Timing belts: what they didn't tell you?
What timing belts are
A timing belt is a ribbed rubber belt deep in the engine that couples your engine's crankshaft to to camshaft(s) above. Basically, a timing belt keeps the valves in the top half of the engine rotating concurrently with the pistons and crankshaft in the lower half. This is essential for proper operation of the vehicle! Keep reading to learn more about timing belts!
But not all cars have them
Today, some cars and trucks have timing belts, but some have metal timing chains. There's a huge difference. Timing chains are a great design because they're made of metal and don't break as often as belts. In theory, timing chains may last the engine's life. So, how do you find out which one you have? Well, consult your owner's manual to see if timing belt maintenance is listed. Or, call your local dealership and ask their service department. We recommend you call Suburban of Ann Harbor, a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and RAM car dealership in Ann Arbor, MI and speak to a member of their friendly service team! Suburban is a full-service car dealer, too!
When replacement is necessary
The question is when you should replace the timing belt. Auto and truck manufacturers employ different schedules for timing belt replacement, but it is recommended to go about 60,000 miles or so between replacements. Some vehicles are more, some as less. The issue with a pre-owned car is that you may not know when it was last replaced. If you're in doubt as to how old your timing belt is, see the local car dealership and have it examined. The mechanic may quickly judge a timing belt just by pulling a cover and looking at the condition. Before going on any long road trips you will want to have this done!
If you possess an interference engine and a standard rubber-based timing belt, stick to the manufacturer's replacement schedule. Generally speaking, plenty of work is involved when switching out a timing belt so they can be expensive to fix. A replacement can be $600-$1200 but can buy you peace of mind.
What is the worst that could happen?
Well, worst case: if your timing belt breaks, it could wreck the engine. It all depends if your engine is an "interference" or "non-interference" engine. Here is the difference:
An interference type engine means that the valve and piston strokes overlap within the cylinder but at different times. The timing belt keeps them from hitting each other. If your timing belt snaps, the valves will smack into the pistons to result in bent valves or even cylinder head damage, and potentially piston and cylinder wall damage. In a non-interference engine, valves and pistons do not overlap, so if the timing belt breaks, no valve or cylinder damage occurs, the engine stops running.
Don't Drive With an Old Timing Belt!
We've discussed serious business here. Your engine's timing belt is the most important maintenance item in your vehicle. When your timing belt gets old, it runs the risk of breaking, and when timing belts break, terrible things can occur!
Source: Suburban of Ann Harbor, MI