How To Spot A Broken Timing Belt

Motor vehicle crashes remain one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In fact, nearly 6.6 million cars were involved in traffic crashes in 2019 alone. Nobody wants to be a part of these grim statistics, however.

That’s why car owners need to know when there’s something wrong with the vehicle, especially if it involves major components like the timing belt. The timing belt’s job is to rotate the engine’s cam and crankshaft to ensure each cylinder fires at the right time. A faulty timing belt will stop your car from running, which can be hazardous when you’re on the road.

This article will discuss the symptoms of a malfunctioning timing belt, so you’ll know when you need to have it fixed.

Engine Won’t Start

If your vehicle’s timing belt is broken, the engine simply won’t turn over or ignite. Once you turn the key, the starter motor will engage and make an audible noise, but the engine will not start.

Meanwhile, if the timing belt breaks when the engine is running, you can expect extensive damage to other engine components, like the following:

  • Cylinder head hardware (push rods or valves)
  • Crank bearings
  • Oil pump 

If the engine won’t turn over and you suspect it might be a timing belt problem, stop trying to force the car to start. Doing so may cause further damage to the engine components. If the engine died while driving, carefully guide your vehicle to the side of the road and have your car towed to a service center.

Ticking Noises From The Engine

One well-known symptom of a timing belt malfunction is a constant “ticking” noise coming from the engine. The timing belt is designed to be flawlessly attached to a series of pulleys to the crank and camshaft. The “ticking” noise could signify that the timing belt is no longer working as efficiently as intended or is on the verge of breaking.

The moment you hear the strange “ticking” sound while driving, pull over safely to the side and kill the engine. It may not save the timing belt from breaking, but it may prevent damage from other components.

Engine Misfires

The timing belt’s purpose is to maintain the precise movements of specific engine components. If the timing belt starts to go bad, these movements will be thrown off and cause engine misfires.

An engine misfire happens when the camshaft and the crankshaft are no longer in sync. This causes a valve to open or close at the wrong time and allows fuel to be injected incorrectly into the chamber.

Ignoring the misfire can severely damage the engine, affecting its performance and fuel economy. At the first sign of an engine misfire, have your vehicle inspected and repaired by a professional to avoid further damage.

Check Engine Light Is Turned On 

The check engine light turned is usually a sign of a severe issue that needs immediate attention. One of these issues is a malfunctioning timing belt.

When the timing belt fails in most modern cars, it sends a set of specific codes to the vehicle’s onboard computers. At the same time, it turns the check engine light on. The codes can be scanned and diagnosed by auto care professionals.

If the check engine light is turned on, it’s highly recommended not to run the car to avoid further damage. When driving and the light turns on, slowly make your way to the side and turn off the engine.

Timing belts should be replaced every 60,000 miles. However, you should have your timing belt inspected the moment you notice any of these symptoms. Quickly addressing the issue can help prevent further component damage and keep you safe on the road.

Auto Works of Brandon has certified and experienced technicians that can help you with any car-related problems. If your vehicle has timing belt issues, contact us today to set an appointment and have your car serviced.


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