The timing belt is among the most important parts of your car and must be inspected occasionally for wear and the need for replacement. The reason for its importance lies in the fact that it keeps the crank and camshaft “in-time” with one another, ensuring that cylinder gas ignition happens at the right moment as fuel and air enter the cylinder when the piston is in the correct position. If the engine falls “out-of-time” this process will become more difficult for your car’s engine and there will be a noticeable loss of power. In order to fully appreciate what the timing belt is, let’s take a closer look at its purpose and position in the engine.
Depending on the age of your vehicle, the belt may actually be a chain. Older model cars and some newer model V-8’s actually have a timing chain that is located at the front of the engine. This is typically found within a protective housing, so inspecting it will require the removal of the cover as well as the cooling fan and possibly the radiator. The chain, just as the belt, turns with the engine, helping keep the crank and camshaft in-time. In most cases, drivers don’t even realize they have a timing chain until it suddenly snaps, leaving them stranded on the side of the road. The unfortunate side-effect of having a metal chain is that damage could occur to parts of the pulleys or shafts themselves during a catastrophic failure of the chain.
Newer models of cars, especially those with smaller engines, use a rubber belt similar to the accessory belt. This belt may be just below or to the side of the accessory belt and may or may not be behind a protective housing. Normally, such a timing belt is easier to inspect when you have regular service on your car, and sudden loss of the belt may be less likely to occur due to early replacement. The timing of the crank and camshaft are important, and for the most part is controlled by the car’s computer. However, when replacing the belt, it is important to align the painted dots on both the crank and camshaft to ensure their proper alignment. Otherwise, the engine may not start and run properly at first. Older cars require turning the rotor in the distributor until at some point the timing is adjusted so the car engine runs smoothly.