Timing Belt Failure – Most Common Failure And Warning Signs

Timing Belt Failure - Most Common Failure And Warning Signs
Timing Belt Failure - Most Common Failure And Warning Signs

Timing belt failure, can cause catastrophic engine damage.

But, timing belt failure, can be avoided, by keeping the timing belt, in good operating condition.

So, timing belt failure, has always been a topic, no one wants to talk about. But, as the word spreads, most drivers are more aware of the consequences, of timing belt failure.

A timing belt failure, is going to affect more than just the belt.

In some engines a timing belt, can also drive additional components. And, may include the water pump, balance shaft, intermediate shaft, injection pump and an oil pump. A balance shaft, an intermediate shaft and an injection pump must also be, synchronized with a crankshaft.

So, replacing your timing belt, does sound a little daunting. But, it definitely is a proactive way, of saving yourself time and money down the road. But, before we dive into this blog post, there is good news down the road.

Today, many manufactures are actually moving away from timing belts. Because of new technology, the return to timing chains, is growing every day.

So, What Can Happen If You Have, A Timing Belt Failure

When talking about timing belts, it’s also important to know about interference engines.

An interference engine, is one where the pistons and valves share space in the cylinder. But, not at the same time. The benefit of this type of engine, is efficiency. However, if the belt or chain breaks in an interference engine. the valves and pistons will collide.

Timing Belt Failure On Interference Engine
Timing Belt Failure On Interference Engine

The pistons generally hit the valves, which will bend or snap them. Furthermore, the valves can punch a hole in the top of the pistons. Consequently, the repair bill could easily run, into the thousands.

However, if the belt breaks, in a non-interference engine they won’t collide. Because, they do not ever share the same space.

On the other hand, it can be hard to do a visual inspection. But, there are other signs to be aware of, indicating that your timing belt, may be about to fail.

Common Timing Belt Failure And Warning Signs:

  • Ticking noise coming from the engine
  • Engine won’t turn over
  • Engine misfires
  • Oil leaking from in front of the engine

In some engines, a timing belt can also drive additional components, such as:

  • Water pump
  • Balance shaft
  • Intermediate shaft
  • Injection pump
  • Oil pump

A balance shaft, an intermediate shaft and an injection pump, must also be synchronized with a crankshaft.

Furthermore, to work properly a timing belt needs to be, under a certain amount of tension. Some older cars have an adjustable timing belt tensioner, that must be re-adjusted if the timing belt gets loose.

Most, newer cars have an automatic timing belt tensioner, that doesn’t need any adjustment. But, if the timing belt gets loose, it may skip a tooth and the proper timing will be lost.

Visual Inspection

Accessing the timing belt usually involves, removing several of the external accessories.

Excessive Wear
Excessive Wear

Here are some visual clues, that your timing belt is in trouble:

  • Teeth worn down
  • Some teeth sheared off
  • Teeth hollowed out
  • Edges of belt worn
  • The Back of the timing belt cracked
  • Belt soaked with oil
  • Timing Belt broken

Like any drive belt in any Industry, belts do wear when used regularly. A timing belt will rarely just, snap or break in half. It will normally stretch over time with use. And, that leads us to the number one reason for a, Timing Belt failure, Incorrect Tension.

Incorrect Tension
Incorrect Tension

This incorrect tension can lead to other problems. And, some include, excessive tooth wear, tooth shear and belt noise, just to name a few. Therefore, the correct timing belt tension, is just as important when installing a new belt.

Other Causes Of Timing Belt Failure:

  • Foreign body in Drive.
  • Belt crimped due to improper handling.
  • Seizure of driven component.
  • Worn Pulleys.
  • High and Low Temperature.
  • Oil Leaks.
  • Belt Misalignment.

As listed above, pulley and tension issues, are some of the main causes for Timing Belt Failure. So, why not replace these parts, at the same time as the belt.

Consequently, timing belt kits are the perfect solution, as they have all these accessory parts included.

Timing Belt Kits May Include Idler Pulleys, Tensioners, Belts, Seals And More
Timing Belt Kits May Include Idler Pulleys, Tensioners, Belts, Seals And More

Such as, Idler Pulleys, Tensioners, Belts, Seals and other items. So, you can replace the complete timing drive. And, not have to worry about, having issues prematurely.


So, the timing belt is responsible for, keeping your engine’s camshaft and crankshaft in sync. As a result, it is subject to incredible exertion. And, typically needs to be replaced within 60,000 – 100,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Timing Belt Snapped Or Broken In Half
Timing Belt Snapped Or Broken In Half

So, check your owner’s manual for, exact mileage recommendations on your specific vehicle. Consequently, there are only a few warning indicators, that can help you diagnose, a weak or loose timing belt. Finally, there are no obvious clues to indicate, you are close to a timing belt failure.

Thank You !