Every model of Honda uses either a timing belt or a timing chain to control the synchronization of the camshaft to the crankshaft in the engine. It's necessary for a properly functioning timing belt to align both of these parts in a way that allows the valves to open and close at the exact right time for the pistons to rise and fall in the cylinder. The fuel and air mix is injected at the exact right time to allow the spark to ignite in it and create the combustion reaction that allows your Honda to create the power needed to function.
It is the timing belt job to make sure all of these different steps happen at the precise right moment. if anything were to go wrong then the timing would be thrown off and your engine's performance would either greatly diminish or stop entirely. Soon as you can see, the timing belt in your Honda engine is extremely important. but there's still a lot you need to know about how they work and what you can do when they don't work any longer.
Does Honda Use a Timing Belt or a Timing Chain?
Depending on the model and year of your Honda you may be using a timing chain or a timing belt in your engine. In general, older Hondas tend to have timing belts while many of the newer models have chains but there is some degree of variation. For instance, since 2018 every Honda Accord has had a timing chain in the engine. Prior to that the V6 models had timing belts still while the four cylinders were using chains since all the way back in 2008.
Honda Civics have been using timing chains since 2006, while the Honda Element had timing chains since 2003 as had the Honda CRV. My most current models produced by Honda are using a timing chain. If you have an older model of Honda it might be best to check in your owner's manual or at least Google the model and year that you're driving to find out for sure if it's using a timing chain or a timing belt.
Both the timing chain or a timing belt perform the same function on your Honda, it's just a matter of what they're made of and how long are you going to last that by the main difference between the two. The timing chain is much like a bicycle chain, it's made of metal and is very durable. The timing chain should last you the life of your engine although there are occasions when it could fail and wear out on you. Typically, however you can expect the time you change the last over 200,000 miles.
Timing belts are usually composite rubber belts with teeth on the inside to grip the gears of the camshaft and the crankshaft. The timing belt will require some routine maintenance and eventually will have to be replaced because they will wear out. Again, you'll have to check your specific model and year to know how long the timing belt last, but Honda says that their belts typically get changed between 60,000 miles and 100,000 miles. Your owner's manual to let you know for sure exactly playing the scheduled maintenance should be undertaken for your specific model and year. It's always a good rule of thumb to give a timing belt to any visual inspection every 30,000 miles or so as well, just to make sure it's still in good working order and the teeth aren't wearing off of it.
Does Honda have Timing Belt Problems?
Honda has had some issues with tiny belts in their vehicles in the past. In 2019 Honda recalled nearly 100,000 vehicles because of manufacturing defects and some timing belts that could increase the risk of a vehicle stalling or causing an accident. The number of drivers had reported that the teeth had torn free from the belt which led to engine stalling. The recall affected Honda Pilots made from 2018 and 2019 as well as some Honda Odyssey and Honda Ridgeline models.
There are no accidents reported with this but it is very likely that some could have happened if the issue was allowed to continue for too long as a broken timing belt can seriously impact the function of an engine. There were some older Honda Pilots that hadn't reported issues with their timing belts as well, although nothing led to a recall. Honda Pilots that were made between 2009 and 2013 had some reported problems with belts.
In general Honda timing belts don't have specific issues related to certain models and years in any great abundance, and no other recalls have been reported. Still, any timing belt will wear down over time and you need to be aware of the problems that it can cause. This is especially true if you're driving a car with an interference engine and all of Honda’s models are interference engines.
Interference vs. Non-Interference Engines
The way a timing belt works is the same in pretty much any vehicle that you're going to drive. However, the kind of engine that it functions in has a big impact on what happens when the timing belt fails. There are two basic kinds of engines that most drivers on the road today have under the hood. Honda uses interference engines exclusively in their vehicles although some other automakers will use non-interference engines and oftentimes you can have both kinds depending on the model.
An interference engine refers to the way the pistons and the valves interact with each other inside the engine. They can interfere with each other, hence the name, and that's why it's a big problem when your timing belt fails. As the timing belt rotates between the crankshaft and the camshaft the valves open and the pistons rise. The crankshaft is responsible for the pistons going up and the camshaft is responsible for the valves opening.
As the camshaft opens the valves, the crankshaft will allow the pistons to rise into the open space created by the valve now being open. If the timing is off or your timing belt breaks entirely, the camshaft will not rotate, and the valves will not open. That means the pistons will rise in the cylinder and hit the closed valves. That could damage the valves, the cylinder, and the piston. When this happens while your engine is running, it's at great speed and there's a lot of force behind it. The result will be your engine stalling immediately and potentially serious damage as a result. It's pretty much impossible that you won't suffer some valve or piston damage when this happens. It could end up costing $3,000 to $5,000 or more to repair the extensive damage that an engine can suffer as a result of a timing belt breaking while it's in motion.
Non-interference engine works almost the same but not quite. When the piston rises in the cylinder it doesn't have to enter into the valve. That means that if the timing belt were to fail then the Piston couldn't crash into the valve and caused the level of damage it would cause when an interference engine fails. Unfortunately, Honda doesn't use non-interference engines so they can operate this way.
You might wonder why Honda doesn't use a non-interference engine if it sounds like it causes fewer problems but there is a good reason for it. The trade-off between a non-interference engine and an interference engine is performance. Interference engines have an increased compression ratio and are able to produce more power than non-interference engines. Most manufacturers use interference engines because they just have a better power output than a non-interference engine. And if everything is in proper working order you don't need to worry about the Pistons hitting the valves. That is, after all, only what happens when something goes wrong.
Signs of a Bad Timing Belt
Timing belts don't last as long as timing chains, although both are capable of failing and causing extreme damage. When a timing chain fails the damage is likely to be much worse than when a timing belt fails, and that's bad enough already. That's because the timing belt, being metal, can shatter and lead to more extensive problems as a result. Fortunately, a broken timing chain is a much rarer situation.
When your timing chain begins to fail there are some definite signs you can be on the lookout for.
As we said, the timing belt connects the camshaft to the crankshaft to allow for synchronization between the two and the precise timing of your engine. If the teeth begin to fail on your timing belt like they did with the Hondas that were recalled in 2019 then the belt will not speed able to grip the gears properly. That means you can easily slip off or stretch out. That can severely throw off the timing of your engine such that the combustion reaction is not able to occur when it's supposed to. When that happens are there because the valves are opening at the wrong time, the fuel is being injected incorrectly, or the spark occurs at the wrong time you go to experience an engine misfire.
When your engine misfires you lose power in equal measure to the number of cylinders you have in your engine. So, in a 4-cylinder engine, when one cylinder misfires you lose 25% of the engine power output during that cycle. If misfires continue to happen your engine will underperform and you can potentially cause serious damage over time.
Timing belts produce a distinct sound when they begin to fail that is unique for most of the other noises you'll notice under the hood of your car. When the teeth begin to wear down or fall off of your timing belts it will produce a kind of fast pace, repetitive ticking sound as it rotates. You can consider it something like the sound of a spinning roulette wheel or one of those big prize Wheels that are used on game shows sometimes.
There's also the possibility that you may hear a squealing sound when your timing belt is failing. This is more likely to be associated with something like your serpentine belt, however it can be produced from the timing belt as well and usually happens intermittently rather than on a continual basis. You may hear it as you start up, while you're idling, or while you're accelerating.
If your car is vibrating and shaking considerably more than his normal just after turning it on while you're still sitting in the driveway, that is a rough idling situation and is potentially the result of your timing belt not gripping the gears as tightly as it should causing a slight disruption in the timing of your engine.
Your timing belt has a cover that's bolted over the top of it and the bolts that hold it in place can come loose over time. When they do, oil may leak out and either drip out into the engine compartment, or on to the driveway beneath your vehicle. The oil can also leak onto the timing belt itself. This can degrade the timing belt and cause it to weaken much faster than it should.
Cost of Replacing Your Honda Timing Belt
Replacing a timing belt is often a very expensive job. It does depend on not just the mechanic you take it to you, but the model and year of your vehicle as well. For instance, the cost of replacing a timing belt in a Honda Accord is typically between $500 and $700. For some models you can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 to $1,500 or so. You often find that it's a little more expensive to replace the bills in an older Honda because it's just harder to find parts for older Hondas and since Honda has switched to timing chains and all the newer models, it means they haven't really been producing timing belts in some years.
If you head to AutoZone you'll see that timing belts for Honda models typically cost between about $70 and $250 just for the parts.
The Bottom Line
Honda has a reputation for making reliable vehicles and they have had a few reported problems over all with their timing belts and timing chains. The biggest problem that you likely need to worry about is the recall we mentioned that covers a handful of models from the 2018 to 2019 production years. Beyond that, Honda timing belts can be expected to perform as well as or better than most other belts in other models of vehicles. Make sure you are keeping up with your routine maintenance and inspections and you should be able to avoid any serious engine problems as a result.