You take your car in for a maintenance appointment and the technician finds an issue with the timing belt. This vehicle part sounds important, but you don’t know what it does. What could be wrong?
About the Timing Belt
The timing belt plays a key role within your engine. True to its name, it helps the engine keep time as it moves between the intake, compression and exhaust strokes. The timing belt works with the camshaft (to the top) and crankshaft (from the bottom) to open the valves and move the pistons, respectively. This process prevents the parts from crashing into each other. The part may also help power the water pump and balance shaft.
For this reason, its construction is particularly durable – reinforced rubber or a synthetic material and nylon, featuring teeth or ribbing. Because it’s toward the front of your engine and experiences regular wear and tear, it will eventually weaken. Once it’s fully torn, your engine will no longer run. On a typical maintenance schedule, this part should be replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles.
However, not every engine has a timing belt. Rather, it’s present in vehicles with a displacement engine. Cars with a larger bore and stroke have a timing chain, which ideally lasts its entire lifespan.
Signs of a Timing Belt Issue
Before the technician discovers a problem, you can watch out for the following signs that something is wrong with your timing belt.
1. Engine Issues
More often than not, your engine’s performance points to a worn-out timing belt:
- It runs poorly. If your engine feels like it has less power or shakes as you drive, the timing belt may have slipped out of place. As such, the valves and pistons are out of sync and your intake and exhaust valves aren’t firing at the right times.
- You hear a ticking sound. Once the car is running, you’ll hear a ticking sound, indicating your timing belt is damaged or that your engine has low oil pressure or insufficient lubrication.
- The engine won’t start. At this point, the belt is completely broken. You’ll start your car, only to hear the motor turning, but nothing else happens. Your engine could also have sustained serious internal damage.
- The check engine light comes on. Even if you don’t hear anything, your car’s computer monitor noticed something with your engine’s emissions performance, which could be related to the timing belt.
2. Oil Issues
A timing belt issue may also be related to your car’s oil performance:
- Loss of Pressure: This occurs from damage to the camshaft, which has been knocked out of place. At this point, debris from the part is ending up in the oil pan and preventing the fluid from flowing smoothly into the engine.
- Leaks: When parts related to the timing belt’s operation get loose, your car’s oil may start to leak. If undetected, a regular leak will cause the belt’s material to disintegrate.
3. Water Pump Issues
Has your car’s water pump seized up? When this happens, the part’s gears stop moving suddenly and may cause the timing belt to break. As such, forgetting about the coolant system may eventually harm your timing belt.
4. Physical Signs
If you’ve got the skills, look inside your car to check the state of your timing belt. Generally, your belt has experienced a high amount of wear and tear when you notice:
- Missing or hollowed-out teeth
- Worn edges
- Oil stains
Often, these issues go back to:
- Poor Installation: This causes the teeth to wear away or break off when the belt goes around the camshafts and crankshafts.
- Temperature: If your engine is too hot, your timing belt may start to crack.
- Tension: Occurring from installation but also caused by a missing cover or outside objects entering the engine, incorrect tension results in crimping and cracking along the belt.
If you’re hearing or seeing a combination of these signs, get your timing belt looked at before it breaks. To schedule a diagnostic appointment and have repairs made, contact our Naugatuck location today.