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Timing Belt (cam belt) replacement

Timing Belt replacement tends to be thought of as an expensive exercise that appears to make little difference to how a car runs, but the outlay is both worthwhile and essential. Timing belt failure will often mean catastrophic engine damage and much greater cost not to mention the inconvenience.

What is a timing belt?
Timing is everything! The moving internal parts of an engine are kept apart by millimetres, often while rotating at high speed, which demands a precise degree of synchronisation. Many years ago chains were employed to transmit motion between the engine crank and camshaft but these tended to be located within the engine because oil supply was essential to reduce wear. Car manufacturers have since then been using a toothed rubber belt called a cam or timing belt which is quieter and lighter in operation. However not only do they require routine maintenance, they can fail suddenly and without warning.

Timing Belt replacement
Timing belts tend to operate other components, the condition of which affect the belt’s life. Excessive slack may be compensated for by one or two tensioners and idlers. Over time their bearings may dry out causing a squeak or even seize, throwing the timing belt from its pulleys and causing extensive engine damage with bent valves and even holed pistons. Many engines also use the timing belt to drive the water pump which can also seize with the same consequences as a failed tensioner.

When should I replace my Timing Belt?
Most car manufacturers specify time and mileage intervals but these stipulations are for which ever arises first. If your car is 10 years old but has covered only 10,000 miles and the manufacturer’s interval is 10 years or 100,000 miles, do not try to eke out the belt’s life further, because the belt’s life deteriorates with the passing of time.

What are the costs of a belt breakage?
In an interference-type engine timing belt failure usually causes the pistons to collide with the inlet and exhaust valves. At the very least these valves will be bent and removal of the cylinder head is required to replace them. In some cases pistons can be holed, cylinder heads damaged and camshafts broken. To repair a severely damaged modern engine, the cost will be in the several thousands of pounds. In many cases a driver will not notice any difference in the car’s performance after a timing belt change, but fortunately most people realise that the extra peace of mind is well worth the periodic outlay. If you are in any doubt about whether your car has a timing belt or whether it is due for replacement please give Andy Shore Garage a call and put your mind at rest.

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