Learn whether your vehicle has a timing belt or timing chain, what can go wrong with a timing belt as the miles add up, and preventative maintenance steps you can take for your car from Golden Triangle Auto Care’s ASE certified mechanic.
If there’s one constant when it comes to the downside of letting car maintenance slip – it’s that your timing belt is going to break at 90,000 or 100,000 miles and catastrophic engine damage may occur.
Is it possible for your timing belt to break? Sure. But there’s no need to panic. There are several nuances of a car’s timing belt and its function that, once covered, will help you view this aspect of car maintenance objectively and with calm.
So, let’s take a peek under the hood and see what you have.
First of all, you may not even have a timing belt. Although you likely do, some cars have a timing chain, which is much stronger than a rubber belt. Timing chains typically never need replacing. If you’ve looked under the hood and still aren’t sure if you have a timing belt or chain, just ask us the next time you bring your car in for it’s regular oil change to Golden Triangle Auto Care. If your vehicle does have a timing chain, you are dismissed from this class!
Now that we are exclusively talking to those of you who own a car with a timing belt, let’s delve deeper into timing belt function and maintenance.
While the timing belt doesn’t have quite the glamour or name recognition of the valve and the piston – which are usually what come to mind when you think of a car engine in action – the timing belt is really what holds the whole system together. It keeps the valves and pistons moving and in sync with each other.
While today’s timing belts are made of heat resistance rubber, they still wear over time…and then, of course eventually will break. Your first line of defense is to consult either your owner’s manual or your car care specialists (us!) for the recommended interval for timing belt replacement. Typical mileage runs are 90,000 – 105,000 before a belt needs replacement. Of course, your mechanic will want to be checking the belt periodically for a healthy amount of time before reaching your recommended replacement mileage.
Next, if for some reason proper periodic inspections do not keep you from experiencing a broken timing belt…You still have some chance of avoiding serious damage; to be exact, you have a 30% chance of being fine. That’s because 30% of engines on the road are “free-running”, or “free-wheeling”, engines. In such engines, the designers have purposely built in enough clearance space between internal parts to prevent damage in the event of timing belt failure.
So, you 30%-ers are also (kinda) dismissed, although, really, you probably should remain for the rest of our discussion. Your best bet still is to keep up with inspections and appropriate placement of your timing belt.
However, for the 70%-ers, your engine is what’s called an “interference” engine. Simply put, these engines do not have built-in clearance space between parts. When a timing belt breaks in this type of engine, parts begin moving out of sync, and continue to move until they collide with other parts they shouldn’t be colliding with. Bent valves, broken pistons – these are a couple of the possible complications when an engine continues to run out of sync.
This should give you a good overview of what timings belt do along with what problems a broken timing belt can cause. Our best advice? Find yourself a good mechanic like our ASE certified mechanic here at Golden Triangle Auto Care and let us check your timing belt periodically as part of our 30-point inspection program. When that is all taken care of, relax into the recommended routine maintenance of your vehicle!