Does my cambelt need changing?
The cambelt is a rubber belt that controls the timing of your vehicle’s internal combustion engines. It performs a vital function by ensuring that the crankshaft and the camshaft rotate in synchronisation.
Unfortunately, like other vehicle components, your car’s cambelt will almost certainly need changing at some point. You can often tell when it needs a change, as you will notice your car performing unusually. In this article, we cover the main tell-tale signs that it’s time to get your cambelt replaced.
Sometimes, a cambelt will produce a loud noise when the car is running, this happens most often when the vehicle is first started and the engine is cold. The noise could be a squealing, hissing, grinding, rattling, chirping or rumbling kind of sound. Squealing is common for a loose belt, which can indicate wear and the need for replacement. If the belt is fairly new, yet is still making a noise, the driver should have the tension adjusted, but still have the belt visually checked for unusual wear.
If there is an issue with the cambelt, your vehicle may not start at all. This is because without the belt, the camshaft will not rotate when the crankshaft turns. This can be diagnosed by watching the camshaft while turning the crankshaft. If the camshaft does not turn, the belt is broken.
Another way to check whether your cambelt needs replacing, is to take a look at the belt itself. If it is becoming worn, the belt will appear to look glazed or glossy on the underside. This means the rubber is getting hard and will not provide the flexibility the belt needs. Some signs are much more obvious, such as cracking or fraying. Belts with that kind of damage should be replaced immediately. A further way to check is to press a fingernail or the tip of a screwdriver gently onto the belt. If the pressure does not leave a mark, it means the rubber is becoming too stiff.
As the cambelt can be difficult to get to, a visual and physical check is best done by a professional.
For obvious reasons, it’s recommended to carry out regular maintenance on your vehicle. Your mechanic will often notice wear to the cambelt when taking the car in for servicing. If the mechanic does mention replacing the timing belt, it’s best to follow his advice. Timing belt replacement is a whole lot better than timing belt repair. It is probably not a good idea to try to repair a timing belt unless it is a simple short-term belt to get you home. Replacing the cambelt will save you a lot of trouble and money in the future.
If the Cambelt Breaks
If in fact your belt does break, the type of engine you have will determine how much collateral damage occurs when the cambelt breaks. In interference engines, a belt break could cause severe valve damage and damage to other engine parts. A noninterference, also known as a “free-wheeling” engine, typically doesn’t suffer as much damage. But it will still cost you quite a bit to replace the cambelt once it’s broken and other parts that were damaged when the belt broke.