Timing Belt Replacement: 8 Signs it’s Time

Timing Belt Replacement

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.

3. Cracking

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.

4. Glazing

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.

5. Pilling

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.

6. Hydroplaning

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.

7. Elongation

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.

8. Misalignment

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.

This is another post from Motoring About

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10 Responses to Timing Belt Replacement: 8 Signs it’s Time

  1. Mike says:

    Exactly what accessories are driven off the timing belt? I highly doubt a timing belt will ever experience “hydroplaning”, and if it ever did, it wouldn’t cause loss of power to engine accessories, it would cause loss of power to the engine, as well as some bent rods and damage to pistons…

    • eNaRDe says:

      The timing belt on some cars also runs the alternator. Hydroplaning causes the belt to slip when spinning. When this happens accessories that need electricity lose power…..radio…lights…defrogger…spark plugs…etc.

      • Claudia Hinks says:

        I have never in my life of servicing over 11000 vehicles ever seen a timing belt that drives the alternator. The only items ever included in a timing kit would be tensioners, idlers and waterpumps but never alternators.

    • TomDibble says:

      The water pump is powered by the non-ribbed side of the timing belt (always I believe). So hydroplaning (or any loss of grip on the non-ribbed side) will slow coolant flow through the engine and result in overheating.

      Not sure I’d call that an “accessory” though; the timing belt is really concerned wth the core of the engine, and IMHO the water pump falls in that category too. Accessories like power steering, alternator, AC compressor, etc, all tend to be driven by drive belts outside of the engine itself (which are generally flat or long-ways ribbed, not cross-ways ribbed like the timing belt). These are obviously much more prone to grip-loss effects like hydroplaning.

  2. Stan says:

    The timing belt runs the camshaft(s) not any accessories. Try a different career

    • Stan says:

      Also, if your timing belt slips, you will know about it. It won’t run. If it’s an interference engine it will also destroy itself (valves hitting pistons).

  3. guymark says:

    Why would a timing belt experience a different load from an engine doing 3000 RPM with the car in neutral – or 3000 RPM while dragging a 2 tonne trailer up a steep hill in first gear?

    The timing belt should be under EXACTLY the same strains and loads.

    Comments about glazing / cracking are helpful but not sure some of these comments are right. Hydroplaining is NOT going to happen with a toothed wheel – and there are NEVER any accessories driven from the timing belt with the possible exception of the water pump on a fair number of cars (for some odd reason).

    Never seen a timing belt run an alternator on any car ever – that would be simply BEGGING for trouble with variable loads that could suddenly “snag” on the belt.

  4. Gerry says:

    Would a belt cause car to give whirring noise, or give a slight vibration in the car? (Kluger)

  5. ron says:

    whats the point in going to all the trouble of checking the timing belt and not changing it??what a waste of time and a lot of money for nothing!!!.

    • TomDibble says:

      For the most part, I agree. However, some cars allow access to the timing belt with a good amount less work than is required to replace it (and the attendant idlers, tensioners, water pump, etc).

      For instance, on my old Subaru to inspect the timing belt I had to take off the drive belts then one small section of the timing belt cover (then obviously turn the crank to get a good look at the whole belt). To go from that inspection to replacement adds a dozen more screws (on and off obviously) and two specialty tools, along with $150-200 in replacement parts.