Why do you need to find a timing belt kit instead of just buying the belt by itself? I’m glad you asked because the very important answers will affect people that are getting the operation performed by professional mechanics as well as people that plan on doing the repairs in the driveway at home.
The first thing to cover is what is the difference between a timing belt and a complete kit. On some vehicles there is a huge difference between the two. This is mainly because on some models the water pump is driven via the timing belt.
Since maintenance is usually recommended somewhere between 60,000 and 100 thousand miles it only makes sense to replace this water pump at the same time as replacing its drive belt. Because we don’t want coolant dripping on the new rubber parts a week later! Some timing belt kits come with a lot of other stuff besides a water pump and belt.
On the Toyota V6 that can be found in the Camry and 4 runner a complete kit will include new cam seals, thermostat, serpentine belt as well as an idler pulley and tensioner. Both of these items have bearings that can eventually wear out and cause noise or other problems if the bearings seize and destroy the newer belt.
Just like in the case of the water pump while you’re down there it’s just a matter of a few bolts and the items can be renewed at the same time as the belt maintenance. Some timing belt kits also include other items that are known to go bad with specific models. In the case of an AC Delco timing belt kit pictured above, you also get a new hydraulic belt tensioner if one is used on that specific model.
These hydraulic tensioners can have plastic bodies known to leak at high mileage and can drip oil on the new parts. Often when do it yourself driveway mechanics pull the timing cover off and only have the new drive belt in hand they discover issues that require an additional trip to the parts store. This is why I recommend the kit. It almost always has the things you didn’t think of like new cam seals and tensioned springs.
What should a timing belt job cost?
This is a question I can’t answer because it really does depend on the make and model of the vehicle. But what I can tell you is a kit will cost less than if you try to purchase all of the individual components by themselves. This is why I recommend even if you’re taking the vehicle into a dealership or auto repair center find out if timing belt kits are available for your model.
Since the auto repair center or dealership makes an average profit of cost +30 on parts meaning that they will mark up the parts at least 30% they can be motivated to buy the individual components separately and mark up each one. If they buy a complete kit there will only be one 30% markup charge.
This can be a problem at certain dealerships because they will only use factory issued auto parts. Many car manufacturers do not offer a complete kit for retail sale like AC Delco does. The best way for consumers to handle this maintenance service would be to purchase the timing belt kits yourself and bring them to the repair center just paying labor charges for the repair.
Unfortunately many auto repair centers have policies about bringing in and installing outside or aftermarket parts. Some shops would compare this to bringing your own steak to a steakhouse to be cooked. But it is worth a try and at least find out if one is available and use this as a negotiating tool when it comes to discussing the bottom line costs of the repairs.
Why do I need to replace the timing belt?
This is a sour subject with me because I don’t believe that any car should have a rubber belt connecting the crankshaft with the camshafts. And that is exactly what the timing belt does. It keeps the crankshaft in time with the cam shaft so that the valves open at the proper time. Asian car companies like Mazda, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan use the belt on many models where as Domestic vehicles use it less but still do.
Back in the old days they always used a chain for this mechanical connection between the crankshaft and the camshaft. In fact many cars today use a chain instead of a belt. Some jaded mechanics like me believe that a rubber belt was installed to ensure a return visit to the dealership for recommended maintenance. The important thing to remember is if the vehicle is equipped with a timing belt that it will need to be replaced as a maintenance service.
Things that are made of rubber get weak and deteriorate over time, this is just a fact. Whether it’s a serpentine drive belt rotating the alternator or the rubber tires on the car, these things will need to be maintained and replaced over time. The factory is pretty good at determining how far these belts will go.
It is for this reason that I recommend you check your owner’s manual and follow the maintenance guidelines for the timing belt, regardless of the cost. On some engines when these things break they can do a lot of damage. I have an older article few have read with additional information about timing belts. For more of the latest articles posted to this website this next link will take you back to the auto repair information blog home page.