Do you know when to change the timing belt?

By Max Anthony •  Updated: 12/14/20 •  5 min read

Do you know when to change the timing belt and what precautions to take? Timing belt or chain? What is the best, and what does your car spend? What precautions to take?

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The timing belt is probably the most important part of your car’s engine. So it is extremely important to know what precautions to take, when to change it and how to do it.

As it is a subject of interest to you, we intend to give you a deeper explanation of this subject.

We know that you are more interested in knowing when to change the distribution of a car. But before that information, it is important to know what a timing belt is.

What is the timing belt?

change the timing belt

The timing belt is probably the most important part of your car’s engine. The purpose of this is the synchronized transmission of movement to all internal organs of the engine.

We say the whole engine, because the belt synchronizes the movement of the pistons, valves, and in many cases, the water pump, such as the Renault. This synchronization is vital for the correct functioning of the engine.

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As for its composition, the belt is usually made of reinforced rubber. The objective is clearly to reduce noise and cost. It fits on the pulley and works under constant tension.

There are also some automobiles, such as Mercedes and BMW, that use a metallic distribution chain. This system has the advantage of having a much longer life than the timing belt.

It is common to say that a distribution chain is maintenance-free and is rarely replaced. But that’s not true. The timing chain is the same as the timing belt, with the difference in its durability.

That is, while a timing belt has been replaced every 100, 120, or 160 thousand kilometers, depending on the cars and brands, the timing chain can be changed, in many cases, to 300 or more kilometers.

Time-limit for substitution

change the timing belt

There is also the substitution for the temporal space. In other words, for drivers who walk a little, the manufacturers determine that the timing belts after 4, 6, and 10 years have to be replaced. The distribution chain does not have this time limitation.

The timing belt system consists of several elements:

change the timing belt

The first element is a toothed belt, “Timing Belt,” which synchronizes the movements of the engine. The second is the tensioner and whose function is to create a certain tension on the belt to maintain its alignment.

The third element is the water pump and its function is to circulate the coolant. Whenever it shows high signs of wear, it is important to replace it when changing the timing belt.

When should you replace your car’s replacement belt?

change the timing belt

Timing belts must be replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. However, their replacement frequency varies depending on the car brands and even on vehicles of the same brand.

The deadlines for its replacement are diverse. For example, it can be after 10 years or the 240 000 km traveled in some cases.

Imagine that your car would have to change the belt after 24 months or 120,000 km. If your car had covered 120,000 km in the first year, it would have to replace the distribution.

But, if your car at the end of the 24 months had not yet covered those 120 thousand km, it would have to change the timing belt anyway.

Another important factor in determining a deadline different from that which the manufacturer determines is the Start & Stop system.

This system interferes with the premature wear of the distribution tensioner. Thus, a car in which its use is more of a city, stop-start, the wear of the distribution tensioner is accelerated so that maintenance to the distribution is more premature than the one used on the highway.


change the timing belt

If a timing belt is improperly fitted, the engine simply will not run. There is no possibility that the distribution is poorly assembled and the engine is running. If this happens, the engine will not start or starts completely uncoordinated, and the car will not start.

Having explained the points related to the belt’s replacement based on the kilometers traveled and years elapsed, it is essential to observe it.

If you detect that the teeth are wearing excessively, there are cracks in the belt profile, traces of oil on the belt, among others, you must solve the problem as soon as possible.

Consequences if the timing belt breaks

change the timing belt

If the belt fails, the consequences for the engine can be extremely serious. This is because the breaking of the belt creates a desynchronization of the entire distribution system, usually resulting in the twisting of the camshafts’ valves and eventual warping.

Very important! The replacement of the timing belt should always be done by a professional.

Choice of timing belt

change the timing belt

The timing belt is chosen according to the car manufacturer’s recommendations. Car model and engine size must be taken into account.

As already mentioned, it is recommended to replace the water pump, whenever it shows signs of wear, at the same time as the timing belt.

In fact, the service life of the water pump is longer than that of the belt, but it is advisable to replace it, more for financial reasons than for technical reasons. 

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Max Anthony

Max is a gizmo-savvy guy, who has a tendency to get pulled into the nitty gritty details of technology and cars. He attended UT Austin, where he studied Information Science. He’s married and has three kids, one dog and a GMC truck and a Porsche 911. With a large family, he still finds time to share tips and tricks on cars, trucks and more.