How to Find Out If a Car Needs a Timing Belt

Written by dan ferrell
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How to Find Out If a Car Needs a Timing Belt
Find out if your car needs a new timing belt. (Photo courtesy of RB30DE at

A timing belt weighs less than a timing chain and is an efficient system to operate the camshaft on your vehicle. For the most part, belts are very reliable, but they also have critical components. An excessively worn belt may break and, for some vehicle models, this could be disastrous if it were to happen while the car is moving down the road: valves, pistons and other internal components could be damaged. Here you will find a few simple steps to find out if your car needs a timing belt replacement.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Wrench set
  • Ratchet and socket set
  • Flashlight

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  1. 1

    Park the car in a safe place with enough room for you to work at the front of the vehicle. Open the bonnet.

  2. 2

    Remove the timing belt cover at the front end of the engine using a wrench or ratchet and socket. On some vehicle models, you might need to remove the crankshaft pulley and an accessory belt in order to remove the timing belt cover.

  3. 3

    Inspect the timing belt closely and make sure there are no oil or coolant spots on the belt, which will break down the belt material. Fix any leaks if necessary before replacing the belt.

  4. 4

    Inspect the belt along its back and look for wear and tear. If you find any signs of deterioration, replace the belt. Sometimes if relatively new belts show signs of wear and tear, there may be problems with the tensioner or idler pulley. Make sure this pulley is spinning freely and its bearings are not dry.

  5. 5

    Look for missing teeth. If necessary, use a flashlight to look all the way around the inside of the timing belt. If the belt on your vehicle is relatively new and you find missing or worn out teeth, replace it and inspect the oil and water pump sprockets. Make sure they are turning freely. Failing sprockets may lock at times and cause damage to the timing belt.

  6. 6

    Shine a flashlight all the way around the edge to the timing belt. You might need a small mirror to look at the hidden side of the belt. Look for signs of side wear. Side wear usually points to a loose or misaligned belt guide or pulley. Replace the belt and fix the guide or pulley if necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • Consult your vehicle service manual for manufacturer timing belt replacement intervals. Many manufacturers suggest installing a new belt when reaching 50,000 or 100,000 of driving miles.

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