How to Tell if Timing Belt is Bad

A timing belt along the side of an engine

Is it time for service?

Before we can answer the question “What is timing belt service?”, Let us get a definition of what a timing belt is first and what purpose does it serve. You could consider the parts of your engine as the symphony, and the timing belt is the conductor.

The timing belt of your car is a part of the engine that synchronizes the camshaft and crankshaft rotation so the valves open and close at the right time for every cylinder’s intake and the exhaust strokes. The timing belt gets everything inside and, on the engine, move when it supposed to, aka “timing” part.  Timing belt service is crucial because if the timing is off with the belt, it causes all the rest to be off too.

Timing belt symptoms

A timing belt that is going bad or starting to wear out, you may experience one or more of the following five symptoms: 

  • Engine Idling Rough: A timing belt has teeth that grip gears while they rotate different components and parts of the engine. If the teeth fall off or the timing belt becomes brittle, it will slip away or off the gears and jolt the engine. When this happens, the engine will stall because the timing of the camshaft is off. Seek the help of a professional timing belt service technician.
  • Engine Misfiring: A worn timing belt will jeopardize the engine’s firing rate. As the worn-out timing belt slips away or off the gears, it can fall on the camshaft, making the cylinder open and close off time. Sometimes, the timing belt can be tightened, but most times, it needs the attention timing belt service to keep from damaging the engine further.
  • Engine Smoking: During the winter, when you first start your car, you’ll see what looks like smoke. This is a vapor, but in most cases, it is harmless. When it doesn’t winter and you see this smoke coming from the tailpipe, your car may need the attention of a timing belt service. This smoke could tell you that the timing belt is unsynchronized, and you need a timing belt service.
  • Oil Pressure Drops: The camshaft gears are spun by the timing belt, and if the belt’s timing is off, it can jump out of time and pieces break off. Those pieces can get in the oil pan on the bottom of the engine, which can cause a drop in the oil pressure. Not only will you need a timing belt service, but you may need an engine overhaul.
  • Broken Pistons and/or Valves: This will be the worst thing that you could notice symptoms your car is experiencing: The timing belt breaks or is cut off. If this happens, the crankshaft will turn on its own, losing the identity and not be in sync with the motion of the camshaft. This can cause the pistons and valves to come in contact, bend the valves, and damage the piston. Turn your car off and seek help from a timing belt service.

How to Tell if Timing Belt is Bad

Your timing belt could be showing signs of wearing out if it has any of the following common symptoms. If you are experiencing one or more of these, seek professional timing belt service.

  1. Engine as ticking noise: The timing belt is connected with a series of pulleys that make the engine crank and camshaft. The crankshaft powers the connecting rods inside the engine that are attached to pistons found inside the combustion chamber. When the timing belt wears out, you may start hearing a ticking sound coming from the motor. If not the timing belt, then your car could be low on oil, which a timing belt service technician could check your oil level too.
  2. Engine not turning over: When a timing belt has broken, the engine can’t turn over or start. ignite. You may hear the starter engaging, but the timing belt is crucial in the camshaft and crank can’t turn over. A timing belt service can check the belt and check to see if there is more serious damage to the engine. 
  3. Misfiring engine: A worn timing belt can impact the firing rate of the engine, but if the timing belt slip on the camshaft drive keeping one cylinder to close or open to early. A timing belt service can fix this before the problem grows into a catastrophic level.
  4. Oil leaking: Oil leaking from your car is never a good thing. If the timing belt cover is loose, it could leak oil from there and a timing belt service is needed to get the covered secured.
  5. Serpentine belt: A serpentine belt is more than a timing belt. It is one belt that threads continuously around, and to multiple peripheral devices to make them function. Those devices include the alternator, air conditioning, air pump, power steering, water pump all found in the engine of your car. When a serpentine belt breaks or malfunctions, several of these things are affected at the same time. Timing belt service technicians can replace these.
Replacing a timing belt

Cheap timing belt replacement near me

The basic timing belt is not as complicated as the serpentine belt to replace.  So, if you have any basic level and understanding of a car engine, you can do the replacement yourself. Purchase the belt from your local automotive parts store and find tutorials on the internet. This would be the least expensive way to replace your belt. Otherwise, you must search for a mechanic that offers a timing belt service.  Ask about their price to do the job, and if that includes the belt.

After reading our piece here on timing belts and timing belt service, you may wonder how much does timing belt service cost and What does timing belt service include.  As with any car service, labor is the biggest part of the cost you’ll endure. This is because the mechanic or timing belt service must remove several parts to get to the defective timing belt. Then there is the cost of the timing belt, which can cost $20 or as much as $50 and up. The labor for replacing a timing belt can take several hours, thus, the actual service can be as low as $200 and as high as $900.

When you need timing belt service, do an internet search for “Timing belt service near me” and find several listings. There will be more in big cities than there are in small towns. Choose a quality service that has a warranty offer and will back up the work performed, just as you would when finding somebody to repair or replace your car’s gas line.

Need timing belt service in Lombard and Wheaton, IL? Call J1 Auto Repair today at 630-932-4427 for your auto repair needs.