The timing belt is a component of the internal combustion engine whose job is to make the camshaft rotate at precisely ½ of the speed of the crankshaft rotation while sustaining a correct alignment. Meaning, the crankshaft has to make two revolutions for every camshaft revolution. Automotive timing belts have limited service span but they are preferred by some car manufacturers over those durable chains because they are less costly to make and they are not that noisy. Depending on your vehicle, the recommended replacement intervals of timing belts are after very 60,000 to 105,000 miles.
Usually, a timing belt is made from rubber having high-tensile fibers. The rubber material, however, degrades when subjected to high temperatures and upon contact with antifreeze and motor oil. So in leaky or hot engines, the life span of timing belts is shorter. There are newer but more expensive belts in the automotive market if you don't want rubber timing belts. These belts are composed of materials that are more resistant to temperature such as HSN or highly-saturated nitrile. The teeth of older timing belts are trapezoid-shaped but there are new techniques that yield belts with curved teeth. Belts with curved teeth are usually quieter and they last longer.
There are typically two types of engine that employ timing belts — the Interference Engines and the Non-interference Engines. The difference between these two types of engine depends on the pistons and valves. If the timing belt on an Interference Engine skids for even one notch, the piston can possibly crash into an open valve and this can lead to serious engine damage. Non-interference engines, on the other hand, will not self-destruct but in case the belt is damaged, its engine will shut down immediately and will leave you stranded.
The downside of using timing belts is that they become defective without warning. In other vehicles, timing belts are very hard to check so your sole protection is to replace the timing belts at their recommended replacement intervals. However, replacing the timing belt isn't an inexpensive job. There are technicians that will recommend changing of your automobile's timing belt along with your water pump replacement.
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