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What Is A Timing Belt For Anyway?

What we all want is to protect our vehicles and we all make sure to keep them maintained properly against wear and tear, and an unwanted breakdown. Its not surprising to learn that one of the highest potential dangers to high mileage vehicles is also one of the least well known. While we try to prevent engine or transmission breakdown, the end to many older or high mileage cars is failure of the timing belt. To understand the importance of the timing belt and how we can prevent it from failing, we first need to learn a little bit about what it does for specific car models when it comes to life expectancy of the belt.

The timing belt is a very important part to your car when it comes to making your engine run. The timing belt is the belt that controls the camshafts in your engine and maintains the entire operation running in unison. Timing belts are in all engines with overhead cams, and are essential to keeping these cams turning in the right time in order to keep the engine running properly. The camshaft is the shaft that opens and closes the intake and exhaust valves in an engine. These valves let air in to create combustion, and venting the exhaust that comes from those explosions. The timing belt must be properly adjusted in order to move in time with the back and forth motion of the pistons.

When it comes to timing belts there two types engine "interference" and "non-interference. Interference engines have a very, very small amount of space between the valves and pistons, while non-interference engines tend to have a lot more room.

The different types of engines make a major difference when a timing belt failure happens in your engine. With an interference engine small space between the valves and pistons, a slip or break in the belt can send a piston crashing into an open valve. This is equivalent to the engine self-destructing, and becoming an unusable mess of metal. A timing belt failure in a non-interference engine will not be as damaging, but it can still cause a considerable of damage to many engine components. More often than not a timing belt failure in a non-interference engine will not cripple the motor.

No matter what type of motor is in your car, a failure of the timing belt will cause the engine to stop running and you will not be able to get it started again. This means you will have to call a tow truck to come pick up your non-running vehicle.

It all sounds like a nightmare, luckily a timing belt failure is somewhat easy to prevent. It may not be the cheapest or easiest repair in the world, it is a better option that purchasing either a new car or a new engine.

Checking to see when your timing belt was last changed is not an easy job. If you have owned your car, and have ever had it replaced in the past, it is best to write the mileage down when it was changed last. If you purchased your car used, there may be a sticker located under the hood of your car that gives the mileage of the last change. If this sticker cannot be found then it may be better to have the belt changed, just to be on the safe side. If you have the owner's manual for your car it should tell you when the belt should be changed.

If you can't figure out when the belt should be changed — you could call local mechanic or a dealership for the mileage number. A good general rule is that a timing belt should be changed every 60,000 to 75,000 miles, even though some belts are designed to last up to 100,000 miles before they need to be changed Regardless, it is best not to let a belt go more than 80,000 miles or so, even if the recommended change point is a lot higher. Changing your belt early is best for the longevity of your cars engine, and a little money paid early can save you a lot of money and possibly not having to buy a new car in the future.

Even though you may get your oil changed every 3,000 miles, and do all of your maintenance and service on time, nothing can save your car from failed timing belt. Make sure to get your timing belt replaced regularly and by a certified mechanic.

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