Steve’s Car Tip #9: Nine facts about engine timing systems

Audi Timing Belt

Audi S6 Timing Belt
Photo Credit: Ernesto Andrade

In this modern era, many vehicle owners are becoming more and more savvy about vehicle maintenance and repair.  But, timing systems, crucial to good engine performance, are still a mystery to many people.  Here is a short “primer”, nine important facts to know and understand about timing systems:

  1. A timing belt, timing chain or cam belt is a part of an internal combustion engine that synchronizes the rotation of the crankshaft and the camshaft(s) so that the engine’s valves open and close at the proper times during each cylinder’s intake and exhaust strokes. (Wikipedia)
  2. A timing belt is a belt that usually features teeth on the inside surface, while a timing chain is a roller chain. (Wikipedia)
  3. Since timing chains and belts serve to synch the motion of the crankshaft and piston position with the cam shaft, maintaining these will avoid major mechanical failures and help to avoid serious repair bills
  4. A great many vehicles, especially those built in the last decade, might utilize a timing chain for timing the camshaft and valves instead of the timing belt that had been standard on older cars.
  5. Despite the fact that timing chains are much more stronger than older timing belts, they can still break down and be the cause of catastrophic damage.
  6. A high percent of cars that use timing belts, instead of chains, are known as interference engines.  That means that the valve and the piston occupy the same space at different times.  At any given time, there is always at least one or two valves that are at full extension.
  7. If your belt fails for any reason…water pump, idler bearing, etc. …the camshafts will stop instantly.   And, as you are rolling to the side of the road wondering what has happened, your pistons are still going up and down attached to the crankshaft, beating and bending the daylight out of whichever valves are still left at full extension when the camshaft stops (because the cam and the crank are no longer synchronized).
  8. Remember folks, your timing belt should never be left in place more than 100,000 miles.
  9. A good “check” is to look at the exposed serpentine belt, if it’s never been changed, then the timing belt has likely never been changed.

So, your vehicle’s timing system is a crucial part of your engine; your timing system is something every vehicle owner should have a basic understanding of.  And, with proper care, your vehicle should serve you well.  See the other Steve’s Car Tips for some great advice!

If you are at or near the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks, call or stop by Gerbig’s Osage Auto Service for some expert mechanical advice and service.

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