Timing is everything in every part of life and the same with the engine also. The serpentine belt and timing belt both have specific tasks to do and that is to operate engine parts at the right time.

If you’re in dubiety that whether the serpentine belt and timing belt are same or two different things, then one thing is very definitive about these two components that both of them play a crucial role in internal combustion engine but when it comes to their functions then they both serve the different purposes.

What do they do and where they are located and what are the differences between serpentine belt and timing belt, you will have all answers. We hope after that you will not use the serpentine belt and timing belt interchangeably like other people who don’t know the facts.

Let’s begin to explore from start to end!

What is Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt is a snake like a belt located just outside of the engine block which you can easily notice from the front. It is a long and strong rubber that connects to multiple engine accessories from the alternator, water pump, compressor of the air conditioner, power steering pump, and crankshaft.

The serpentine belt rotates constantly and powers all these components to run smoothly in various car systems.

Basically, this belt uses a pulley system and a tensioner that rotates to provide mechanical power to these connected engine parts to make them function.

However, it lasts quite long and requires maintenance after 60,000 to 1,00,000 miles. Usually, it wears out over time but if there is any misalignment from the tensioner, it may get damaged prematurely.

But the best part is that it is quite inexpensive and when it comes to replacement, it is not much difficult to remove and replace. Hence, the replacement cost is also pretty affordable.

But because it is cheaper, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing to worry if it fails. If it stops functioning, the engine will overheat and eventually stop.

Read more about Symptoms of Bad Serpentine Belt

What is Timing Belt

A timing belt is an important part of the engine, located under the timing cover and just at the front of the engine. It keeps all internal parts of the engine in sync and ensures they operate smoothly.

This belt looks like an elastic band that has a number of teeth on the inside surface which help provide grip on the heads of the camshaft and crankshaft and keep them connected.

When the engine runs the timing, the belt helps move the camshaft to open and close the intake valve and exhaust valve at the right time synchronizing with the intake and exhaust stroke of each cylinder, so that the piston does not collide.

The timing belt is usually made of extremely stiff material like neoprene or molded polyurethane that has vertical grooves, and the body surface is covered with a polymer cover or metal. Such construction makes it long lasting and generally, it can last up to 1,00,000 miles.

But when it fails, the engine cannot work at all, and the repair is also quite expensive. When the timing belt doesn’t function accurately, the valve may remain open, and the piston may strike them that can cause internal damage to the engine.

The best thing to avoid its failure is that make sure there is no oil leakage, and the engine doesn’t overheat.

However, in modern vehicles, you will find a timing belt made of temperature resistant material that relatively lasts longer than a normal timing belt.

Also, Read: Symptoms of Bad Timing Belt and Replacement Cost

9 Differences Between Serpentine Belt and Timing Belt

Both serpentine belt and timing belt play an important role in an engine to ensure your vehicle runs smoothly. You may be one of those people who think both belts have the same function to perform but indeed, they both have different roles.

Here are some noteworthy differences between serpentine belt and timing belt:

  1. The serpentine belt that is snaked around different engine accessories is easily visible from the outside of the engine while the timing belt is not as visible as it is under the timing cover.
  2. The timing belt has the only job to synchronize the function of the camshaft and crankshaft to ensure the intake valve and exhaust valve opens and closes at the right time so that the mixture of fuel and air can enter the combustion chamber while all these components are running altogether. But serpentine belt does the more important work to power all connected accessories, transmits mechanical power to the accessories like air conditioner, alternator, and water pump.
  3. In some modern vehicles, you will not find a timing belt, they use a timing chain. However, the timing chain performs the same function, but design wise it is different. But serpentine belt you will find in every car
  4. The serpentine belt is not connected directly to the engine instead it is connected to those accessories which are further connected to the engine, while the timing belt is directly connected to the engine that moves the camshaft and crankshaft in synchronization.
  5. When it comes to replacement, the serpentine belt is relatively less expensive and labor work is also not that tedious, but replacement of the timing belt is quite expensive.
  6. If the timing belt breaks, you must replace the engine while serpentine belt replacement does not require engine replacement and it is pretty easier to replace.
  7. The serpentine belt has to do a more tedious job, hence, it needs regular servicing while the timing belt is serviced once in a while.
  8. When the serpentine belt fails, then only those accessories stop working that are connected to it such as the air conditioner, water pump, and alternator while when the timing belt gets failed the camshaft, crankshaft, cylinder head, and valves can get damaged.
  9. The lifespan of a timing belt is longer as it has a mild function to perform while the serpentine belt has to perform a more laborious job, hence it breaks or fails easily over time.


We hope now it is clear to you what are the differences between the serpentine belt and the timing belt.

But it is more important to keep in mind that when there are any visible signs of timing belt failure then don’t ignore it because it will only lead to engine replacement which will cost you a fortune.

It is better you go for timely servicing and avoid any unexpected failure.