A timing belt is simply a rubber belt with teeth that connects the crankshaft (which controls the pistons) and the camshaft (which controls the valves) and maintains the coordination between them when they smash into each other. This timing belt ensures they both turn together at the right time.
One valve opens and allows the intake of air into the cylinder. Then this air gets mixed with fuel to allow the combustion of fuel and pressure pushes the piston and produces the energy.
If the timing belt stops working, the camshaft would not operate the valve in the correct sequence and this way the pistons and valves will fall out of sync and possibly cause damage to the piston and other internal parts of the vehicle. Your vehicle would stop and would not start until the repair is done and the timing belt is replaced.
Therefore, it is important you keep eye on the warning signs it gives out before it gets out of function. However, we recommend to always getting your timing belt replaced on time. Generally, the lifespan of the timing belt is around 4 years to 5 years depends on how frequently you drive your vehicle.
Signs and Symptoms of a Bad Timing Belt
#1 – Ticking Noise
There are a lot of pulleys and other components connected to the timing belt. When the timing belt starts to wear out, it may become loose and produce a ticking noise inside the engine cylinder.
However, this ticking sound can also be an indication of low oil pressure but if this sound remains there even after fixing the oil pressure, that means there is something wrong with the timing belt of the vehicle.
Related article to read: Causes of Engine Ticking Noise
#2 – Oil Leakage
This is another sign of a bad timing belt. If you notice oil around the engine, it may be because the gasket between the engine block and timing cover has worn out. This oil leakage can cause the engine to overheat which results in premature wear out of the timing belt.
It is much difficult to identify these symptoms, the best approach is you contact to the vehicle’s manufacturer to enquire about the scheduled replacement time for your vehicle’s timing belt.
#3 – Engine Misfire
The bad timing belt of your vehicle’s engine can affect the firing rate of the engine that means one of the cylinders will open and close before the time which results in a misfire in the engine.
This usually happens when the timing belt slips off its pulley and falls onto the camshaft drive. This can cause some serious damage to the engine if it is not replaced immediately.
#4 – Engine Stops Igniting
The engine would not ignite if the timing belt has broken out. In most cases, the timing belt breaks out when the vehicle is in motion which leads to other internal damage to some important parts including the cylinder head, crank bearings, oil pump, and piston.
In this condition, if you put the key into the ignition, you may hear the ignition sound but the engine would not turn over until the repair is done and the timing belt is replaced.
#5 – Declined Oil Pressure
The timing belt’s teeth become loose over time and break off. When these teeth fall into the vehicle’s oil pan, they cause an excessive decline in the oil pressure of the engine.
If it is not fixed or replaced with the timing belt, the entire engine can seize. In such a condition, rebuilding the engine is the only way to make the vehicle working.
How to Diagnose a Bad Timing Belt
However, it is difficult to say if the timing belt is faulty because you can’t easily check it on your own. It remains sealed in its own housing which can be accessed with the help of special tools. So if you want to inspect the timing belt, you will either need those special tools or will need to take your vehicle to the mechanic.
Generally, the timing belt has a long lifespan though you should inspect this from time to time to ensure it’s in good condition. The part that is most prone to damage is its teeth, so look for teeth that may appear missing.
If so, you should go for the replacement of the timing belt. You should also look for minor cracks which can become the cause of the potential damage.
How smoothly the vehicle starts up directly or indirectly connected to the condition of the timing belt. If it takes several attempts to get the engine to start, the bad timing belt could be the reason of it.
Can You Drive With a Bad Timing Belt
Once you come to know that the timing belt of your vehicle is defective, it is advised that you do not attempt to start your vehicle until the belt is replaced. If you continue to drive your vehicle, you never know when the timing belt will break off.
And if it happens, the engine will automatically run with low power and without proper timing, the valves and pistons would collide with each other and cause a very expensive mechanical damage.
How Long Can I Drive With a Bad Timing Belt
It can’t be said that how long you can drive with a defective timing belt. A bad timing belt can fall apart anytime without any major warning sign. And because the timing belt is responsible for all the internal parts to be in sync, so when this happens, your vehicle’s engine would immediately shut down and would not turn up until the damage is repaired and the timing belt is replaced.
How To Know When to Replace Timing Belt
The timing belt is a small but critical part of a vehicle’s engine. It makes the engine run properly. Therefore, it is important to keep monitoring the condition of the timing belt occasionally to ensure it is in good working condition.
In the context of replacement of the timing belt, it is recommended that you should not postpone the replacement until it breaks off. Rather than waiting for the visible signs of defect, it is better to go for the replacement within the scheduled time recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer.
To know exactly, when your timing belt needs to be replaced, refer to the user’s manual, it will provide you every information you need regarding the timing belt. However, generally, the timing belt should be replaced between 60K to 100K miles, depending on your vehicle’s make and model.
How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Timing Belt
The average cost of a timing belt replacement is between $250 and $750 that is much better than thousands of dollars which may be needed if the belt breaks and causes serious mechanical damage in the internal parts of the engine. This replacement cost may vary depending on the type of engine your vehicle has and the hours spent on the replacement work.
With some vehicles, getting access to the timing belt is much difficult and they require relatively more time for the replacement that may raise the labor cost.
Generally, the timing belt replacement process can take 2 hours at minimum and 6 hours at the maximum depending on the expertise of the mechanic. And per hour labor cost falls between $80 and $90 which further includes the taxes.
Apart from the labor cost, you will also need to spend around $50 on purchasing a new timing belt and if you go for additional repair for an instance the water pump replacement; the cost will further get increased by a few more dollars.
However, going for additional replacement may seem undesirable but can save you money in the long run if you were thinking to get them replaced in the future.
If you’re not sure that the timing belt is faulty, we recommend you to find the nearest car service center and get the manual checkup of your vehicle. The certified mechanic will perform the full inspection of the engine including the timing belt and let you know where the fault is which keeping your vehicle from smooth functioning.