The Timing Belt: Maintenance Tips & Signs of Failure

When you think about regular car maintenance, what comes to mind? Most people think of oil changes, tire rotations, and perhaps replacing the spark plugs. But there is another component of your car that often needs to be replaced at some point: the timing belt. Keep reading to learn more about the timing belt, its job, and when it needs to be replaced.

What is the timing belt?

The timing belt is a part of your car that ensures the valves and crankshaft within the car's engine operate at the same time in a synchronized manner. If the timing belt fails, the engine can misfire, and your car either won't run at all or will keep stalling out. In some cars, the timing belt is a chain, and in others, it is an actual belt.

How long to timing belts last?

In older cars, the timing belt often needed to be replaced after about 60,000 miles. Today's cars can sometimes go 100,000 miles before the timing belt needs to be replaced. Check your owner's manual to see when replacement is recommended for your vehicle. Since you won't be able to drive the car if the timing belt fails, you are better off pre-emptively replacing the timing belt as recommended, rather than waiting for it to fail.

What are some signs that your timing belt is failing?

Sometimes a timing belt will start to fray or slip before it actually tears and fails. Some signs that this is happening include:

  • The engine losing power from time to time, perhaps when you are going up a hill or accelerating.
  • The car stalling out when you start slowing down or down-shifting.
  • Rattling noises coming from the engine—this happens most often when you have a timing chain, not a belt.

How much does replacing a timing belt cost?

The cost ranges depending on your vehicle. In a smaller car, replacing a timing belt may cost around $500. In a larger truck, the cost may be closer to $900. A good portion of the cost comes from labor. There are a few other parts your auto care service will need to remove in order to replace the belt, so this adds to the labor cost.

If your car is approaching the 60,000 to 100,000 mark, it's time to think about replacing the timing belt. Otherwise, you may find that your car fails when the timing belt breaks. To learn more about the timing belt, contact local car repair services.