How Often You Should Replace Your Timing Belt

timing belt

Key Points

  • The timing belt is an important yet constantly overlooked component of the vehicle’s engine.
  • Knowing when to replace a timing belt should be something everyone is aware of – neglect can lead to severe engine damage.
  • Various warning signs include engine vibration, sudden loss of power, and misfiring.
  • Consult your owner’s manual to find out how often should a timing belt be replaced. Generally, between 60,000 and 100,000 miles is the norm.
  • Interference engines come with a higher risk of damage if the timing belt begins to fail.
  • Professional inspection is generally advised, especially if the belt isn’t easily accessible.
  • An OBD scanner can offer indirect clues about your vehicle’s overall health, potentially flagging timing belt issues.

Adequate tire pressure? Check. Water coolant topped up? Check. Oil level? Check.

That’s the vehicle inspected and good to go, ready for another few years of daily driving. Job done.

Believe it or not, that is the standard approach to regular vehicle maintenance for many. 

Actually, it is a little alarming just how overlooked basic maintenance procedures are among vehicle owners. The fact is, the vast majority carry out the most basic of occasional checks and nothing else, ever. 

But while tire pressure, oil level, and water coolant levels are important checks that must be undertaken regularly, you can add to that a whole host of other procedures that must be looked at with equal regularity.

The timing belt falls firmly into that category. This is a part of the engine that plays an all-important role. However, the timing belt is susceptible to damage, and, as a result, it needs to be checked once in a while.

What Is a Timing Belt, Exactly?

It may not be the most recognized component (again, most vehicle owners are unaware it even exists), but the timing belt has a really important job to do by keeping your camshaft and crankshaft turning in a perfectly coordinated manner. 

This is necessary for proper engine function, and everything from valve timing to good fuel efficiency depends on it running well. 

While the timing belt might look like a simple band of rubber, it’s actually an ingenious, cleverly engineered component designed to withstand pretty brutal conditions within the engine bay. 

Consisting of a series of ‘teeth’ that sync perfectly with the engine’s gears, the timing belt, which looks very similar to a regular fan belt, is made with advanced materials like high-grade rubber and is quite often reinforced with nylon or even kevlar, depending on the grade of vehicle you are driving. 

Can You Inspect Them Yourself?

While they are quite easy to spot when you know where to look, getting a visual on most timing belts requires a little more effort than you might imagine. They’re usually tucked away, shielded by the engine cover and other components surrounding it. 

To get a proper visual, you may need to remove the engine cover (or any other protective panels that may exist), which usually involves undoing a few bolts or fasteners.

Once you do see the ‘general area’ of the timing belt, you will know instantly what it is. Just look for that belt with rubber teeth we described. It’s hard not to notice the timing belt once you do expose it. 

Then, simply check for general wear and tear, missing teeth, and any cracks that may be evident. If any of those exist, it is time to replace it. Having said that, If you don’t have easy access to your timing belt, it might be a good idea to let a qualified mechanic handle the replacement.

What Are the Consequences of a Failed Timing Belt?

Ignoring the signs of when to replace a timing belt can cost you in a fairly big way – this is not a minor inconvenience; a failing timing belt has the potential to wreak havoc with your engine. 

In a worst-case scenario, your valves might decide to crash the engine entirely, leading to a whole world of mechanical troubles. 

Basically, the scale of damage depends on your engine type. If you’re driving an interference engine, you’re running a higher risk, thanks to greater compression and power. Non-interference engines are a bit more forgiving, however. 

When To Replace Timing Belt?

If you are reading this because you want to know when should a timing belt be replaced, the answer isn’t exactly straightforward and depends on how the vehicle is driven. 

Factors like stop-and-go driving and frequent heavy acceleration can contribute to greater wear and tear on the belt, as will extreme temperatures, which can be quite tough on the rubber. The age of the car matters, as does the manufacturer. 

There is a certain amount of intuition needed to determine when to change the timing belt, as the signs are not always alarmingly obvious. Essentially, you need to keep an ear (and eye) out for the following:

• Your engine suddenly makes rattling noises

• A sudden drop in horsepower (which is usually quite obvious to feel)

• Relentless misfiring 

• Your fuel economy has inexplicably decreased

Usually, those four things combined are a strong indication of a timing belt issue. 

One more thing: a squealing or clicking noise often indicates missing teeth on your timing belt and is a strong indicator of when to replace the timing belt, as soon as possible. Head straight to an independent auto shop to diagnose the issue properly (unless you are the hands-on type, of course).

How Often to Replace a Timing Belt?

Fortunately, gone are the days when you had to swap this essential part out every 40,000 miles as if it were an annual ritual. Thanks to advancements in engine technology, you can often cruise up to the 100,000-mile mark (or more) before worrying about when to change the timing belt. That said, your approach shouldn’t be too cavalier, so be well-aware and informed. 

But more specifically, how often should a timing belt be replaced, exactly? The problem is we can’t answer the question exactly, as there is a wide range of variables in play here. 

Either way, you’ll find the recommended replacement interval in your owner’s manual, which is very much worth taking a look at. Our guess would be somewhere around the 70,000 mark. 

Don’t take our word for it, though – go grab a manual (or google it) and find out exactly.

Keep Your Car in Great Condition with Our OBD Scanners

While our OBD scanners might not directly diagnose when to replace a timing belt, they do provide key information about your vehicle’s overall health. 

Regular monitoring of your vehicle system through our scanners can make you aware of any issues that may warrant a visit to a professional mechanic. Problems like a worn-out timing belt could then be discovered before they cause serious damage.

Timing belts themselves won’t break the bank, but if you neglect to keep an eye on them, you are gambling with repairs that could cost a pretty penny.
So, don’t wait for a breakdown; take control of your vehicle’s health today with the OBD Station range of scanners, and stay one step ahead!