Car timing belt | Find out if it is a ticking time bomb.

Car timing belt is also known as cambelt. It associates with essential car engine parts that facilitate the vehicle’s combustion process. In new model modern vehicles, the car timing belt has multiple functions. Therefore vehicles have multiple varying belts.

How is this possible? Lets first look at a brief introduction of the timing belt.

What is a timing belt?

The car timing belt is responsible for controlling the opening and closing of valves [inlet and exhaust] at the right time. Therefore, affecting the fuel and air mixture ratio within the combustion chamber.

Further, the cambelt is responsible for synchronizing the movement of the camshaft and crankshaft. It’s also useful in ensuring proper movement of the engine pistons.

In fact, the movement of engine pistons determines the opening and closing timing of the valves. This has to be precise engine timing. Hence, the origin of the name, timing belt.

Timing belt connects to several car engine pulleys for example, the crankshaft pulley. Further, it also connects to the fuel pump in order to facilitate better diesel engine performance.

This feature is unique to the diesel engines only. In fact, the timing belt connects to the fuel pump in cars that have turbocharger technology.

The timing belt tensioner ensures that the timing belt stays in place. Otherwise, it could slip or become loose. Further, it ensures that the tension level of the timing belt remains as per the correct setting.

Comparison of timing belt and timing chain.

Both of them serve the main function of ensuring timely opening and closing of the exhaust and intake valves. Whether your vehicle has a belt or chain depends on the manufacturer.

Further, you can perform an inspection by yourself. Open the engine hood and check if there is a plastic cover on its side. This is an indication that you probably have a belt rather than a chain.

Alternatively, if there’s no plastic cover on the engine side, you have a timing chain.

Differences between the timing belt and timing chain.

There are a number of differences that you need to consider. Especially, if you’re in the market for a replacement timing belt. For example,

a] Performance.

The timing chain is usually an installation that is suitable for high performance vehicles. Because timing chains offer higher precision during high engine RPM in comparison to timing belt.

b] Durability.

The timing belt does not have as strong material, meaning that it is more susceptible to damage. Alternatively, the timing chain is made up of strong material that ensures they have a longer durability.

c] Maintenance.

When we refer to maintenance, we are talking about the number of times you will replace the belt or chain. Therefore, the timing belt will require frequent replacement over the recommended number of miles.

Alternatively, the timing chain is strong and it can last the entire lifetime of the engine. Meaning that it has lesser maintenance requirements in comparison to the timing chain.

d] Costs.

Timing chains are generally more costly to replace after damage occurs. Further, timing chains are more costly to produce and install.

In fact, manufacturers prefer to install a timing belt than a timing chain because of the high cost the timing chain attracts.

e] Noises.

The noises that a timing chain produces are louder than the fan belt. These noises are more peculiar when the timing chain starts to wear out.

Components of the car engine belt drive system.

The timing belt and timing chain work alongside a number of components. This set-up ensure the engine operates properly by opening and closing the exhaust and intake valves.

The set up is called the belt drive system. This system is an interconnection of the following parts;

a] Belt tensioner.

This is a very important component within the timing belt kit as it maintains the correct amount of tension on the belt. Further, it protects the alternator and water pump from damage. Which in turn prevents any engine damage.

How to diagnose a problematic belt tensioner.

  • Rust and cracks.
  • Worn out pulley bearing.
  • Misalignment of the tensioner assembly.
  • Tensioner noise.
  • Increased tensioner  oscillations.

b] Belt tensioner pulleys.

The belt tensioner pulleys responsibility in the belt drive system is to provide constant belt tension alongside precise guidance. Additionally, their installation could combine with tensioning elements or it could be an independent rigid installation.

Further, tensioner pulleys help to improve performance by increasing the wrap angle on the belt drive system. Also, they are useful in enabling the connected belt drive components to change the rotational direction.

c] Power steering pump.

The power steering pump creates the hydraulic fluid pressure which ensures that the driver can turn the steering wheel.

Alternatively, the power steering pump belt transfers power from the engine’s primary pulley to the power steering pump.

This is the power that helps in creating hydraulic fluid pressure.

d] Alternator belt.

It is also known as serpentine belt and it connects to the alternator. Which is a part of the engine that produces electric current.

Afterwards the electric current powers the engine, charges the car battery and other electronic accessories. In fact, its functionality is possible only when the engine is running.

e] Timing belt cover

Its main role is to protect the timing belt. Manufacturers place it above the belt drive system to protect it from unwanted entities like pebbles and dust particles.

Common timing belt problems.

These common timing belt problems can also be observed in relation to symptoms of a worn-out timing belt. You need to pay attention to all of them and take immediate action. For example timing belt replacement.

Ensure you perform a regular engine check on the belt drive system components. Otherwise, your engine stands a chance of facing damage.

a] Misalignement.

Any misalignment leads to missed timing marks which affects piston movement and the opening or closing of intake and exhaust valves.

Misalignment comes about because of excessive tooth wear, faulty belt track and worn out drive belt tensioner.

Ensure that you align your shafts and timing pulleys. This will prevent excessive damage.

b] Low level tension of the drive belt tensioner.

Secondly, an under-tensed drive belt tensioner will lead to tooth skipping. Further, this leads to tooth wear and tear that is uneven.

Further, low level tension of the drive belt tensioner causes belt noise while driving.

c] Worn out or damaged pulleys.

Damage to the car engine pulleys leads to a reduction in the car timing belt lifespan. Furthermore, the damaged pulleys lead to worn out teeth which cause gouges and nicks.

These nicks and gouges cause harm to the fan belt. Constantly inspect the pulleys for any signs of wear and tear.

d] Failure of engine to turn over.

The timing belt is responsible for proper engine timing in relation to the intake and exhaust valve opening and closing.

As you listen, you will hear the starter motor engaging. But the timing belt that is responsible for turning the shaft and crank will not be functional.

Hence causing the car not to start properly and this might lead to engine misfires which are part of the engine problems.

e] Exhaust issues.

A faulty timing belt could cause the vehicle exhaust system to produce excessive smoke. Further, this issue will cause the engine to work overtime in order to meet standard operation levels.

f] Reduced acceleration power.

Imagine that you’re driving and you start noticing that the vehicle isn’t accelerating as it used to. In such a case, a faulty timing belt could be the cause.

Since it is responsible for working with the engine acceleration features, a faulty accessory belt will reduce acceleration power. Ensure whether the alternator belt does not have missing teeth or gouges.

g] Oil leakage within the engine area.

There are plenty of reasons why the car engine oil leaks. A faulty fan belt could be one of them. If this is the case, the problem could be coming from the timing belt cover.

The timing belt cover is secured in place using bolts and nuts. They are meant to last through out the vehicle’s lifespan. But they tend to come off over time which will lead to an oil leakage.

Secondly, a worn out / cracked gasket that exist between the timing belt cover and the engine block could cause oil leakage. Either of them is not good for your engine because it will be loosing lubrication as long as the leakage continues.

Other signs of a worn out timing belt are inclusive of the following;

  • Water pump leakage.
  • Loss of voltage.
  • Engine misfires.
  • Shaking and rough running.

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