It’s All in the Timing
With automotive engines as with many aspects of daily life, timing is critical. The Car Care Council cites one vehicle component often overlooked or delayed by motorists is the routine maintenance of the engine timing belt. If the timing belt is not maintained as per the recommendations in your owner’s manual it could lead to the potentially catastrophic failure of your engine when the belt breaks. Many domestic vehicles built within the last several years and the majority of imports are equipped with a timing belt, other engines rely on a timing chain but they do the same job.
Typically replacement is every 60,000 to 110,000 miles or every 5-6 years. The regular replacement of a timing belt is necessary because the belt is constructed of rubber, and rubber has a tendency to deteriorate over time. Other factors including exposure to extreme temperatures, driving habits, how well the vehicle is maintained and even possible defects in the belt will play a role in how long your belt will last. A timing chain however, will generally last the life of the engine as it is made of metal and much more durable, but can still become loose and may need to be adjusted.
Common signs the timing belt could be wearing out
Your car is spewing out more exhaust than usual.
Your high-mileage car is hard to start.
The engine vibrates, causing your car to shake.
Your car shuts off while driving and spins over quicker than normal when you're trying to restart it.
Visual inspection shows the belt is cracked, glazed or frayed.
Timing belt replacement usually requires removal of the engine drive belt that usually operates the alternator, water pump, power steering pump and air conditioner. Consider replacing the water pump and thermostat when having a new timing belt installed to save on labor costs down the road. If you have maintenance performed regularly on your vehicle you or your mechanic should notice when the timing belt is starting to wear and will hopefully prevent at best, the inconvenience of being stranded, or at worst the potentially catastrophic failure of you timing belt braking.