Bad Timing Belt Symptoms [6 Main Symptoms]

Do you hear strange noises from the engine when you start your car? Do you have a high mileage car? If your car’s odometer reading is already high, perhaps it is already manifesting one of the bad timing belt symptoms.

A failing timing belt could cause the problem because some of the symptoms of this problem are:

  1. Strange noises coming from the engine
  2. Oil leak close to the motor
  3. Revs of the engine start acting up
  4. Car engine won’t turn over
  5. Car experiences exhaust problems
  6. Engine misfires or runs roughly

You should not drive your car if its timing belt is going bad. If you drive your car with a failing timing belt, you run the risk of adding more serious damage to your engine. Have a professional mechanic check it before driving again.

Read on to learn more about the symptoms of a bad timing belt, the effects of a bad timing belt on your car, and the importance of fixing this issue before driving your car.

Bad Timing Belt Symptoms

Bad Timing Belt Symptoms

Your car’s timing belt performs an essential function in your car. If it goes bad, you will experience certain signs that should alert you of its condition. Some of the most common symptoms of this issue are below.

The timing belt is hidden under a metal cover to protect it from the elements that can destroy it. So, it’s not easy to visually see that it is going bad. But even if you can’t see it easily, you can sense and feel if something is going wrong with it.

What are the symptoms of a bad timing belt? The following signs are what you will surely notice:

1. Strange Sounds from the Engine

High-pitched Screeching or Whirring Sound

If you hear strange sounds from the engine, you can suspect a bad timing belt. You will initially hear a high-pitched screeching or whirring sound when you start the car, step on the gas, or even when the car is idling. And then you will hear a ticking sound coming from the inside of the engine.

Ticking Sound

When you hear that ticking sound, it means something serious has happened to the timing belt. This belt is connected to the crankshaft and the camshaft by a series of pulleys. If it starts to wear out, it may generate a ticking sound coming from the motor.

2. Oil Leak Close to the Motor

Leak Starts from the Timing Belt’s Cover

An oil leak near the engine or motor indicates a failing timing belt. The leak often starts from the timing belt’s cover. This cover is secured to the engine block by several nuts and bolts. However, these nuts and bolts can get loose over time.

Worn Out Gasket

An oil leak may occur when the gasket sandwiched between the timing cover, and the engine wears out or cracks. If this happens, it can lead to the overheating of the engine. Other damages to the engine can also occur.

3. Engine’s Rev Start Acting Up

Affects RPM Meter of the Car

Another indication of a failing timing belt is when the revs of your engine start to act up. Perhaps there are missing teeth on the timing belt, or it has completely snapped. Whatever the case may be, it will affect the rpm meter of your car.

An engine could start acting up between 2000 and 4000 RPM. It will not normally function because the timing belt could be worn down due to old age or breaking loose. The belt can slip while your car is accelerating.

Replace the Timing Belt Every 6,000 Miles

For this reason, professional auto mechanics usually recommend replacing the timing belt every 60,000 miles. The most they recommend is every 100,000 miles. This depends on how heavy you are using your vehicle.

4. Engine Can’t Turn Over

Not Capable of Igniting the Spark Plugs

If the timing has completely gone bad, it won’t be able to turn the car engine over. It won’t be able to ignite the spark plugs. However, you may hear the starter motor or alternator engage when you turn the ignition key.

Car Cannot Be Driven

And because the timing belt is already bad, it can’t turn the crankshaft and the camshaft, so the engine’s spark plugs and the fuel and air mixture inside the cylinder chambers will not be able to explode. Ultimately, you cannot drive your car.

Insisting on Driving the Car Will Damage the Engine

Typically, the timing belt breaks down entirely while you are driving. Meaning you will cause severe damage to the engine if you know that its timing belt is failing, yet you still insist on driving the car.

Extensive Damage to Cylinder’s Rocker Arms and Others

The engine will stop working when the timing belt completely snaps while driving. It could be sudden or gradual. The damage that this can cause to the cylinder’s rocker arms, valves, and pushrods will be extensive. These are engine parts that are expensive to repair or replace.

5. Exhaust Problems

If you notice that there’s more exhaust smoke coming from your tailpipe, it could be an indication of the timing belt going bad. The engine could be working harder because the timing belt cannot effectively do its work. Since the engine is forced to work harder, more exhaust gasses will come out of the car’s tailpipe.

6. Engine Runs Roughly or Misfires

A worn-out and broken-down timing belt will affect the engine’s timing and cause it to misfire and run roughly. This belt controls the actions of the pistons inside the engine. So, if it is failing, the movements of the piston will be erratic, if they can even move at all.

If you are experiencing engine misfires, you need to have your engine checked by a qualified mechanic. It can be a sign of a bad timing belt or even a more severe engine problem.

How a Timing Belt Works

broken timing belt symptoms

Turns the Crankshaft and Engine’s Camshaft in Sync

The timing belt is vital since it turns the crankshaft and the engine’s camshaft in sync. Meaning it enables every engine cylinder to fire at a precise time.

Inaccurate Timing Causes Engine Not to Run Smoothly

If the timing is not accurate, your engine won’t run smoothly – if it can even run in the first place. When it snaps or breaks, it won’t perform its intended function, so your car will not be able to run as well.

Timing Belt’s Location

The timing belt is located underneath a cover close to the front of the engine. Its cover protects it from oil, grime, dirt, and other contaminants that may degrade it. Usually, this belt is made of a blend of high-strength rubber and nylon to make it durable and last long.

Replace It Over TIme

But considering the stress it is required to endure while the engine is running, you still need to replace it over time. While it is made of strong and durable materials, there is a limit to what this material can withstand.

Dangerous to Drive With a Bad timing Belt

Driving your car with a bad timing belt is dangerous. You are running the risk of more serious damage to your engine. If you insist on driving your car, you will certainly know if a bad timing belt causes it because your car will be forced to stop.

Common Symptoms of a Failing Timing Belt

One of the manifestations of this problem is a strange high-pitched sound like a whirring or screeching noise when you start your car. Then you will hear a ticking sound radiating from inside the engine. They are two of the usual symptoms of a failing timing belt.

Effects of a Bad Timing Belt

Suppose the timing belt breaks while on the road, the engine will stop working. This could cause serious damage to the engine, including:

  • Bent or Broken valves
  • Damaged pistons
  • Destryoed engine block and cylinder head

What Happens When a Timing Belt Snaps

worn out timing belt symptoms

Engine Will Stop Working

One of the immediate consequences, when the timing belt snaps, one of the immediate consequences is that the engine will stop working. The camshaft will stop turning, and some engine valves will be left in open positions.

The heavier crankshaft may continue turning because of inertia. Then, the pistons will continue to move up and down the cylinders. This will cause the pistons to hit the valves left in the open position.

Serious Damage to the Engine

If this happens, serious damage to the engine will result, including:

  • Broken valves,
  • Damaged pistons, and
  • Damaged engine blocks and cylinder heads.

Best Time to Replace Timing Belt

Replace When the Timing Belts Have Reached 60,000 to 100,000 Miles

The manufacturers’ recommended intervals for replacing timing belts have reached 60,000 to 100,000 miles. Honda, in particular, has specified a similar interval, which is equivalent to every 84 months.

Check the Manufacturer’s Recommendation

You can see the manufacturer’s recommendation for your car in its owner’s manual or maintenance guide booklet. Aside from this, you’re advised to replace the timing belt if it has certain damages such as:

  • Cuts or cracks,
  • Soaked in engine oil, or
  • If it is already worn out.

Ask a Mechanic to Check the Belt’s Condition

If you do not follow the recommendation, the timing belt may snap when you don’t expect it. Another good idea is to ask a qualified mechanic to check the condition of your timing belt, if you don’t know its age or if it has already been replaced.

Timing Belt Replacement Cost

On average, replacing a timing belt can run from $200 to $570. The actual cost will depend on your car’s make and model year. Replacing the timing belt may also include replacing other related parts of the car.

Additional Fixes

When you ask a mechanic to inspect your car, they may see other related problems such as tensioner issues, seal or gasket issues, and such. These additional fixes will increase your replacement expenses. If the additional fixes are essential, you need to have them done. Otherwise, stick to the original need to replace the old timing belt.

Conclusion: Bad Timing Belt Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of a failing timing belt are the following:

  • Strange noises from the engine
  • Oil leak near the motor
  • When you rev the engine, it acts up
  • The engine cannot turn over
  • Exhaust problems
  • Eengine runs roughly or misfires

You’re advised not to drive your car if its timing belt is bad. If you insist on driving it with this problem, you risk more serious damage to your car. It is best to have your car’s timing belt checked by a qualified mechanic before driving it again.