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What Are The Signs Of A Bad Timing Belt? How To Replace A Bad Timing Belt

A timing belt is a crucial part that your engine needs to function correctly as it serves as a link between the two halves of the car engine. This link allows proper airflow at the correct time within the engine. A rubber timing belt consists of robust rubber materials that include nylon-reinforced cords to enhance its lifespan. 

Your car’s timing belt is often subjected to intense pressure that makes it vulnerable to wearing out, making it essential to replace it routinely. Automobile manufacturers recommend in their guidelines that you replace it regularly to avoid dealing with a bad timing belt

So, how do you tell that your timing belt is due for replacement before things get out of hand? How long can you drive a car with a bad timing belt? We’ve summed up some of the most frequent signs of a broken, failing, or bad timing belt to help you realize that it’s time to replace it and avert possible damage to your vehicle. 

1. The Oil Pressure Drops 

Oil is central to your vehicle’s performance because your engine ceases to function without the appropriate oil levels. Maintaining an engine that has stopped functioning can be costly as it may force you to replace it entirely. 

The last thing you want to do is spend a fortune on your engine to fix preventable problems. You can unearth potential problems and prevent a bad timing belt by keeping an eye on all gauges as you drive. Declining oil pressure is an indication of a failing timing belt. 

Pull over and turn off your car immediately if you notice that the oil pressure is dropping. A failing timing belt results in malfunctioning timing in your car’s camshaft. Such failure may cause the pieces to break off and fall into the oil pan. The good news is that it’s rare for things to get this far if you heed the warnings, such as a drop in oil pressure. You’ll affect your engine’s lifespan if you ignore warning signs and drive with a bad timing belt

2. Improper or Rough Engine Idling 

The timing belt has teeth that grip the gears as they rotate different components and parts. When you let go of your car’s accelerator, the engine doesn’t stop immediately but keeps running at a low speed called idling. The timing belt continues transferring crankshaft motion to the valves to maintain slow but steady camshaft movement. 

The teeth start wearing out or smoothing down as the timing belt ages resulting in the gear slipping between the functioning and grounded teeth. The resultant mismatch causes rough exhaust sounds when the car is idling. Failure to notice the problem and replace the timing belt increases the slip causing the engine to stall. Always watch your car during idling for any changes or mismatches to avoid driving with a bad timing belt

3. Misfires 

A bad timing belt causes different engine problems, including the engine’s firing rate. The engine is affected instantly if the belt teeth slip from the gear teeth causing the valves and pistons to close and open out of sync, creating a misfire. 

So how does this problem develop? The unusual slippage causes exhaust or inlet valves to in an inappropriate timing generating fire. For instance, the air-fuel mixture leaves the chamber before combustion if the exhaust valve opens too quickly, creating a short power cycle. Excessive air-fuel inlet also causes improper combustion, resulting in excessive pressure buildup in the engine. 

An engine misfire indicates a worn-out timing belt that requires replacement to avert more problems. A persistent misfire may cause permanent damage to the combustion chamber, affecting other components, including pistons, valves, piston rings, and the crankshaft’s connecting rod. 

4. Unusual Smoke Buildup

Your car’s timing belt is in continuous rotations that keep everything in optimum performance, including proper air intake. The system may release too much exhaust or take in too much air if the rotation process develops any mechanical problem. 

An unusual amount of smoke from the car’s engine or exhaust pipe indicates a problem. This problem emanates from various causes and anomalies, but the main culprit is a bad timing belt. The smoke may be water vapor in rare cases, but it’s often a red flag of a critical underlying problem in your engine’s functioning. Smoke resulting from a bad timing belt produces a strong fuel smell because of incomplete combustion. 

You can also observe the smoke’s color for signs of a bad timing belt. An unusually darker smoke indicates that your vehicle’s engine burns excessive fuel. Excessive fuel consumption reduces your car’s mileage as the inlet valve of the timing belt fails to close in time. 

Excessive fuel within the combustion chamber results in louder combustion and the production of dense residue gases that you see coming out of the vehicle’s tailpipe. 

5. Broken Valves Or Pistons 

We’ve mentioned that a bad timing belt reduces the lifespan of your engine’s pistons, valves, and other essential components. A broken or cut-off timing belt is one of the worst bad timing belt symptoms that your vehicle can experience because it indicates permanent damage. 

This problem causes the crankshaft to turn and operate out of sync with the camshaft’s motion. The piston then comes into contact with the opening valves resulting in a bent or permanently damaged valves. The severe damage associated with broken pistons or valves increases the need to replace your timing belt as soon as you discover any anomalies.

 It’s worth noting that broken parts are harmful, especially to your vehicle’s fast-moving system. The broken pieces can be thrown in different directions resulting in immense and costly damages. Take immediate action whenever you notice sudden or unusual changes in your vehicle’s operation or hear noise from the system. Pull over your vehicle and turn off the engine to assess the level of damage. 

What’s The Average Cost to Replace A Timing Belt?

You’ve understood the severity of issues emanating from a simple timing belt mishap. It’s essential to find out the cost of replacing a damaged unit, including the labor. 

The cost of replacing your car’s timing belt depends on various factors, including the number of hours spent replacing it. Some cars have a complex system that takes more time to access the timing belt components. However, the case differs for economy vehicles with smaller and simple engines. These cars require cheaper labor than sophisticated cars such as SUVs or trucks with bigger engines. 

The average cost ranges between $300 and $500, although it can go higher for larger engines. A typical timing belt will cost you less than $50. Much of the budget is spent on the labor of replacing the timing belt. 

It’s advisable to replace the water pump with your timing belt because the two components are located in the same area on your car’s system. You’ll spend more if you replace the water pump, but it will save you the cost of replacing it in the future. 

When Should I Replace A Timing Belt?

According to most vehicle manufacturers’ schedules, a timing belt is among the components that require replacement to keep your car in top performance. Most manufacturers recommend that you replace your car’s timing belt after a mileage of 75,000 and 100,000 miles. Confirm with the producer’s manual for precise schedules as the schedule is different depending on;

  • The vehicle model and type
  • The engine size 
  • The road conditions 
  • What do you use the vehicle for

Like most vehicle owners, you may overlook the essence of replacing the timing belt. However, a broken or bad timing belt will plunge you into a series of problems that may cost thousands of dollars to fix. These damages can be irreversible. Avoid taking risks and replace your timing belt. 

How Do I Replace A Bad Timing Belt?

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s a valuable part of our guide; how to properly replace your vehicle’s timing belt. No one wants to drive with a bad timing belt because of the possible damage to your car. We want to ensure you learn how to hassle-free replace a bad timing belt. Follow these steps to get it done. However, we recommend getting a professional mechanic for a smooth process, especially if you don’t have auto repair experience. 

The first step is having access to the timing belt. This process isn’t easy as the timing belt is located inside the engine. Your mechanic removes various engine accessories to reach the timing belt. 

The second step is analyzing the timing belt and its pulleys to find out what needs to be replaced. Your mechanic removes the bad timing belt preparing to replace it. Most processes involve replacing the tensioners, pulleys, and the water pump if there’s a need to replace the water pump. 

The mechanic places the timing cover and any other removed engine accessories in their places after installing the new parts. Test the timing belt by starting the engine to see if you’ve replaced it effectively. 

After installing the new components, your engine should be free of any valve timing irregularities or misfiring. 

How Long Can You Drive With A Bad Timing Belt?

Driving with a broken or bad timing belt can cause significant damage to your engine. Such a move is also dangerous because it may cause your car to stall without warning. Replace your car’s timing belt after every 150,000 miles of mileage. 

What happens if a timing belt breaks while driving?

Your engine stops working if a timing belt breaks while driving. The camshaft stops moving, exposing parts of the engine valves, while the heavier crankshaft continues rotating, which moves pistons up and down. You’re likely to incur severe damages. 

Is it worth fixing a bad timing belt?

Yes, fixing a broken or bad timing belt is vital to avert severe engine damage. Replacing a broken timing belt saves you the cost of replacing the entire engine. 

Bottom line An engine is an integral component of your vehicle because no vehicle moves without a properly functioning engine. The engine consists of different components that require regular maintenance to keep it in top-notch condition. We’ve looked at the common bad timing belt symptoms and how to fix them. Always ensure that you check for any of these signs and make a fast move to fix them to avoid further damage.


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