You may have heard of either a timing belt or a timing chain in reference to something that performs a job in your engine. Modern combustion engines use a timing belt or timing chain to synchronize the movement of the camshaft to the crankshaft. As the name suggests it is responsible for ensuring that we both of these parts operate in perfect time with each other so that the valves open at the correct time for the pistons to rise and fall and create that combustion reaction necessary for your vehicle to actually be able to move.
Whether your vehicle operates with a timing belt or a timing chain very much depends on the manufacturer and the make, model, and year of the vehicle. Many older models used timing chains before the industry trend swung towards timing belts. Back in the day this was done as a cost cutting measure. These days many manufacturers are heading back to timing chains because they are stronger and last longer.
Regardless of what kind of timing device your car uses, you may be wondering what the difference between a timing belt and a Gates timing belt may be. The term Gates timing belt is something that pops up every now and then in reference to timing belts and it doesn't always make it clear exactly what someone is talking about when they refer to it, in particular what the word ‘Gates’ means in this context.
While many people may be under the impression it's a specific kind of timing belt, maybe it does a different job for you, or is designed differently than other timing belts, the fact is that a Gates timing belt is a timing belt design by the Gates company.
Gates is referred to by name because of their history with timing belts. In 1917, the founder of the Gates company, John Gates, created the world's first rubber V belt. By 1945 Gates had created the first timing belt with teeth on it which was called a synchronous belt at the time. In 1979 the company created the Gates serpentine belt.
As you can see, the company has a long Legacy of creating and innovating the belts that operate automobiles and they have been doing it for over 100 years now. That's why sometimes people will refer to a belt as a Gates timing belt. It's a reference to this specific part and the history and Innovation behind it.
If a mechanic or another car owner refers to a Gates timing belt, they may just be using it as an innocuous term, sort of the way people refer to any brown soda as Coke sometimes, or are they just may be brand loyalists. Much the way some drivers only want to drive a Ford product or a Chevy product, some people take their part seriously and will only swear by a Gates timing belt because of the history the company has with the product.
What Does a Gates Timing Belt Do?
As we said, a timing belt is responsible for synchronizing the timing of your camshaft to your crankshaft. If you have what is called an interference engine, it can be devastating if you are crankshaft and camshaft are not perfectly aligned. If your timing belt or to break or come off, the camshaft would stop spinning but the crankshaft would continue. That means the pistons will rise even when the valves are closed, causing the pistons to smash into the valves and potentially cause serious damage to the cylinders, the cam heads, the Pistons, and basically rendering your entire engine inoperable if it's bad enough. That means you're looking at a repair bill in the neighbourhood of maybe $4,000 or more. As you could see, that's a serious issue.
When your Gates timing belt is working the way it's supposed to, the rotation of the camshaft to the crankshaft is perfectly aligned such that the valves will open allowing the piston to rise into it and then before be pushed down again because of the combustion reaction that occurs in the chamber.
What Does a Gates Timing Belt Cost?
If you go to a site like Amazon you can search for Gates timing belt kits that include the belt as well as the other parts you need to replace a timing belt, including the water pump. Water pumps are almost always replaced at the same time as a timing belt because a water pump has the same lifespan as a timing belt in a car usually, and it's located right next to where the timing belt is. Because getting in there to replace one part or the other is a fairly labor-intensive process and can take a mechanic upwards of three or four hours, most of them will recommend replacing both parts at the same time in an effort to actually save you some time and money.
The timing belt kits on Amazon are around $100 to $220 each. As with most car parts, the gates timing belt isn't just a standard that fits on any car. You need to select the correct one for the make and model of your vehicle, so there will be some variation in potential pricing. And of course, when you deal with a site like Amazon, the price also depends on the vendor you buy it from.
The cost of replacing a timing belt at a mechanic can off and run you between $500 to $2,000. That's a remarkable range of prices, but it reflects the difference in price from one vehicle to the next, and one mechanic to the next. The fact is, some cars are going to cost you more than others to get this job done, and of course no mechanic is going to charge you the exact same price as another mechanic even within the same town.
Signs of a Bad Gates Timing Belt
Even though Gates is known for making high-quality timing belts, they aren't able to last forever. The belt said Gates mix or made for pretty much every auto manufacturer on the road. So whether you drive a Ford, a Chevy, a Nissan, or even a Yugo, Gates has actually made a timing belt for your vehicle. The lifespan is based Less on Gates's manufacturing process and the kind of vehicle that you drive. Fortunately, Gates actually has a document you can refer to that gives you the lifespan of the timing belt for every vehicle they make timing belts for.
As you can see when you look through the guide it's extremely thorough with its recommendations. For instance, if you have a 1985 Chevy Lumina then your Gates timing belt is recommended to be changed at about 60,000 miles. If you have a 2004 Volkswagen Passat the belt could last 105,000 miles. If you had a 1992 Volvo 960 then it would be recommended you change it after only 30,000 miles. So clearly there is a big range based on manufacturer standards.
While these recommendations are just that, recommendations, there are some signs that your Gates timing belt may be in need of a change. These warning signs are a good indication that something has gone wrong, and you really should invest in getting a new Gates timing belt as soon as you can before a bad problem becomes serious damage.
An engine misfire occurs when the combustion reaction in your engine doesn't occur at the precise time it's supposed to. The timing of your engine is something that is measured down to the fractions of a second. There's very little wiggle room for something to go wrong. If your timing belt begins to fail, then your valves may not be opening at the exact right time, the fuel pump may not be injecting the fuel at the exact right time, and so on down the line of things that could go wrong. If the fuel-air mixture is ignited at the wrong moment, or not ignited at all, that's going to be an engine misfire.
If the combustion reaction doesn't occur in one cylinder at the right time, then your overall engine power is reduced a proportional amount. In a 4-cylinder engine, that means 25% power loss on that stroke. Continuous engine misfires end up costing you in gas mileage, performance, and eventually will lead to some serious damage in your engine if it's not fixed soon enough. If the timing belt is the cause of this, you need to get it replaced as soon as possible.
Luckily, when something goes wrong in the engine, one of the first signs that you could be on the lookout for is an unusual new sound. In the case of a timing belt malfunction, you're going to notice a ticking sound. The timing belt moves very quickly, so the ticking sound is also a fast-paced noise. It will definitely stand out though because it will be different than the noise as you're used to you from your engine. If you're familiar with the sound your car makes normally this will be a standout and a definite signal that you should be doing something about it.
In addition to the ticking sound, it's possible you may also hear an intermittent squeaking sound. The ticking sound will likely be a sustained and repetitive noise. The squeaky noise will be much rarer, and it could be brought on by anything from acceleration to braking. Any belt that is wearing down and under a lot of stress will tend to make a sound like this, so if you do hear it it's a good sign that you need to have it checked out.
Engine Won't Start
This is a more extreme symptom of a timing belt problem because this indicates your timing belt is broken completely. Most often when a timing belt breaks it happens while your car is in motion, so this would be kind of a lucky break, so to speak, if it happens. When you start your car, you hear the starter motor engage, but the engine simply does nothing. If the timing belt is not present at all, then there's simply no way for your engine to start. This will require a tow to a mechanic shop to get it fixed.
Oil Leaks and Oil Pressure
The timing belt in your car has a timing case over it to keep it protected. When the nuts and bolts are coming loose, you may start getting oil leaks from the engine that can coat the timing belt and greatly reduce its lifespan. All things being equal, you do not want to have an oil slicked timing belt.
In addition to this problem, the teeth on your timing belt can also wear down and actually come off. Since the timing belt is located above the oil pan, those teeth will fall into the oil pan and could potentially clog it. That's going to reduce your oil pressure, and also lead your engine to overheating. Both of these problems, the oil pressure drop, and oil leaks are dangerous for not just the timing belt but the engine itself.
When someone refers to rough idling it just means that the car is shaking or vibrating far more than it should, even when you're just sitting still not doing anything in it with the engine running. It seems like the engine is struggling you may notice some sputtering and minor jerking, and it seems like the engine is just having a hard time. That can be caused by a number of different problems but the timing belt going off can definitely be one of the causes. If it happens in conjunction with some of these other symptoms, you definitely want to check out the timing belt to see if that was the cause.
The Bottom Line
Gates has over 100 years of history making some of the best timing belts in the industry. It's no wonder that some people will definitely refer to them by name, and only want to use them in their vehicles. They are high quality belts and do offer great performance. But they are only designed to last for so long. Just like any timing belt you need to maintain them according to your manufacturer standards. If you can't find your vehicle on the document, we linked from Gates itself, your owner's manual definitely tells you how long you can expect to wait before you need to change a timing belt.
Remember, these recommendations for changing the timing belt are just that but if you let a timing belt go for too long you could be in for some potential big repair bills if things go wrong.