vehicle timing belt

Much of your car’s functionality is dependent on two parts: the serpentine and timing belts. Should one of these belts become frayed or break, several problems could occur. The alternator won’t power the battery, the engine will stop working, you’ll no longer feel the air conditioner and the power steering pump will make it difficult to operate your vehicle. The longer you wait, the greater the damage and repair costs become.

About the Belts Powering Your Car

The serpentine and timing belts are essential for transferring energy between key parts of your vehicle. What roles do each belt play?

The Serpentine Belt

This long, ribbed rubber belt, powered by the crankshaft pulley and tightened by a hydraulic or spring-based tensioner, is key for several engine functions. The alternator, air conditioning compressor, power steering, air and water pumps all take the crankshaft’s energy from the serpentine belt. As a result, it goes by a number of names, including “fan belt,” “V-belt” and “drive belt”.

Ideally, the belt should be inspected for quality and alignment every time you go for an oil change. Depending on the car model and year, the serpentine belt needs to be replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles.

Timing Belt

Sometimes called a timing chain, the timing belt is essential for keeping the pace, powering the car’s camshaft movement and helping the crankshaft rotate.

If your car has an internal combustion engine, this part ensures the engine’s valves open and close at the proper times during the engine cylinder’s intake and exhaust strokes. For an interference engine, the belt keeps the piston from hitting the valves.

Designs vary; a timing belt looks flat from the outside but has a ridge of teeth along the inside. A timing chain is a roller chain that performs the same function. Because it’s behind the timing cover, wear on this belt is not always as clear.

Some drivers, especially if they miss the maintenance deadline, may find their timing belt suddenly fails, as the engine parts no longer move with each other. Generally, this happens when one of the ridges breaks off or the belt wears through.

When materials break down due to wear and tear, the serpentine and timing belts need to be replaced. Before your car stalls in the driveway or leaves you stranded, look for specific warning signs.

When to Replace Your Car’s Belts

Between 60,000 and 100,000 miles is ideal, depending on the car’s maintenance schedule. Yet, if you notice one or more of the following signs, it will likely need to be replaced sooner:

  • Fraying, tearing or cracking along the belt, or an overall shredded appearance.
  • The belt has missing teeth or pieces of rubber.
  • A squeaking or chirping noise.
  • A growling sound when you start up the car.
  • The car has trouble starting.
  • The engine feels as if it’s shaking.
  • The car overheats during use because the water pump is no longer working.
  • You notice the vehicle or key parts lose power.
  • The belt has slipped out of place.
  • The battery light comes on, due to issues with the alternator.

If you ignore any of these issues:

  • You risk the belt breaking suddenly, which could leave you stranded.
  • The alternator won’t charge, which prevents the car from receiving full power.
  • The water pump is no longer powered, which can cause your car to overheat in minutes.
  • Without enough power and consistent operation, these systems may become damaged if you continue to operate the car.
  • Driving may become unsafe, as the steering wheel no longer turns reliably, which can affect how well the car handles.

Car Belt Maintenance

If you notice one or more of these signs, bring your vehicle to DaSilva’s Auto Body for an inspection. During these visits:

  • The belt and pulley’s tensioner and rotation are examined and updated.
  • All related components, like the alternator and air conditioner, are examined for issues.
  • The belt and tensioner may be replaced with OEM parts.

Whether you need the tension adjusted or a completely new belt, bring your car in for a maintenance appointment. Schedule a time at our Naugatuck shop today.