Did you know that the timing belt is one of the most fragile components in the engine? Find out why it’s so important and what maintenance helps keep it reliable.
What is a timing belt?
The distribution system of a vehicle consists of the elements responsible for the exhaust of gases in the cylinders of the engine and the intake. The timing belt establishes the connection between the injection pump, the water pump, the crankshaft and the camshaft. As it turns, this belt operates various elements. The crankshaft is used to actuate the pistons in the correct order and time; while the camshaft controls the exhaust and intake valves.
The timing belt is made of synthetic rubber and teeth cover its inner surface to prevent slipping. Today, we find mainly toothed timing belts, which are cheaper to manufacture and install, and which are quieter.
The consequences when it breaks …
When a timing belt breaks, the damage can be very costly and the situation can involve certain risks. Indeed, if the breakage of this element occurs while you are driving, the brake assist no longer works nor the power steering and the wheels lock. The belt can then no longer perform its function of movement synchronizer; and when they are not well synchronized, the pistons can cause heavy damage by knocking against the valves.
The breakage may have been caused by various factors: significant variations in temperature, leakage of liquids, faulty installation of the belt or incorrect tension of the belt, or a mechanical anomaly involving one of the other elements of the system. . The presence of a foreign object in the transmission could also damage the belt.
How to maintain it?
With time and climatic variations, the timing belt will gradually wear out; even faster if the vehicle is left outside overnight throughout the year. No suspicious signs or sounds will tell you of a problem with this belt. It should therefore be checked regularly and its replacement should be considered a step in normal vehicle maintenance. Be sure to respect the period indicated by the manufacturer in the maintenance book for a change and remember that it may vary (from 60,000 km to 240,000 km or from 5 to 10 years) depending on the different models.
As a precaution, it is even recommended to advance the periodicity mentioned by a few months. If you buy a used car, don’t forget to demand that this booklet be returned to you. On a specialized site, you can use a free calculator to assess the life of your vehicle’s belt. If you do not have access to the maintenance book, it is advisable to replace the complete belt kit every 100,000 km for a gasoline engine; every 150,000 km for a diesel engine (with a lower speed); every 10 years, if you use your vehicle a lot; and every 15 years, if you drive little.
Can I change this belt myself?
If you have the necessary skills and equipment, you can attempt to make this change yourself. If it is a gasoline engine, you will have to remove the stubble and then change all the valves; on a Diesel, the repair will concern the latches and valves. You will also need to change the other parts of the system (this is why the timing belt is available as a kit *). You should know however that the slightest error in the timing can cost you an engine … If in doubt, it is better to contact a professional in this field whose work is guaranteed. You can also ask him to prepare a quote before the work begins.
* This kit generally includes the toothed belt, one or more guide pulleys, a tensioner roller and very often also the water pump.