How Often Should I Change My Timing Belt?

Timing belt close-up

Timing belts are one of the most essential components of your engine. Most people don’t inspect or replace it until it’s too late.

Typically, timing belts should be replaced every 60,000-100,000 miles. If your vehicle has a timing chain, there’s typically no recommended replacement interval however, the timing chains do at times need adjustments.

Imagine driving down the highway and you lose power all of a sudden. It could be a clogged fuel filter, bad alternator but if it’s the timing belt that slipped off or broke, well then, you may have just lost your engine.

The timing belt essentially coordinates the rotations of the camshaft/crankshaft which in turn, ensures that the valves and pistons all move in sync. Over time the belt expands/contracts due to heat and age which causes the belt to slowly deteriorate.

Cost Of a Timing Belt

If the belt happens to snap while you’re on the road and you don’t immediately pull over, the camshaft and pistons will be all out of sync which means they start damaging the engine valves.

  • Timing belts normally cost $20-50
  • Labor is intensive and most of the cost $200-900
  • Timing belt kits can vary from $100-700

Most of us can’t afford to simply replace the entire engine if that happens. The alternative is much cheaper. A belt normally costs anywhere from $20-50. What makes this service expensive is the labor since part of the engine has to be disassembled to get to the timing belt.

Normally the timing belt (not to be confused with the serpentine belt) is enclosed inside the engine via plastic or metal housing. Typically labor can be anywhere from $200-900 depending on the hours and what has to be removed in order to access the timing belt.

timing belt engine
Timing Belt Installed On An Engine

Timing belts can also come in a kit that may be offered for your vehicle. This is usually the ideal route to go. The kit can include pulleys, tensioners and some also come with a water pump. Since those components tend to wear out as well, might as well replace them while you’re in there.

Some vehicles have timing chains which although don’t snap in half, need to be adjusted regularly as well to ensure the engine doesn’t wear out sooner. A knocking sound may indicate that the timing chain needs to be tuned.

Maintenance

On some 4-cylinder vehicles, the job can be very straightforward and easy for a DIY project.

Other vehicles can get very complex quite quickly. It’s important that the camshafts don’t move or that you’re not turning the engine by hand with the belt removed. Otherwise, engine damage will occur to the valves just the same.

In short, look at the service records when inspecting a vehicle to see when it’ll need the service next. You can either inspect the timing belt yourself if you’re able to access it, otherwise ask your mechanic to check on it.

Conclusion

Ensuring the timing belt is in good shape, should help you avert a catastrophic engine failure and save you large amounts of money in the long run.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

2 thoughts on “How Often Should I Change My Timing Belt?”

  1. I always hear mileage recommendations for when to change a timing belt but what about the age of the belt? Do you recommend changing the belt after a certain number of years if the car has less mileage than the recommended change interval?

    Reply
    • It depends on how often the vehicle is being driven. If it’s parked for a very long time, the rubber can start deteriorating along with other rubber components and begin to crack. I would recommend inspecting it visually to make a proper assessment of its condition. Most Car Manufacturers don’t recommend going more than 7-9 years without a timing belt change.

      Reply

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