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What Happens When Your Timing Belt Breaks?

what happens when your timing belt breaks

Understanding what happens when your timing belt breaks is extremely critical to prevent major engine issues. Typically, you'll deal with the following consequences whenever your timing belt breaks:

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  1. Your engine will lose synchronization
  2. Valves will interfere with the cylinders
  3. Other hardware will not function properly

In most vehicles, there are two common belts: The Serpentine belt and the timing belt. The timing belt is the one hidden beneath a certain cover and controls the function of your engine camshaft. Depending on how modern your heart is, the timing belt might play additional roles like controlling the energy going to the water pump.

Waiting till the point where the timing belt breaks is never a good idea because when the timing belt breaks, at least a catastrophic result could damage your entire engine. Therefore, understanding what happens when your timing belt breaks is essential for any driver to give you an idea about how critical it is to follow your Vehicles owner’s manual and replace it when needed.

This article provides you with a detailed summary of the negative consequences of broken timing belts. It also highlights the potential repair costs and some additional details that are useful for you as a driver to introduce yourself to the role of a timing belt in your vehicle.

What is the timing belt, and what does it do?

In any vehicle, there are two belts around the engine. One is called the Serpentine belt, which is in front of the sure, but there's another one hidden and sometimes referred to as the forgotten belt, which has the timing belt. This timing belt is hidden by an accessory cover to protect it from dirt or debris.

Depending on how modern your vehicle is, the timing belt is responsible for a variety of tasks:

  • Controlling the movement of the camshaft, which also controls the movement of the valves


  • Allowing the valves to open and close at the right time when your engine requires them means that the timing belt also goes into how your engine functions


  • Providing energy to function the water pump in some vehicles means that the timing belt also has to do with the cooling system functionality


  • Maintain the right sequence and connects the different components

What happens when the timing belt breaks?

If you forgot the timing belt for a long time without replacement, you might deal with sudden weird banging noises coming from the vehicle. These noises are extremely critical and might be very scary to many inexperienced drivers.

When the timing belt breaks, it doesn't provide you with any warning signs, which means that it happens in inconvenient situations where you might be away from service, complicating the issue.

The other thing is that modern vehicles are now equipped with many more components linked to the timing belt, making the timing belt more critical for your vehicle's overall performance. So, for example, some cars might have one to 8 different camshafts in the same engine.

  1. Your engine will lose synchronization

Since the timing belt is responsible for connecting many engine components and maintain synchronization, one of the first outcomes of a broken timing belt is losing the engine synchronization. However, when this happens, it leads to significant other outcomes that will highlight in the following bullet points.

  1. Valves will interfere with the cylinders

Once the timing belt breaks, the valves will interfere with the cylinders causing them to break or cause damages to the other components. There are instances where a broken timing belt led to damaging the piston rings, the cylinders heads, and the engine's destruction.

  1. Other hardware will not function properly

The timing belt is responsible for controlling the behavior of the camshafts of your engine, and there is also some other hardware linked to the timing belt. For instance, the tensioner and the actuator are responsible for Maintaining the right tension on the belt at any time.

Furthermore, experts indicated that about 50% of current vehicles are equipped with a water pump controlled by the timing belt. Therefore, when the timing belt breaks, there is a very high chance that your water pump will stop functioning, which leads to major engine problems related to issues with overheating.

How to prevent timing belt damages?

One of the best solutions to never dealing with a broken, damaged belt is to maintain what's stated in your vehicle's owner’s manual. For example, most manuals recommend changing the timing belt once every 60,000 miles. However, if you realize that the timing belt has issues prematurely, it might be worth looking at your mechanic and replacing it before hitting the 60,000 miles.

How much does it cost to replace a broken timing belt?

Timing belt replacement costs range from $300 to $500. Interestingly, the part itself shouldn't cost you more than $50. However, labor costs are extremely high. Additionally, since the timing belt is hidden underneath a specific cover headed underneath the Serpentine belt, it's extremely challenging to access the timing belt unless you have advanced-level mechanical skill sets.

Furthermore, since the timing belt is linked to other hardware components like the actuator, the tensioner, the water pump, most automotive experts recommend changing those by the time you change the timing belt. This is because it's been shown that if you don't replace these components, it's most likely that the timing belt will lose 50% of its lifetime.

Therefore, the overall bill for replacing the timing belt will not end up at the $50 of parts costs.

What are the common symptoms of a damaged timing belt?

While we indicated that it's necessary to change the timing belt once every 60,000 miles, sometimes you might deal with early symptoms indicating that it is about to break before it even does here. So that's very good to monitor and track because it helps you never get into a situation where the timing belt breaks suddenly when you're in the middle of nowhere, and there is no help nearby.

In general, when the timing belt is about to break or breaks completely, you'll notice the following symptoms:

  1. Ticking engine noises

As a rule of thumb, whenever you hear any new weird noises coming from your vehicle, whether it's from the engine or not, you must take immediate action to inspect the issue and resolve it.

Finding problems early helps your mechanic detect the problem and solve it without needing to install major components, which means minor repair costs.


That also applies to the timing belt problems. In general, when the timing belt is about to break or wears out, you'll notice some ticking noises at the areas where the timing belt is weak or slightly broken.

Whenever you notice this sound, you must consult your mechanic and let him know what's going on to get an idea about what needs to be done next.

Keep in mind that this ticking noise might be linked to other problems in your vehicle, which means that you can't immediately replace the timing belt because of hearing this sound. However, once your mechanic performs a thorough inspection, he'll get an idea about the real culprit.

  1. Problems turning over the engine

Under difficult situations and when the timing belt is completely broken, you won't be able to turn over the engine at all. Think about it this way: the timing belt is responsible for the movement of the valves and allowing certain valves to open and others to close. In other words, if the valves responsible for introducing fuel don't open or don't close, the engine cannot generate the combustion process, and therefore it won't turn over.

  1. Problem with the engine misfiring

Once the engine doesn’t receive the right amount of fuel at the right time or the right amount of air at the right time, it won't create the combustion process, and it will complain by showing some misfiring problems. In addition, the cylinders might open before they do in certain situations, disturbing the combustion process and resulting in catastrophic outcomes.

  1. Potential oil leaks

Finally, a broken timing belt might lead to oil leaks which might lead to significant engine overheating problems that could cost you thousands of dollars on repair costs.

Again, oil leaks might result from a variety of other problems, which means that you can't rely on this sometimes to say that the timing belt is going bad. All you have to do in this scenario is consult your mechanic and have the mechanic use certain tools to visually inspect the timing belt and confirm that it has a problem or requires replacement.

What are the best timing belt kits?

If you know it's the right time now to replace your timing belt; you might want to shop around for some available commercial products that include not only the timing belt but a compiled accessory coming together in one set to help you replace the timing belt easily without wasting a lot of money.


These timing belts are targeted for advanced professional mechanics who can replace the parts for you without you introducing mistakes and damaging the engine.

The good news is that there are many available timing belt kits that you can discover in the market, but this can be overwhelming to many inexperienced drivers. Therefore, we put together a list of the best timing belt kits available in the market as of 2021:

  • Aisin TKF-001 Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump
  • Gates TCK304 power grip Premium Timing Belt Component Kit
  • Acdelco Professional Timing Belt and Water Pump Kit
  • AISIN TKT-026 Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump
  • Acdelco TCK285B Professional Timing Belt Kit
  • SKF VKMC Timing Belt and Water Pump Kit
  • APSG Timing Belt Kit

Can I replace the timing belt by myself?

As we got hit earlier, timing belt replacement is not an easy job which means that it's extremely complicated and requires advanced mechanical skill sets. Not because it's hard to install or remove the timing belt, but the whole challenge is about getting access to the timing belt without causing any issues city surrounding components.

Automotive experts advised that if you don't have the proper level of mechanical skill sets, you should leave it to professionals and have them replace it, so you don't cause damages. Unfortunately, mostly I do not work the first time, which means that there's a very high chance you might introduce simple mistakes that could cost you thousands of dollars on repair. Thus, whatever you're trying to save might not be worth it for this type of repair.


Your timing belt is an extremely critical component in your engine. However, when the timing belt breaks, it can lead to immediate engine complete damages, and that's why automotive experts recommend changing the timing belt as specified new vehicles owner’s manual and before dealing with a broken timing belt.

This article highlighted what happens when your timing belt breaks? You'll deal with a disturbance in the engine synchronization, problems with broken valves and cylinder heads, malfunctioning water pumps, and other undesirable problems.

Since timing belt replacement cost is relatively high, older experts recommend that before you spend a penny and replacing out to evaluate the overall situation. For instance, if there are any major problems in the transmission, the catalytic converter, or any other components, it's a must to compare repair costs to your vehicle's overall value. If you realize that repair costs are close to 75% or more of your vehicle's value, then it's definitely worth selling your vehicle instead of wasting your money.

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