In life, timing is everything and in machines it is even more important. Every kind of working machine is based on a rhythm. The rhythm is maintained by a controlling mechanism, that makes sure that the timing of every mechanical process is synchronized. When it comes to the working of a car, a timing belt does the job of synchronization. So, when there are timing belt problems, there is potential for a major mess up in the functioning of your car.
How Does a Timing Belt Work?
The internal combustion engine in a car works through the conversion of chemical energy stored in fuel, to mechanical energy. The mechanical energy is derived from linear motion of pistons caused by fuel combustion. This linear motion is converted into a torque or rotational motion, by the crankshaft attached to engine pistons.
During every piston cycle, valves open in the combustion chamber to let in air-fuel mixture and then remove the exhaust gases after combustion. The camshaft connected to the crankshaft through the timing belt, controls opening/closing of valves in the combustion engine. The crankshaft controls the linear motion of pistons. The feedback, required to maintain the motion of combustion engine pistons, is provided by the timing belt. It is responsible for creating the synchronization between the camshaft and the crankshaft to execute engine function smoothly. When the engine has a bad timing belt problem, its efficiency is compromised and a major malfunctioning can occur. By major malfunctioning, I mean a collision between the pistons and valves resulting in major car repairs.
High temperatures and other problems like oil leaks, can cause a timing belt to crack or break. Regular checkup is recommended. Car manuals recommend a timing belt replacement at regular intervals of time (normally every 4 years) or when a car completes at least 60,000 miles (whichever is earlier).
Symptoms to Watch Out For
The best way to check out a worn timing belt is to open the hood and observe it for yourself. Look for signs of wear and tear like cracks. Here are some of the indirect symptoms that should be looked out for.
Excess Exhaust Emission
A worn-out timing belt can mess up the functioning of a car's engine and cause excessive emission of exhaust smoke, due to improper combustion. So, look out for this symptom. There may be clanking and shaking, caused due to the loosening of a timing belt.
An Underperforming Engine
A prime indicator of a slack timing belt is an engine's lack of power while driving or accelerating. Due to incomplete combustion, caused by synchronization issues, the engine doesn't generate enough power. What results is rough idling and engine misfiring.
Car Starting Problems
You may have a problem with starting a car, if the timing belt is messed up. These symptoms may be ambiguous, as there are a lot more car problems that can cause it. Nevertheless, if you regularly face car starting problems, then get the timing belt checked.
Unusual Engine Noise
Another symptom, which some car drivers might notice is, unusual engine noise caused by timing belt problems. At the slightest inkling, get the timing belt checked with the mechanic, as if it snaps, you may face major repairs!
A broken timing belt spells doom for the engine. Therefore, it is essential that you get the timing belt checked and replaced if necessary, after every 60,000 miles of running. Friction, heat and the weather constantly wear down every working part of a car. Our weapons against this wear and tear are regular maintenance and timely car servicing.