How Much Does a Timing Belt Replacement Cost?

Your vehicle will either be equipped with a timing belt or a timing chain. There is a difference between them. Both are used in a car engine to rotate the camshaft and crankshaft together at the same time. But timing belts are made of flexible polymer with fabric reinforcement, while timing chains are roller chains.

It should be remembered, though, that while a timing chain is expensive, it can last even as much as the car itself; unlike a timing belt that should be replaced when your car has reached about 60,000 to 100,000 miles of use.

timing belt illustration

We’re here today to discuss timing chain cost and give you some ideas about factors that can influence the pricing. Additionally, we’ll be addressing some common questions about how the parts work and where to buy one or get it replaced!

Costs Involved in Replacing a Timing Belt

Timing belts are recommended to be replaced every 60,000 to 120,000 miles, depending on your car’s brand and model. You may refer to the car’s manual to check the specified maintenance mileage.

The parts price for timing belt replacement will be anywhere between $30 to $575. The total cost will also vary depending on your location and if you choose a local auto shop or a dealership service shop. 

Labor rates on dealerships can be as high as $150 per hour. On local shops, you might be able to hire a mechanic for as low as $40 an hour. Total time required for timing belt replacement would be anywhere between 2 to 6 hours depending on the mechanic’s expertize, with 3.5 hours being the average. In short, you can expect an average of around $300 as labor charges.  

If you want to DIY, timing belt cost can range from $12 to $73 and do take note that this is only the belt without the accessories that are usually replaced with it. Other parts include the tensioner pulley, idler pulley, and bolts. You may be able to buy them separately or most will come as a kit where it is usually cheaper than purchasing individual parts.

A timing belt tensioner pulley may range from $18 to $190 and some cars need two pulleys in their engine. An idler pulley also needs to be replaced and may cost anywhere from $17 to $92 sold individually. Timing belt bolt kits are also available and are priced at around $26 to $33 which typically includes the mounting, bracket, tensioner, and water pump bolts.

If you want to save on time from looking for individual parts, you may check the existing timing belt kits that will cost typically from $54 to $78 – excluding the water pump and shipping fee. For kits that include a water pump, the price would be around $126 to as high as $228 per set.

It is quite time-consuming to replace a timing belt compared to the other drive belts, simply because of its location. The labor cost will be a huge part of your spending since it is usually charged on a per hour basis. Repair shops will have a labor rate of $90 per hour depending again on your location.

Extra Costs

For car models that have timing belts that power up the water pump, it is recommended to be replaced together with a new belt. This is because the additional cost is not that much compared to the labor cost in accessing the belt itself. Also, a malfunctioning water pump may contribute to the timing belt breaking eventually.

A water pump will cost about $23 up to $563 which already includes the gaskets and seals that are needed for installation. A coolant will also be suggested that may range from $9 to $25 a gallon.

Some car models would have an access to the oil pump while replacing the timing belt. Most mechanics will also recommend a change in the oil pump especially when the car model is already old. An oil pump cost can range from $19 for replacement pumps and up to $1,720 for original units.

mechanic replacing timing belt at camshaft

How Important is the Timing Belt?

The engine’s timing belt drives the camshaft and crankshaft in synchronized motions to make sure that the pistons and valves move at the right time. Proper timing of the opening and closing of these cylinders is important to keep the air intake and exhaust stroke working consistently.

The exhaust stroke is responsible for transporting the harmful gases out of your engine. The air intake, on the other hand, provides the much-needed oxygen into your engines to support the engine combustion process.

Not all cars have rubber timing belts but for the latest car models as well as those that have larger engines, a timing chain is installed instead. It has the same function as that of the timing belt; only it is made from metal chains much similar to that of a bicycle chain.

Theoretically, a timing chain can withstand the stress from the engine for a much longer time than that of a belt and usually does not need any replacement in a car’s lifetime. The thing with timing chains is that if it fails, it causes more damage than that of a timing belt.

Since the timing belt is essential to an engine operation, the car will just shut down once it snaps while you are driving on the road. This is one of the reasons why it is important to have it maintained for the sake of safety, instead of waiting for it to completely break.

Symptoms of Timing Belt Failure

The following symptoms can occur if you are experiencing a breaking or worn out timing belt. Once you feel any of these, it would be good to bring your vehicle to your trusted technician as soon as possible.

  1. Rough sounds coming from the engine

When the timing belt starts to wear out, the teeth that run on the belt begins to fall off or gets blunt. This causes the belt to lose its grip on the rotating engine parts, therefore, slipping away from the gears. This produces the crude noises in the engine and it will start to sputter off because the camshaft timing is off.

A high-pitched screeching, whirring or ticking from the engine when starting the car or accelerating is also an indication of a malfunctioning timing belt.

  1. Misfire of the engine

The engine will eventually misfire since the part responsible for the fire rate of the valves becomes damaged. Once it breaks, the belt will slip from the camshaft drive triggering an early opening or closing of one cylinder than a good, proper timing.

  1. Excessive smoke emission

Too much smoke coming from your engine is a telltale sign that the exhaust cylinders are unsynchronized; letting the air in at the wrong time.

Above every cylinder inside the engine, it has two holes which are responsible for the exhaust and allowing air in. The opening and closing movement are coordinated with how the camshaft rotates and how the cylinders move. A worn out belt will let the smoke out in an untimely way causing excessive smoke.

  1. A decline in oil pressure

A broken timing belt can cause a part of the camshaft to break off and fall into the vehicle’s oil pan. This results in the lowering of the oil pressure and the engine crashing altogether.

A leaking oil from the timing belt is also possible once the gasket between the engine block and timing cover has a crack. This may result in the engine overheating and wear out the timing belt in the long run.

  1. Failure in turning over the engine

When your car won’t turn over, it just means that you are already stranded wherever you are. If the timing belt cracks, it will not turn over since it operates the crank. The turning of the ignition will only fire up the starter and nothing else will happen after that.

Internal damages to the engine will also result in a broken timing belt such as dents on the valve or piston, damage to the cylinder head, crank bearings, and the oil pump.

  1. Incorrect tension

As with other drive belts, a timing belt will also stretch over time and incorrect tension on the belt will cause premature damage. It typically leads to excessive tooth wear, shearing, canvas fiber gets exposed, peeling, and belt noise.

Proper tensioning in timing belts differs from one car type to another since some engines use either a mechanical or a hydraulic tensioner. These two engines require different tools and procedures in adjusting the belt.

What Can Happen to the Engine if the Timing Belt Breaks?

It is good to know what type of engine you have to have an idea what can happen to your engine if it breaks. There are actually two types of engine configurations – the interference and non-interference type.

An interference engine is one where the valve and piston movements occupy only one cylinder. The only thing that keeps them from crashing into each other is the timing belt since they do the strokes in turns.

Imagine if the timing belt breaks in two, then the two parts will collide and cause a dent into the valves. Even worse, the camshaft and the cylinder wall will get damaged and this will entail an engine overhaul that will cost you a lot.

A non-interference engine is where the valve and piston do not share the same space. The big difference is that when the timing belt snaps, there would be no possible repercussion to the valve or the cylinders. You just replace the timing belt and the engine should go back to its normal operation.

Preventive Measures

It is not enough to reiterate that it is better to stick to the manufacturer’s recommended interval in replacing the timing belt to avoid denting your wallet. This is especially advised for the old car models that were assembled from 1995 and below.

Abrupt changes in the temperature can easily wear out your timing belt and the other accessory belts. This is because the rubber stretches when the weather is warm and constricts when the temperature is cold. It is better to keep your car inside a garage where the environment would have a more constant temperature than the outside.

Oil and water leaks can cause the belt to slip from the gears and come off wholly. Always watch out if there are any leaks coming from the engine and have them checked immediately.

Dry climates also make the rubber timing belts more brittle causing it to snap easily than places where it is humid. Cars that are usually driven in warm, dry climates should have their timing belts replaced more often than others just to be safe.

If the car is not used frequently, the belt may become stiff and more brittle as well. The timing belt would need to also be replaced earlier compared to cars that have a lower mileage.

The new belts available in the market right now have curved teeth compared to the older belts used in old models. The old belts have a trapezoid shaped teeth and it wears out faster due to its contour. It is better to choose a curved teeth belt to be fitted into your car as this lasts longer.

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