Because of the costly nature of timing belt replacement many car owners can be reluctant to get it replaced at the appropriate time. A recent study found that one out of five vehicles needs a new belt, which is crazy when there are 15+ million cars on Australian roads. Unfortunately this neglect could bring on more costly damages to your engine and components, and when the timing belt does fail you’ll be left stranded as your vehicle cannot operate without it.
It is always better to be preventative rather than reactive so here are a few things your mechanic will look out for.
8 Signs your Timing Belt Needs to be Replaced
1. Material Loss
Belt wear is just like tyre wear, as you lose grip you lose traction, which makes the timing belt slip. This is more likely to happen during high load use (pulling a trailer/caravan) or in wet weather.
2. Belt Abrasion
This normally occurs when there is a tensioner or pulley misalignment, excessive heat or bearing failure. Your mechanic will notice the belt’s edges have been worn down to the filaments inside.
This sign of wear is self-explanatory. Your mechanic will inspect both the topside and underside (rib cross-section); if your vehicle has a neoprene timing belt and there are a lot of cracks this can indicate excessive wear, which needs to be attended to ASAP.
Glazing is when the timing belt has a shiny or glossy appearance on the underside, which means the belt has gone stiff and isn’t providing the flexibility needed. Your mechanic will check this by trying to put an indent into the surface of the belt. If it doesn’t leave a mark the belt needs replacing.
As the timing belt ages the material it loses can build up loosely in the rib cross-sections. This can cause belt noise and excess vibration. Your mechanic will also check the accessory brake pulleys for further material build up as they may also need to be changed.
This occurs when water cannot be dispersed away from the warn belt and pulleys. The belt then hydroplanes on water between the belt and pulleys, which results in a loss of power to engine accessories.
Material loss can also change the effective length of the belt, moving the tensioner beyond its take-up limit. This will reduce overall tension and thus overall performance.
This type of wear will indicate to your mechanic that the tensioner’s internal components may have failed. If the tensioner fails it will result in a high level of noise, vibration and produce excessive heat.
When it’s Time for a Timing Belt Replacement
Ask your mechanic what types of timing belts are available. If he offers both neoprene and EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) belts ask for the latter as EPDM belts have better performance and use superior technology. A neoprene belt’s life expectancy is around 80,000 to 100,000 km and as they wear cracks will occur, while EPDM belts rarely show these symptoms even at 160,000 km. But like any belt the EPDM range will wear down and still needs to be checked during regular services.
If possible ask your mechanic to fit a Gates timing belt as they produce one of the most reliable belts on the market today. Your mechanic will also use a specifically designed Gates belt wear gauge to check wear rates on the new EPDM belts to make sure your vehicle is performing optimally.
Remember: Timing belt replacement isn’t an option… it’s an essential part of properly maintaining your vehicle.