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NAPA Auto Care: Timing Belt Replacement Service

NAPA Auto Care: Timing Belt Replacement Service

What to Expect From Timing Belt Replacement Service With NAPA

On the list of engine maintenance items, one of the most important after consistent oil changes is timing belt replacement. For the engine’s valves to open and shut at the appropriate times relative to the position of the pistons, a timing belt is used to synchronize the rotation of the crankshaft and camshaft. Unfortunately, timing belt replacement isn’t nearly as quick or easy as an oil change, nor is it as low-priced. Regardless, it is necessary to invest in timing belt repair in a timely manner. So, what goes into a timing belt replacement and why is it important?

One thing you need to know is whether your engine has a timing belt or a timing chain. Your owner’s manual will have a service interval section. If you have a timing belt, there is an inspection and replacement service interval listed for the timing belt. If nothing is listed, you likely have a timing chain, which has different service needs.

What Does It Cost to Replace Timing Belt Parts?

Timing belt replacement cost varies based on the design of your engine. Typically, the more complicated the engine, the more expensive the timing belt replacement. A single overhead camshaft 8-valve 4-cylinder engine only has two pulleys to align, one on the crankshaft and one on the cylinder head. A dual-overhead camshaft V8 engine likely has five pulleys that all must perfectly align.

Some engines require special tools to lock the camshafts in place while the timing belt is changed. There is also the issue of what engine components need removed to access the timing belt itself. You can also add to it any “might as well do this too” jobs that the tech should address while the engine is opened, like change the water pump and replace timing belt tensioners.

A typical timing component kit.

What If You Wait Too Long to Address Your Repair?

Putting off timing belt replacement is either a bad idea or a downright terrible idea. Most engines with a timing belt require replacement every 60,000 to 100,000 miles (consult your owner’s manual for specific mileage). The signs of a bad timing belt are usually sudden and catastrophic.

If you have a non-interference engine and your timing belt breaks, your engine will stop running immediately. You will likely lose power brakes, power steering and all powered motion. If you have an interference engine and your timing belt breaks, you have all the previously mentioned problems plus the likelihood of total destruction of the engine internals. Check out the NAPA Blog article on interference vs non-interference engines for more information. If your engine has an inspection panel, you can look at the belt itself for signs of it going bad. Cracking, fraying and missing teeth are sure signs of a timing belt going bad.

How Long Does It Take to Replace a Timing Belt?

How long it takes to replace a timing belt also highly depends on your engine. The more complex the engine, the longer it will take. A technician can complete a simple timing belt replacement on a simple inline 4-cylinder in less than two hours, while a complicated dual overhead camshaft V8 may take more than eight hours.

How the engine is positioned in the engine compartment makes a difference in how easy it is to access the timing belt. Some vehicles need put in “service position,” which involves removing large key components like the front bodywork. Engine accessories like the alternator or power steering pump will likely need removed.

How to Replace a Timing Belt

Here is a how a timing belt is replaced whether you do it yourself at home or it is done by the expert mechanics at your local NAPA Auto Care center:

  1. Disconnect the vehicle battery to prevent short circuits and sparking.
  2. Remove the serpentine belt. You need to loosen the serpentine belt tensioner first.
  3. Remove any components or engine accessories that block access to the timing belt cover. This may include the radiator fan, alternator, power steering pump or AC compressor. The cooling system may also need drained.
  4. Remove the crankshaft pulley and the timing belt cover.
  5. Rotate the engine to top dead center or whichever rotation is specified in the vehicle service manual. Usually a special tool is used to lock the camshaft sprocket(s) in place to prevent rotation. With the camshaft locked, you can now remove the timing belt.
  6. Typically, the timing belt tensioner is removed and replaced, as well as the water pump if it is nearby.
  7. Referring once again to the vehicle service manual, you can now fit the new timing belt. Ensure the belt is aligned with the correct timing marks (if any).
  8. Following the vehicle service manual, you can rotate the engine by hand to verify camshaft timing is still correct.
  9. Once the belt installation is verified as correct, reassemble all of the removed components.
  10. Replace or top off any fluids that were drained.

This is a very simplified overview of the timing belt replacement process. The key to this repair is keeping the camshaft sprocket(s) timed exactly with the crankshaft. It is tricky to line up the camshaft sprockets perfectly on a complicated dual overhead cam V6 or V8 engine, which adds to repair time.

Do It Yourself or Leave It to the Experts?

If you are a relatively competent mechanic, then you can complete a timing belt replacement at home. The key to success is research and working methodically. NAPA carries a wide variety of timing component kits that include almost everything you need for a successful timing belt replacement project. Refer to a vehicle repair manual and follow each step closely.

If this is your first time replacing a timing belt on your vehicle, prepare to visit your local NAPA Auto Parts store for additional parts and specialty tools if necessary. Or better yet, let the experts at your local NAPA Auto Care center handle the job. Our ASE-certified technicians are committed to getting the job done right. Plus, your repair is covered by the NAPA Auto Care Peace of Mind Nationwide Warranty.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Brian Medford View All

With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible, BMW E46 sedan, and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.

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