Timing Belt Replacement - Why, When & The Damage Including Costs Incurred

20 June, 2017

When Was Your Cam belt Last Changed?

You go about your daily driving completely oblivious to the engine wrecking cam belt whizzing around your engine thousands of times a second.

What Is A Cambelt (Timing Belt)?

close up view of a car engines fully visible timing cambelt showing the intricate way the belt roues around the engines shafts and pulleys

A timing belt (cam belt) is a very strong rubber belt which utilises an adjustable pulley to sit tightly around your engines pulleys.

What Does It Do?

Its primary function is to synchronize the rotation of the crankshaft in relation to camshaft(s) so the engine’s valves open and close at the correct times during each cylinder’s intake and exhaust strokes.

When Things Go Wrong

close up view of an aging cam belt which could break at any time fitted to a non interference engine
Interference & Non-Interference Engines

Non-interference engines are getting more and more rare. Manufacturers are moving away from this design for many reasons including in the event of a timing belt failure, engine damage will NORMALLY occur. A compression check of all cylinders should be performed before removing the cylinder head.

Broken Cam Belt

close up view of a damaged timing cam belt just saved from completely snapping and causing very expensive engine damage

If your cambelt snaps you are in big trouble. At they very least your vehicle will be off the road for a couple of days and a hefty garage bill. Your engines camshaft which drives your engines valves is no longer synchronised to your crankshaft, so your pistons which are attached to your crank shaft are now free to smash into your valves. All from a broken timing belt.


close up view of a garage mechanic fitting a new timing cam belt to a volvo car engine

The timing belt is one of the most important maintenance items on your car. If it is overlooked and you are in the unfortunate position where your timing belt is broken then this is likely to be a costly repair and dependant on the age and value of your car in essence it could be deemed as not economically repairable, i.e a write off.

When Should My Timing Cam Belt Be Replaced?

The interval for the replacement of a timing belt varies dramatically from different manufacturers. Some of the Volkswagen Audi group engines are scheduled every 40,000 miles or 4 years where as some of the Volvo, Citroen and Peugeot engines are every 150,000 miles or 10 years so check with your vehicle manufacturer or your local garage.

What Is Replaced?

The timing belt is replaced as part of a kit. Dependant on engine and manufacturer the kit consists of at least a timing belt, a tensioner and an idler pulley. The tensioner and idler pulley are equally as important as the timing belt itself. One can’t function without the other and both are susceptible to wear.

If You Have A Timing Cambelt Driven Water Pump

Many manufactures produce engines with a timing belt driven water pump. Some garages may say if it shows no signs of leakage, don’t replace it. But any reputable Sheffield or Chesterfield garage will always recommend the water pump is replaced at the same time as the timing belt. This will save you hundreds of pounds if the water pump fails at a later date. The timing belt should never be re-fitted once used so there would be another timing belt kit to be paid for.

Don’t Risk Cheap Replacement Cam Belts

The quality of the timing belt (cam belt) is equally important as the changing of it. Don’t be drawn in to the cheap imitation copies. Make sure yours is replaced with a genuine OEM part, usually Gates or INA kits and get it fitted by a trusted garage.

How Much Does Timing Belt Replacement Cost?

With such a diverse pricing range across vehicle manufacturers for their replacement timing belt kit and the large variation in the time it takes a mechanic to physically change it, the cost is clearly vehicle specific. For example some vehicles can be done in just over an hour, others need the engine out to replace them.

Final Thoughts

If you have recently bought a car and are unsure of the vehicles service history or when the timing belt was replaced then get one fitted soon or it could be too late.

close up view of david brown from excel automotives

Sheffield Local interviewed:David Brown, managing director, Excel Automotives Excel Automotives have been a Chesterfield Local garage for over 25 years. They are specialists for the repair and replacement of timing cam belts for vehicles from all manufacturers including Volvo, Ford & Vauxhall. Visit Excel Automotives Local page.

Find more timing cam belt repair specialists waiting to help.

Michelle Smith

Social Editor, Sheffield Local Home & Leisure

Shell always gets to the bottom of the issues that affect our daily lives and tries her very best to make a difference.

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