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Replacing timing belts

All those vehicles on the road that still use timing belts need experts like you to be ready to replace them.
Friday, July 1, 2016 - 07:00
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In theory replacing a timing belt is pretty straightforward: remove everything in the way, line up the components, replace the belt, set the tension, top up any fluids lost during the procedure and then neatly reinstall everything that came off – no problem in theory.

In reality one mistake or oversight can cause drivability concerns or damage a very expensive engine and it’s quite easy to make a mistake or forget something critical during routine timing belt replacement.

Fact is, the job is usually labor-intensive and can actually be quite complicated with many small, critical steps along the way. Additionally, aligning timing marks and setting tension correctly is critical because catastrophic engine failure can result from tiny errors. And it’s not uncommon for the job to take the better part of a day especially if any mounts need to be removed or bolts are seized in place – and it’s certainly not fun or profitable to have to disassemble everything a second time to fix a problem that you may have inadvertently caused.

(Photo courtesy of Gates Corp.) Most aftermarket sources offer timing belt "kits," providing the technician whith everything he or she needs to do a professional timing belt service.

Therefore is makes sense to avoid the common problems and pitfalls associated with routine timing belt replacement whenever possible, and surprisingly even though engine designs and replacement intervals vary among manufacturers, there are definitely some problems and pitfalls common to all vehicles and it’s important to understand them and plan ahead before anything is disassembled.


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Additionally, it’s important to know a few tips to make the job go smoothly and efficiently so you don’t waste time or cause any new problems.

It’s definitely possible to make good money changing timing belts without any unnecessary stress – if you know how.

So here’s how – here are a few quick things to know to make the job go smoothly and leave your customers with a great impression of your work so everyone stays happy and stress-free.

Replacement Intervals

Timing belts are typically replaced every 60,000 - 100,000 miles depending on the manufacturers’ recommendations and also depending on how the vehicle is used. There may be the odd engine that requires a shorter or longer replacement interval (as with most maintenance items nowadays) so it’s always best to refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations and then go from there. Also, it’s usually worth replacing any other related components that have reached the end of their service life when the belt is replaced (e.g. the water pump if it’s driven by the timing belt since it can damage the timing belt when it fails) so that the job doesn’t need to be done again before it’s due.

(Photo courtesy of G. Jerry Truglia) Timing mark alignment is critical on any engine, SOHC or multiple cam.
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