Timing belt on a Volkswagen.

Timing belt: When it should be changed

In Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

In order for a vehicle’s engine to work properly, its timing needs to line up correctly. The timing belt has a part to play in this. Located around engine components, it ensures that the crankshaft and camshaft are running at the same rate.

Because of age and day-to-day use, timing belt replacement is sometimes necessary. 

A new one is normally installed when the vehicle hits a certain mileage. Some manufacturers recommend changing it every 60,000 miles, while others say every 100,000 miles. You should also get a new one if it’s cracked or jumps time.

Whatever the reason, it’s best if you don’t avoid changing the belt. Internal engine damage may occur if it breaks, or if components are banging against one another because it’s out of timing by too much. 

Bad timing belt signs

So, how do you know if you need a new timing belt?

Since timing belts have other parts over them, you won’t be able to just pop up the hood and see if they have become worn or are broken.

But a bad timing belt can result in some problems you may notice. These issues include engine misfires, which may occur if the engine is out of timing.

The car not starting is another indicator. This happens because the timing-related parts aren’t turning and compression isn’t being created by the engine.

You might hear noise the components are creating, as well.

Timing belt replacement cost

There isn’t a set answer for how much getting a new timing belt costs. Depending on the vehicle, the cost to replace a timing belt can be anywhere from $300 to $3,000. It could really run such a wide range, because of the amount of work involved.

The job isn’t only limited to changing the belt. Sometimes the job is as simple as installing a new belt and tensioner. However, the job may also be a little more complicated or involve other components. One of our technicians, for example, recently put a new timing belt on a Volkswagen when he went to replace the turbocharger. 

Many vehicles have two timing belts, multiple tensioners, and idler pulleys, and certain cars have water pumps that are driven off of the timing belt. Those are the type of parts that you will want to replace while you’re there.

We also like to change the camshaft and crankshaft seals at the same time, because if they start leaking after you finish that work then you need to do it all over again. This happened with a Volvo a couple of years ago.

Yes, performing the extra maintenance will cost more because of the additional time and parts needed, but it will be much less time consuming and expensive in the long run.

This is how timing belts can be a little bit of an investment, but it’s well worth it.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.