10305 Hull Street Rd.
Midlothian, VA 23112

The importance of your Timing Belt

Timing belt, just those two words alone cause apprehension to some people, especially if they have been unfortunate enough to deal with a broken one. This is a major component required to ensure your vehicle remains running, however, it is also a component which can fail without warning.

To understand how important the timing belt is to your vehicle, you have to understand what it does. The top of the engine, or the cylinder head, contains valves. At least one valve allows air into the cylinder which is then mixed with fuel. This mixture is then ignited and the pressure pushes the piston creating power. Then another valve will open allowing the spent gasses to exit the engine through the exhaust. Each cylinder has between two and four valves. The valves are operated by a camshaft which is turned by a belt or a chain in some vehicles. This belt or chain is called a “timing” belt (or chain) because the timing has to be adjusted correctly to ensure the camshaft operates the valves in the correct sequence in order to keep the engine working in sync. Timing belts are made of rubber and have “teeth” to make sure they are set correctly. There is also the a fore mentioned chains and even timing gears which are both far more durable then the rubber belts. Most manufacturers prefer to use the rubber belts because they allow the vehicle to run quieter and they are cheaper. If you own a small car, SUV, or mini-van, chances are you have a rubber timing belt.

Now, here’s the scary thing, timing belts can fail at any time and without any warning what so ever. Best case scenario, should that happen to you, you will be stranded wherever it happened to occur. Worst case, you could be looking at having to replace your engine. This tends to be determined by the distance between the valves and the pistons. If they are close together and the belt fails, the pistons will be moving so fast that they destroy the valves and, likely, your engine along with them.

A mechanic could check the condition of your belt during routine maintenance. But, many manufacturers put them in such a location that it would cost as much to check the condition as to just replace the part. That is why manufacturers recommend that the timing belts be replaced at certain intervals and you can see these by checking you manufacturers’ recommended maintenance schedule. In most vehicles, the timing belt also drives the water pump, an essential component to keep your engine cool and running. It is generally recommended if you are replacing the timing belt, to go ahead and have the water pump replaced also as the labor is usually included with the timing belt.

Replacing a timing belt may not be a cheap service to perform, but, it is an essential service and it is much more cost effective then having to replace your engine or your vehicle.


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    10305 Hull Street Rd.
    Midlothian, VA 23112

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