How Long Does a Timing Belt Last?

Like with so many other parts that make up your car’s engine, the timing belt is extremely crucial to the running of your vehicle.

The timing belt can be found in your car’s engine, and it has the important job of synchronizing the rotation of the camshaft and the crankshaft. 

If these two shafts do not work in line with each other, the valves of the engine will not open and close in time with the right of the engine. This will stop the engine from working properly and prevent your car from moving.

As this is such an essential part of the car’s engine, you might find yourself wondering ‘how long does a timing belt last?’

Wonder no more, because today we’re looking at the answer to that exact question. 

How does a timing belt work?

To understand how long the timing belt will last, it’s first important that we understand exactly how the timing belt works.

We’ve covered briefly that it operates the rotation of both the crankshaft and the camshaft, but how exactly does this affect the rest of your vehicle’s engine? 

You will find the timing belt nestled tight within the engine of your vehicle. It is here that it completes the vital role of synchronizing the camshaft and crankshaft to allow the engine’s pistons to operate in sync.

The timing belt is built of synthetic rubber which has fiber for added strength, and teeth to hold the belt tight to the grooves in the camshaft and crankshaft. Its design is incredibly simple considering the important job that it completes within the engine.

While it is the timing belt's job to ensure the camshaft and crankshaft operate in synchronization, it does not make them work simultaneously.

It is the timing belt’s job to ensure that the crankshaft rotates at twice the speed of the camshaft to ensure the engine continues to operate smoothly. The timing belt is crucial for the running of the engine, so, understandably, you want to know how long it will last. 

How long does a timing belt last?

Now that we’ve established exactly what the timing belt does, it’s time to answer the question ‘how long does it last?’.

Like with most automobile related questions, this is another disappointing one as there is no definitive answer for how long your timing belt will last.

All of the essential parts that make up will be affected by several different factors that will impact the longevity of that part. Due to this, there is no straight answer for how long the timing belt will last. 

However, the average timing belt will last for roughly 60,000 to 100,000 miles before it needs changing. If you want a more definite answer you can check the owner’s manual for your specific vehicle or check the service history of your car.

The number in the owner’s manual will also be a rough estimate, but if your car is approaching that mileage it might be a good idea to replace your timing belt proactively.

Signs that Your Timing Belt Needs Replacing 

On average, the timing belt will last for more than 60,000 miles, reaching 100,000 miles in some vehicles. For most vehicle parts they will wear slowly over time, but this is not usually true of the timing belt.

Instead of gradually losing function, the timing belt tends to fail completely, usually due to the belt snapping or the teeth breaking.

It will usually happen randomly with no forewarning, one minute your car will be running perfectly, the next your car will stop completely. Despite this, there are some signs that you can watch out for which might suggest that your timing belt needs replacing. 

The first sign to watch out for is a ticking noise in the engine. This is a common sign for a variety of issues within your vehicle’s engine, so it might take you a while to work out that this noise is associated with the timing belt.

The timing belt operates on a sequence of pulleys which allow it to move the camshaft and crankshaft in synchronization. If your timing belt is failing, it is common for it to create a ticking noise which you will hear while you are driving. 

Another sign that your timing belt needs replacing is engine misfires. When the timing belt wears it can have a direct impact on the engine’s fire rate.

A worn timing belt will often slip on the camshaft drive and cause the cylinders to fire independently of one another. Engine misfires can be extremely dangerous for the engine, so if you pick up this sign you should take your vehicle to the garage directly. 

Finally, let’s talk about the main sign that your timing belt has snapped, which is the engine refusing to turn over. This is unsurprising as we’ve already established how essential the timing belt is to the running of the engine.

It is incredibly common for the timing belt to snap while the engine is running which can also result in significant damage to other parts of your car’s engine including the cylinders and crank bearings.

If your engine cuts out while you are driving and refuses to start, even after you have stopped the moving car, there’s a good chance that the issue lies with the timing belt. 

Things that Can Damage Your Timing Belt

The lifetime of the timing belt is heavily impacted by a variety of different factors. One common cause of damage is infrequent driving. If your car is not driven regularly, the timing belt can grow stiff and become more prone to snapping.

Another factor that can affect the lifetime of your timing belt is both oil and water leaks. Both these liquids can cause the timing belt to become slippery which can lead to the timing belt slipping off of its area completely.

Finally, temperature changes can cause the timing belt to be more prone to damage. This is because of its rubber build which is more prone to damage in extreme weather conditions.

But in the best circumstances, the timing belt will last for roughly 60,000 to 100,000 miles without needing to be replaced. 

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