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Timing Belts

How often have you been told to make sure you change your timing belt “or it could wreck your engine”?
There’s a heap of mis – information and ‘scare tactics’ relating to timing belts, so we thought we’d help to clear the air and explain the risks and fables.

A timing belt is a toothed belt that connects the engine crankshaft to the camshaft, and is essential, where employed, in synchronizing, so that the valves will open and close at the proper time in relation to the pistons.
Not all cars use timing belts, some use chains or gears instead, and not all timing belts cause irreparable damage if they break. However the timing belt must be replaced at a specified interval (often around 100,000kms) as set out by the manufacturer.

Failure to do so could result in one of three things:-
1. Nothing happens – the belt lasts longer than expected. Buy a lottery ticket.
2. Nothing happens – literally. The engine stops and leaves you stranded
3. Catastrophy occurs – your engine gets wrecked and you’re really stranded!
The third scenario happens if you have an ‘interference’ engine. Basically this means that the pistons and the valves will hit each other and possibly totally destroy the engine.
So there’s the bad news, and that’s how the scare tactics started.
But it’s not all bad news…if you know whether your car has belts, chains or gears, and, if it has belts,  would they cause horrible ‘interference’ if they broke.
Our best advice to you is to check with your owner’s manual or with your dealer.
But we also came across a very useful web site. It’s US-based so for ‘Acura’ read Honda and for ‘GM’ read Holden.
So click on this link and you’ll be able to see if your engine is listed, the recommended replacement interval (in miles, remember), and whether or not it’s an ‘interference’ engine.
Timing belts are more common in smaller engined cars. If your car is equipped with timing chains of gears they do tend to last much longer but still need to be regularly checked by your dealer or service agent.