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7 Signs of a Bad Timing Belt, and What to Do About It

Has your car been smoking, having a hard time turning its engine over, or making an annoying ticking noise?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, the problem might be the timing belt.

Not sure what a timing belt is? Don’t know how to tell if it’s working? 

Explained below are seven signs of a bad timing belt, along with tips on how you can fix the problem.

What is a Timing Belt?

The timing belt of a car is made of strong rubber and nylon-reinforced cords. The belt is found at the front of the car’s engine.

Its purpose is to keep the engine functioning in the proper way. It connects two parts of the car known as the camshaft and crankshaft. These manage the engine’s pistons and open and close the engine’s valves.

If the timing belt malfunctions, the engine cannot work correctly. This, in turn, can lead to serious and (in some cases) expensive issues. In fact, a broken timing belt can damage the camshaft, which is one of the most costly parts of a car to replace.

Signs of a Bad Timing Belt

Clearly, it’s important to catch the signs of a bad timing belt early. The sooner you can identify the issue, the sooner you can get it fixed and avoid having to spend a ton of money and be without a car while yours is in the shop.

The following are seven of the most common signs that your timing belt isn’t working:

1. Engine Misfires or Doesn’t Turn Over

A misfiring engine, or an engine that won’t turn over, are two of the most common signs that your timing belt is the source of your car’s issues.

When the timing belt is worn out, it can slide into the camshaft drive and prevent cylinders from opening and closing at the right time. It may take a while for the engine to turn over, or it might not turn over at all depending on the severity of the damage.

2. Ticking Noises

Often, when they’re dealing with timing belt issues, people notice a ticking noise coming from their vehicle. This noise will often present itself when someone goes to start their car.

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Keep in mind, though, that ticking is not always a result of a damaged timing belt. It could also be a sign that your car has low oil pressure or that the engine needs more lubrication.

3. Front Side Oil Leaks

If you notice motor oil leaking from the front side of your car, that can also indicate a damaged timing belt. In this case, the oil is leaking from the timing belt cover.

When a front oil leak goes on for too long, it can wear out the timing belt faster. It can also cause the engine to overheat, neither of which is good for the longevity of your car.

4. Smoke Coming from the Engine

Smoke coming from any part of your car is never a good sign. It’s especially problematic when it comes from the engine, though.

If you see your car smoking from the engine, the timing belt may be to blame. This is because a worn out timing belt will let the air out of the exhaust system at the wrong time. 

5. A Decline in Oil Pressure

When there’s a problem with the car’s timing belt, it can actually break off pieces of the car’s camshaft. These pieces, in turn, can fall down into the oil pan of the car and cause the pressure to drop.

If this happens, the engine may fail altogether, which will result in the need for an entire motor rebuild.

6. Broken Valves or Pistons

One of the most serious signs of a damaged timing belt is the presence of broken valves or pistons.

This occurs when the timing belt gets cut off or severely damaged, which causes the crankshaft and the camshaft to get out of sync with each other. When this happens, major engine damage can take place.

7. Car Abruptly Stops Working

If your car stops working all of a sudden, the timing belt could be part of the problem.

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This is a worst-case-scenario sign, but it’s still important to be aware of it. If it happens to you, you’ll definitely need to get your car checked out as soon as possible.

Fixing a Bad Timing Belt

Do any of these signs resonate with you? Do you suspect that your timing belt is the source of your car’s problems? If so, you need to address the issue right away.

The first step to take is to have your car checked out by a professional. They can help you determine whether or not the timing belt is the true source of your car’s dysfunction. From there, once you know what you’re dealing with, you can decide whether you want to take a DIY approach or pay an expert to handle the timing belt replacement.

On average, a timing belt replacement costs a few hundred dollars (it may be more expensive, though, depending on the size and type of your car).

Unless you have a lot of experience fixing cars, it’s probably in your best interest to pay a mechanic to replace the timing belt for you. This will help you ensure it’s done correctly and will give you peace of mind. You can view here to get a more accurate estimate of what your timing belt repairs will cost you.

Fix Your Timing Belt Today

Have you been dealing with car problems? Are you unsure what’s causing them? You may want to start by looking at the timing belt.

If you notice any of these signs of a bad timing belt, be sure to act as soon as possible to get the issue fixed. Otherwise, you could end up facing more serious (and more expensive problems) later.

Do you want to learn more about inspecting your car and getting to the root of car issues? Check out the Auto Repair section of our site today for additional tips and tricks.