What is a timing belt replacement?

When getting a timing belt replacement service, the mechanic will assess the belt condition to confirm that a replacement is needed. The engine needs the timing belt to operate, as it connects the crankshaft to the camshaft and controls the pistons and valve movement. 
The timing belt ensures that the opening and closing of the valves are precisely synchronized. When the crankshaft turns, the timing belt will turn the camshaft. This allows the pistons to move up and down so that air and fuel can move through the engine correctly.
If the timing belt snaps, the engine will not be able to draw air or fuel in to operate and the power will cut off completely.

How to replace a timing belt

Changing the timing belt can vary depending on the engine design, but the mechanic will follow these general steps:
  • Disconnect the battery ground cable and let it cool
  • Set the crankshaft to top dead center and number one piston on the compression stroke, remove the crankshaft pulley
  • Remove accessories block timing belt covers
  • Remove timing belt covers and lock camshafts as required
  • Removing timing belt tensioner, idler pulleys, timing belt
  • Installing a new timing belt requires following the above steps in reverse order—the camshaft and crankshaft need to be in perfect alignment after the tensioner is set
  • After installation, turn the engine crankshaft by hand 720 degrees
  • Confirm timing marks on crankshaft and camshafts are in the correct position
  • Road test vehicle to confirm normal operation
  • Affix service sticker to the engine with the date of belt replacement and vehicle mileage

When do I need to replace my timing belt? 

If your engine stops abruptly or will not start, it's time to replace your timing belt.
Other signs to look out for that may indicate a broken timing belt include:
  • Rough engine operation—indicates the teeth have worn out and this causes the belt to jump
  • Banging or clanking engine noises—can indicate that the belt jumped and the pistons and valves are colliding, causing damage to the engine
A broken belt poses a great risk to you and cars around you, as the engine power will cut off completely and almost immediately. This is extremely dangerous if it happens suddenly and can cause an accident.
It is recommended that you have the timing belt condition inspected every 60,000 to 90,000 miles. This allows the mechanic to monitor when the belt should be changed to prevent your belt from suddenly breaking. 

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