In this episode Dave and Pat talk about timing belts and timing chains. Pat gives a quick rundown on timing chains to set the stage for discussion of our main topic, which is timing belts. Timing belts or chains have one purpose, which is to open the engines valves at the precise time. Piston location and valve timing are critical to a smooth running engine.
When we talk about engine timing systems we are referring to the fact that an engine will either have a timing chain or a timing belt. Timing chain systems don’t have a recommended replacement or maintenance procedure. If you’re having a problem with the timing chain problem, you will notice a clicking noise or some type of rattling from the engine when the chain or its guides are getting worn.
A loose or worn chain can cause the engine cam timing to be off and may turn on a check engine light, or it may cause the vehicle to stumble or hesitate on acceleration or run rough.
Now lets talk about timing belts. The conditions described above can also apply to the timing belt that is worn or loose. The only difference is with belts you won’t have the noise. Vehicles with timing belts have manufacturer recommended replacement mileage or time intervals. Each manufacturer defines when belt replacement is required.
Most belts are due for replacement at 60,000, 90,000, or 105,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual in your car or give us a call to determine if your vehicle has a belt and, if it does, when it’s due to be replaced.
What you’ll learn from this episode:
- Timing belts and chains control engine timing so the valves open and close at the proper time
- Timing chains have no scheduled maintenance
- Most timing belts are recommended for replacement around 60k, 90k, or 105k miles
- Timing belt replacements usually cost between $500 and $1200, but every car is different
- Loose or worn belts can slip or break
- Interference engines can be damaged if timing belts slip or break
- Engines with damage from timing belt failures can cost upwards of $3000 or more
- When getting a quote for a timing belt replacement be sure to get a written estimate that includes a full timing belt kit
- Save money by replacing other needed parts while they are removed for the timing belt job
Engine Damage from a Failed Timing Belt
To illustrate the importance of getting these services done I want to share an instance we had where a customer came in to the shop in September of 2018. The car was in for maintenance and we recommended some items that needed servicing. The car had 75,000 miles on it and the timing belt was due for replacement at 60,000 miles.
The customer declined the belt replacement. In January of 2019 the vehicle was towed back in to our shop. When we checked the car we found that it had a broken the timing belt. So this illustrates how important this service is if you want to avoid this type of failure.
This engine is an interference engine, which means if the belt breaks, it has a high probability of bending the valves and causing other engine damage. That’s what happened in this case. And worst yet, the cost of repair was more than the vehicle was worth.
Timing belt replacement costs vary by vehicle. This type of vehicle would have been in the area of $500 to $1200 for a timing belt replacement.
But if that belt breaks you can be looking at upwards of $3,000 or more to fix the engine. Once again, the price will vary depending on which type of vehicle you have.
Why Do Shop Estimates for Timing Belts Vary So Much?
There are different types of timing belt replacement jobs. Some shops will do what we consider a partial job rather than replacing all the parts. Vehicle owners need to know what they’re getting when a repair shop quotes a timing belt replacement.
Here is what we mean. We recommend for protecting the longevity of the car that a timing belt component kit be installed, rather than just replacing the belt and water pump. Kits come with the belt, the idler pulleys, cam and crankshaft seals, water pump and a hydraulic tensioner if needed. So all the components that need to be replaced, we’d replace. We wouldn’t just do some of them.
The goal is that if your vehicle was due at 60,000 miles, after we are done we expect you to not need any work in that area until your vehicle has another 60,000 mile on it.
Dave asked the question, what if I only want the rubber belt replaced? Pat said we would try and steer you away from that because of the simple fact that we could put a belt on it and it would be fine.
But those idlers have bearings in them, after turning so many times they can go bad. A lot of times there’s a water pump that could start leaking in a month or two and then you’re back in the shop to get the leak fixed.
Since we didn’t do the water pump when we did the belt, now we have to go back in and redo all the labor to replace the water pump.
Going back in the second time the bill could be $400 or more because the job involves a lot of labor.
The important thing to keep in mind if you’re shopping around for a timing belt replacement is that you may get different prices from different shops. You need to get a quote that includes the full component kit. Replacement of just a timing belt, water pump, and the labor to do the job will be much less expensive, but there is a risk in cutting corners.
One Tip and Our Conclusion
An important point to be aware of when having the belt replaced is to remember there may be other components that need replacement. At 60k to 105k miles things like belts and hoses may be due to be replaced. Sometimes when you do the water pump and the timing belt, you may have to remove those belts or hoses. So in that situation, the auto owner would just pay for the additional parts. It can save considerable labor costs by doing it at that time.
We hope this episode describing what parts are needed to do a good timing belt replacement makes it clear, so you can protect your vehicle. We also hope you learned how important it is to do maintenance when the manufacturer recommends it. The 60,000 mile recommended mileage replacement was from the car manufacturer. It’s not a Tune Tech recommendation. We always follow factory specifications. We work hard to take care of our customers so we only do timing belt replacements with all the needed parts.
Pat mentioned one other thing for our listeners. If you’re not sure what you have in your vehicle, feel free to give us a call here at (208) 336-5315. We can look up your vehicle and let you know if you have a timing chain motor or timing belt motor and when it’s due for maintenance.