a complete new engine.

Ratings of timing belt and cam belt replacements

Offered diagnostic and I now know what part I need..
Giles B.
Renault Megane (2012)
Everything was ok, 5/5.
Zoltan S.
Alfa Romeo 159 (2006)
Very professional and good prices
Bjorn E.
Volkswagen Touareg (2014)

When you buy a used car

If you are buying a used car privately, the chances are that you will have no additional warranty other than the manufacturers (if still relevant). If you purchase a used car from a dealership, most offer a 3 month warranty, but it is not always on all parts of the car. You should make sure when the timing belt was last changed, and if it cannot be disclosed, you should get it written into the contract as part of the warranty.

Good advice when buying a used car:

  • Check in the service booklet that the timing belt has been changed according to the recommendations
  • Contact the garage which performed the job, and check that it went as planned
  • If in doubt, you should have it checked over at a garage

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