5 Common Symptoms of a Failing Timing Belt

Don’t let a functioning timing belt cause you to forgo maintenance – a quality timing belt can withstand so much, and are so well built, that it can be easy to tick over your km’s without realising you’ve passed your service interval. Ask any mechanic and they’ll tell you that the key to a healthy timing system is maintenance.

Following OE vehicle recommendations, and having your mechanic perform maintenance checks, is far more cost effective in the long run than leaving your timing belt installed until it breaks (and breaks your engine with it!). Neglecting regular maintenance, including the replacement of your timing belt, can lead to complete engine replacement. Repairing an improperly maintained vehicle timing system, or one that has experienced damage due to timing belt failure, can potentially set you back thousands of dollars.

With this in mind, have you been following your belt replacement intervals? If not, it’s time to book in with your mechanic so that they can assess your engine and belt condition. Gates Australia have teamed up with one of our Australian suppliers, Sparesbox, to bring you up to speed on five signs that it’s time to replace your timing belt.

1: Engine won’t start

If your engine won’t fire up, it is obvious something’s not quite right, but identifying the culprit can be challenging. Did you know that it could very well be a worn-out timing belt? If so, you should be able to hear the starter motor when the ignition is on, even though the engine won’t turn over. Unfortunately, your engine may already be damaged at this stage, if it is the timing belt causing this issue. We recommend you call your mechanic immediately, or, if you’re broken down on the road or in a car park, your insurance company (if you’re not insured, you can call to get your car towed to the mechanic).

2: Engine is making a ticking noise

A functioning timing belt (although, yes, it’s to do with timing!) should not make a ticking noise. If you notice a ticking or clicking sound coming from your engine, the source could be a worn timing belt. A high-pitched screech or whirring upon starting the engine, when you’re accelerating, or when you’re idling, may also suggest it’s time to change your timing belt. While the noises could be caused by a number of other issues, they are nothing to be idle about. We recommend you take your car to a mechanic for a full diagnosis to prevent engine damage.

Bonus Tip: If you also notice some engine vibration (not the good vibes type), in addition to or alongside a ticking noise, this can also be an indication of a worn timing belt and it’s suggested you visit the mechanic in this case, too.

3: Engine misfires and/or runs rough

Is your engine running rough (you feel it shaking or bouncing when idling, making unusual sounds, or has inconsistent RPM counts)? Though there are a number of potential causes, the rough days may end if you replace your timing belt. Misfiring can also potentially result from your engine’s timing being jeopardised; the worn or loose timing belt slips, resulting in the cylinders opening and closing prematurely. Misfiring is a serious problem that should be addressed straight away.  Ultimately, if you feel like your engine is running erratically, or it stops running all together, you should head to your local garage for help.

4: Car acts up between 2,000 and 4,000 RPM

If your engine has slow acceleration (it feels less powerful than it should, or used to be) when it reaches between 2,000 and 4000 RPM, is rattling, or is making an unusual sound when revving, it could be an indication that your timing belt is loose or breaking down from old age. This can also be caused by belt slippage during acceleration at high RPMs, which is another indication that your timing belt may need to be replaced, as some of the belt teeth could be missing. We recommend going to your mechanic immediately.

5: Engine exhaust fumes/smoke

If you’re noticing unusually heavy exhaust fumes, your timing belt could be the culprit. A worn timing belt overworks your engine, and the extra effort means that more exhaust is released. A large amount of excess exhaust is a strong sign that you may need to replace your timing belt ASAP. We recommend going to your mechanic and getting your engine checked before you continue to drive your vehicle.

Whether or not caused by your timing belt, if your engine is showing one of more of these five symptoms, you shouldn’t push your luck any longer. Hand your keys over to your mechanic, or, for newer cars, your vehicle manufacturer, and save yourself some potentially serious costs. A broken timing belt can cause your engine significant, sometimes irrevocable, damage, especially if you have an interference engine, which are common in modern cars of today. Remember, prevention is better – and, let’s face it, cheaper – than cure.

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