Is It Time For a Timing Belt Replacement?

Do you know the saying ‘timing is everything.’? Well, did you ever think that it could also apply to your car?

In this article, Driva takes a look at something you might not know all that much about, even though it’s absolutely fundamental to any car working as it should. Let’s talk about timing belts.

Timing belts: what are they and what do they do?

Okay, first things first, what on earth is a timing belt?

Well, let’s start with this though. A car has a lot of moving parts, and those parts need to move in synchronicity in order to operate smoothly.

Think of the timing belt as the conductor of the symphony happening in your car every time you drive. If you have an old conductor, who’s conducted 1000s of symphonies and is now starting to fall asleep at the altar, you’re going to get a timing belt failure. Instead of the violins, brass section, percussion and wind instruments stuffing up their performance, you’ve got your engine valves, roller chain, camshaft and crankshaft all missing their notes.

Just like a musician looks after their instrument and a conductor needs to practise, you need to get your car’s timing belt checked regularly by a mechanic to make sure it’s playing its notes at the correct times!

Which leads us to our next question? When should you book a car service to get your timing belt replaced?

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Look out for these warning signs before booking a timing belt replacement

There are numerous signs that tell you it might be time to replace your timing belt.

Most of these signs make it very apparent that something is wrong, and after reading this article, you’ll be able to tell when you need to worry or not.

Your engine keeps misfiring

So, as we’ve already mentioned, a timing belt ensures several components and car parts in the vehicle are running in sync. A timing belt runs through an intricate system composed of pulleys that operate the crankshaft and camshaft. The teeth that they use are supposed to grip and move very smoothly.

However, when the belt starts to wear out, which is inevitable with time and use, you’re going to start noticing some things—one of them being that your engine misfires. An engine misfiring sounds like repetitive ticking or clicking sounds that come from the inside of the engine itself.

Your engine struggles to crank and start

When you’ve got a worn-out timing belt, you’re going to notice that it’s far slower to start your car than it used to be. The reason behind this is that the timing belt is worn out, and it’s attached to the pulleys that drive the crankshaft.

When the belt slips, which is highly likely with either a timing belt that is working or a broken timing belt, it’s going to slip onto the camshaft drive, ultimately causing your car's engine cylinder to open and close at the incorrect times.

When the timing belt is stretched out, it’s likely going to skip one or more teeth. This lengthens the engine's ignition. Your car will sound like it’s struggling to ‘turn over’ and you may need to turn the keys in the ignition several times before your engine fires.

Your engine smokes after you’ve started it

This one is going to be very difficult to ignore. When the timing belt wears out and stretches, it damages the catalytic converter. The way it manages to do any damage to the catalyst is because the fuel isn’t getting completely burned in the designated chambers because there’s an incorrect composition of the mixture fuel. So, all that fuel that isn’t being consumed and is instead getting wasted gets redirected to the exhaust system.

If you start your car, hear a clicking sound, and then see black smoke billowing from the exhaust, it’s highly likely you’ll need a new timing belt.

Your rubber timing belt looks worn

This is one of those signs that may go unnoticed for a lot longer than you realise. A mechanic will likely see this before you whilst completing a normal checkup and may tell you that in the next few services you may need to consider a timing belt replacement—that is unless you do your own services! 

It’s rather easy to notice if a timing chain is worn out. These belts will have enlarged cracks with internal threads exposed. If you see this kind of thing, then do right by your vehicle and replace the timing belt because it’s going to eventually result in some of the more serious signs.

Your engine keeps ‘slipping’ while driving

This is one of the more dangerous signs. High elongation is one of the signs that can really tell you if your timing belt is on the way out or not. When this happens, there’s a noticeable loss of tension, and that makes the deflection force of the timing belt decrease.

This can lead to the belt slipping or dropping completely while the engine is in operation. This results in your internal combustion engine going out of sync leading to piston/cam collision. The end result? Catastrophic engine failure and serious damage to your vehicle. Head to a mechanic asap and get a new timing belt!

How much does it cost to replace a timing belt?

We’ve got some unfortunate news on this front. It is not cheap. The reason why replacing a timing chain can be expensive is because of the amount of engine dismantling that’s required before you can even reach the timing belt. In modern cars and engines, it can be even more difficult. 

As the timing belt is found deep within the engine, it becomes more of a challenge, so you’re essentially paying a lot for the labour of it all. The more engine stripping there is, the higher the price. While the price of the belt itself might not be that much, the cost of the labour drives it up to around the $1000 mark.

Of course, the final cost is determined by various factors like engine stripping, make, model and the rate your mechanic charges for labour. Take a look at the following vehicles cost estimation to get a better estimate of what you’re dealing with cost-wise:

  • Mitsubishi 380 = Between $800 and $1500.
  • Holden Captiva = Between $400 and $1200.
  • Volkswagen Crafter = Between $900 and $1100.

Never go to just one place for a quote. Shop around, learn more about your options, find out how recommended they come and then choose which mechanic is going to replace your timing belt. 

If you’re experienced with cars and know how to change the belt by yourself, the price will be significantly lower, as you’ll only need to purchase a timing belt kit. The awesome news is that you can buy timing belt kits anywhere from $150, depending on the needs of your vehicle.

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    How often should a timing belt be changed?

    Considering the importance of a timing belt, you’d assume you’d want to ensure it’s always functioning at the level it’s supposed to. So, you should be replacing it fairly regularly. Sometimes it’s not even about wear and tear. Instead, it could just snap. However, a general rule of thumb is that you should be replacing the timing belt in your vehicle between every 60,000 and 100,000 kms.

    In summary

    Driva knows how important car maintenance is, and that’s why we’ve written about it in depth. Cars aren’t cheap, and they need to be taken care of so you can increase their lifespan.

    With Driva, you can find all the options you need to get your hands on a loan to get the car of your dreams. You’ll be able to get something that’s perfect for you, and now you know how to better take care of it! Why not use our car finance calculator to see what you’re looking at paying every month for the perfect vehicle.

    When you’re ready, start the process of applying for a car loan with Driva. We connect you with various lenders in Australia who are all ready to offer you nothing but the best.


    How long do timing belts usually last?

    As mentioned before, they last between 60,000 and 100,000 kms. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t snap before then. It’s always possible for a timing belt to falter, so never consider that the first 60,000 kms are risk-free. Booking your car in for regular services with a mechanic you trust will ensure that you are aware of any warning signs before they can develop into bigger problems in the long run. Looking after your timing belt and engine will save a lot of money down the line! 

    Do timing belts break without warning?

    Yes, it’s always possible for a timing belt to break without warning. These signs we’ve provided are usually when the timing belt is on the verge of breaking, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the belt can unexpectedly snap - these are just one of the many unfortunate costs of owning a vehicle. Mostly, your timing belt will just wear and tear over time and you will be able to make a decision on a replacement at the first sign of damage.

    Can you drive your car with a broken timing chain? 

    No. Your car will not be able to run with a broken timing chain. A timing belt has such a pivotal role in the operation of your vehicle that its demise means your car simply cannot function properly. With a fully broken timing belt, your engine will not be able to fire properly and the engine's camshaft and crankshaft, along with several other valves and components of the engine will not be able to do their job. 

    In the event that your timing chain breaks, you’ll need to be towed to an auto-repair facility to get it replaced immediately.

    Is changing a timing belt easy? 

    No. Timing belts aren’t easy to change due to their location. They’re deep within the engines of cars. As a result, it requires the vehicle's engine to be dismantled in order to reach the timing belt to replace it. The process is intricate and labour-intensive. Overall, the process can take between 4 - 8 hours. This depends on various factors, such as the engine itself, the make and model of the car, the size of the team working on the car and the speed at which they work, but it can make the costs associated with timing belt replacement quite high.

    Declan Flaherty

    As the Digital Marketing Manager at Driva you can find Declan during the day transfixed by a flurry of spreadsheets, mar-tech, Slack emojis and graphs all pointing in the right direction and keeping up to date with the latest car finance trends.

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