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Automobiles with an overhead cam design implement a belt to orchestrate a perfectly timed sequence of engine operation. This is why it is referred to as the timing belt, and is subject to wear and tear over time, so it will need to be replaced. The timing belt is located inside of a protective housing on your engine and should be replaced at the specified interval. The average timing belt replacement cost for a smaller car can range from $300 – $500 while a larger SUV or minivan will cost on average $700. On the highest end of the spectrum, you might need to pay $1,000 to have your timing belt serviced. On average timing belts need to be replaced every 75,000 miles or 5 years, but refer to your owners manual for exact specifications.
The majority of the cost is labor, because many parts need to be removed from the engine to gain access to the belt. A typical timing belt will only cost between $25 and $50, but the repair takes at least a few hours. The labor cost to replace a timing belt can range from $200 – $900. Timing belt replacement should be conducted by a professional mechanic as it is an advanced project that requires one to disassemble the engine to be able to remove the old belt.
What Is A Timing Belt?
A timing belt keeps your engine in sync by allowing the crankshaft and camshafts to fire perfectly on time. The valves and cylinder heads are located on the top section of the engine while the pistons are towards the bottom. Your timing belt will keep these two systems operating perfectly in harmony. Keep in mind that not all cars use a rubber timing belt as modern vehicles use a timing chain which should outlast the engine itself. If your car was manufactured prior to 1995, you should expect to have a timing belt. Otherwise, you will need to consult your owners manual to see if there is a specified interval for replacing this piece of equipment.
This is similar to a serpentine belt, but not exactly the same. It is much different than the actual drive belts that you can see when opening the hood. These belts won’t have as significant of an impact if they fail, and they are easily visible from the engine compartment so you can keep an eye on their condition. All auto manufacturers specify exactly when this service should be done and we highly recommend that you stay exactly on their schedule as a failure will result in serious and expensive damage. If you can’t find this in the documentation for your car you either do not have a timing belt that needs to be serviced, or you just missed it. In either case, you should consult with a professional to get the exact answer to this question. Even though it is one of the more expensive preventative maintenance items for you car, it is well worth the investment.
Timing Belt Replacement Cost Comparison Chart
The cost of replacing a timing belt may vary greatly from location to location. We highly recommend that you call around to get a few quotes before making your decision on where to have the repair done, unless you are experienced enough to do it yourself. Sometimes your local mechanic might be the best option if they are looking for work as it is a very straightforward process and makes them a good profit. Be a smart consumer when it comes to changing a timing belt and get yourself a good deal.
|Your Mechanic||Belt Only||Low|
|Pep Boys||Belt Only||Medium|
|Local Shop||All Components||Varies|
|Midas||Belt & Pump||High|
|Do It Yourself||All Components||Very Low|
Average Timing Belt Cost By Vehicle
The cost to replace a timing belt will vary based on how much labor is required to access the components. Passenger cars are generally less expensive with smaller engines that are easier to take apart. You should expect to pay more for a vehicle with a larger engine, especially a V8 on a truck or SUV.
When To Replace Your Timing Belt
Every vehicle will differ, so be sure to check the recommended schedule for your car year and model. A good guideline to follow would be to replace your timing belt every 75,00 miles or 5 years, whichever comes first. Your timing belt is constructed of rubber and breaks down from heat and stress from running in the engine. There are teeth on the bottom of the belt that keep the engine synchronized and running well. If these teeth wear down and slip, or the belt stretches, you will have a serious problem.
You should immediately replace the timing belt if it starts having any common symptoms. A timing belt will generally start to produce a high pitched, squeaking, noise before it fails. If the timing belt does break, it will cause a very large sound in the engine as components will be breaking forcefully. The engine will also shut off and not be able to restart.
How To Inspect Your Timing Belt
What Happens If A Timing Belt Breaks?
The last thing that you want to deal with in your internal combustion engine is a broken timing belt. If this happens that valves and pistons will not be in sync and collide into each other with great force. This will result in the pistons and valves becoming damaged along with the internal walls of the cylinders. In the worst case scenario the camshaft will also be damaged which is a very expensive repair. A non-interference type engine design will not result in any damage if the belt breaks, but will still disable the vehicle completely.
How To Replace A Timing Belt
Replacing a timing belt requires an advanced knowledge of mechanical systems as you will need to remove many parts and put them back correctly. If you are familiar with your engine and comfortable with the idea of doing it yourself, you can follow the steps. Otherwise you should contact an ASE certified professional to handle the work.
- Remove all of the parts that might be blocking your access to the engine timing belt cover.
- Remove the cover and inspect the materials and condition of the belt.
- Replace the belt with the recommended part number.
- Don’t forget to also replace the water pump, tensioners and pulleys while changing the belt iteself.
- Replace the covers and components as they were originally installed.
Extra Thoughts and Considerations
With the amount of labor required to access the timing belt, it is always a good idea to replace other components simultaneously as they will already be removed or easy to replace during this repair. Here is a list of engine components to replace when servicing your timing belt.
- Water pump: The water pump is generally driven by the timing belt and needs to be removed for the switch. The part is inexpensive and might as well be upgraded while it is already in the shop. The cost of labor far outweighs the price of the water pump itself.
- Pulleys and Tensioner: These parts should be replaced with the timing belt because if they fails, the same damage as a timing belt failure can occur. They provide the force required to keep the belt tight and operating without any slack, also preventing it from falling off of the track.
- Front Engine Seals: The part cost for replacing seals is nominal in comparison the labor required to access them. These seals can prolong the life and performance of the engine.