Kelly's Garage - Active Green and Ross - June 2011


This month’s topic is Timing Belts and I am proud to say that I have never broken a timing belt in a vehicle I’ve owned. I always preach at my car care clinics that changing your timing belt is a PREVENTATIVE maintenance item. The attitude “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” is the wrong attitude to have with this. I’ve heard many horror stories of people who’ve broken timing belts over the years and it can cost into the thousands to repair your engine if it brakes. However, not all vehicles have timing belts; some will have a timing chain. So finding out whether you have a chain or a belt is something that should be on your to-do list. If you do have a belt then you need to inquire as to when it needs to be changed. The timeline should be outlined in your owner’s manual, so get it out and read it or go to your local Active Green and Ross and have them look it up for you.

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This month's topic: Timing Belts

Does your vehicle have a timing belt? If so, you need to find out when it requires replacement. In many cases, the replacement interval is up around 100,000 kms. This is not an item that can be checked by a shop as it is a lengthy job to get at where the belt is located.

What does the timing belt do? The belt is an integral part of the internal combustion engine, which we all have unless we drive an electric car. The timing belt connects the crankshaft to the camshaft and controls the timing of the opening and closing of the engine valves. Basically it is what helps propel the engine and produce power. In some vehicles the timing belt will also propel both the water and the oil pump. This is why sometimes the shop when quoting you a timing belt replacement will also include the cost of changing the water pump. The additional cost will be negligible if you do it at the same time. It is also common to replace the timing belt tensioner at the same time. Many shops will buy a package that has all of these components in it.

When cars were first introduced many engines used a timing chain which in the early days could be noisy and they required lubrication as well. In the 1960’s manufacturers started switching to timing belts for a variety of reasons. Timing belts were less expensive, lighter and didn’t require lubrication unlike a timing chain. However, a timing belt is rubber and needs replacing many kilometres before anything would need to be done to a timing chain.
When discussing a timing belt we also need to talk about the two types of engines. There are two types of engines: interference and non-interference. If you have an interference style engine and the timing belt were to break the pistons would hit the open engine valves and this is where it can get very costly to repair. Sometimes it can be catastrophic! If you have a non-interference style engine and the belt broke, your vehicle would just stop! There also wouldn’t be any damage. What type of engine you have is a question you should ask when you go into your local Active Green and Ross location. They can look it up on their computer and they can also tell you when it requires replacement.

Something else to keep in mind is if you are in the market for a used vehicle. If the vehicle you are looking at has a lot of kilometres on it there are a few questions you want to ask the prospective seller. Does this vehicle have a timing belt? If so, when does it need to be changed? Has it been changed? If so, show me the paperwork. Depending on how these questions are answered could determine whether you purchase this vehicle or not?

So there’s the 101 on your vehicle’s timing belt.

Take care of your car and it will take care of you!


The first known use of a timing belt was 1945. However, in North America it wasn’t used in a mass produced vehicle until 1966 in the Pontiac Tempest. Prior to this, most vehicles used a timing chain.

This months photo:

Example of timing belt on a 4 cylinder engine






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