Understanding The Importance Of Your Car Timing Belt
Beneath the hood of your car lies the timing belt (TB). Though many drivers are unaware regarding what timing belt does, it is essential to the efficient operation of your engine. If your timing belt breaks or slips from its place, your engine will stop working. It can even sustain heavy damage.
When You Replace Your Car Timing Belt
In the past, cars were equipped with timing chains. These chains were noisy and expensive to produce, so today, timing belt are made from a durable rubber. This means they will wear down with use. The problem is that there are seldom warning signs that a timing belt is about to fail. Given the potential damage that can occur when they do, automakers recommend mileage intervals – usually between 50,000 and 90,000 miles – at which to have timing belt replaced.
How Timing Belt Work
In this article, we’ll explore how the timing belt works and its contribution to your engine’s operation. I will also describe the difference between the two types of engines (interference and non-interference) in the context of how each is affected by a slipped Timing belt.
Valves, Camshafts, And The Timing Belt
Recall how your engine operates. It goes through a 4-stroke combustion process. Air and fuel mix together, are compressed, and ignited, creating gases that expand and generate power. Air and fuel enter each cylinder’s combustion chamber through its intake valve. Following ignition, the exhaust is allowed to escape through the exhaust valve.
Your engine goes through this process thousands of times each minute. In order for it to operate efficiently, each cylinder’s intake and exhaust valves must open and close at precisely the right moment. This is the responsibility of your timing belt.
The timing belt turns on a series of sprockets and drives your car camshaft and crankshaft. For every revolution of the former, the latter makes two. As the camshaft revolves, it controls the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves. Its timing is perfectly coordinated with the pistons inside each cylinder.
As long as the timing belt (TB) remains securely on the sprockets, the turning of the camshaft and crankshaft will synchronize the intake and exhaust valves to the pistons. If the TB slips or breaks, however, the entire assembly will come to a stop. Depending on whether your engine is an interference or non-interference assembly, the slippage may cause significant damage.
Interference Versus Non-Interference Engines
An interference engine is one in which there is very little space between the top of the piston’s trajectory in the cylinder and the valves. In such assemblies, a timing belt that breaks or slips from its sprockets can cause the piston to slam into one of the valves. This can lead to damage to the affected valve, the piston, or both.
In a non-interference engine, there is more room between the pistons and valves. Thus, a TB failure is unlikely to cause damage to either, though it will result in your engine shutting down.
Inspecting The Belt For Potential Failure
As mentioned earlier, your owner’s manual will include the automaker’s recommended service interval for changing the timing belt. You should also take the time to inspect it every 10,000 to 15,000 miles.
On most vehicles, you should be able to examine the timing belt (TB) by lifting the hood of your car and removing a plastic covering behind which it sits. Look for small cracks and fissures in the rubber. Also, inspect the belt’s teeth to make sure all of them are in good condition. If you see a tooth that is broken or showing signs of advanced wear, change the timing belt. Otherwise, you will risk the belt slipping in the future and potentially causing damage.
Your vehicle timing belt plays a key role in the smooth operation of your engine. To avoid expensive repair bills, make sure you change timing belt according to the service interval recommended in your owner’s manual.
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