Symptoms Of A Bad Timing Belt And Replacement Cost

Do you suspect that your c ar has a bad timing belt? Worry not, here are the main symptoms of a bad timing belt and what the replacement cost is.

The timing belt is one of the most crucial parts of the engine. If your timing belt goes bad, you risk expensive repairs in the thousand-dollar range, but luckily, the risk can be minimized.

If your timing belt is getting bad you may notice some timing belt symptoms which include:

  • Ticking noise from the engine
  • Engine misfiring
  • Excessive smoke from the exhaust
  • Engine not turning over
  • Piston and/or valve damage

These symptoms vary in terms of how serious they are. However, no matter what symptom you notice, you should change the timing belt as soon as possible to protect your engine from further damage.

Let’s get started with the essentials!

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What Is A Timing Belt?

timing belt vs. timing chain

Before we go into the symptoms and the timing belt replacement cost, let’s go through what a timing belt is.

Not every internal combustion engine car has a timing belt, some have timing chains instead. The greatest difference is in the material, as the timing belt is made of durable rubber while a timing chain is made of metal.

They both have the same function and work by the same principle. They connect to the crankshaft and camshaft, enabling them to be synchronous, making the engine run smoothly.

In short, the timing belt makes sure the intake and exhaust valves open when the pistons in the cylinder are in their lower position, and vice versa.

By doing so, the engine may produce power efficiently and also makes sure that the valves and pistons don’t collide and cause critical engine damage.

For more details about the whole process that makes your car move, take a look at our article explaining how a car engine works.  

The timing belt is also connected to the water pump, which means that it will not only affect the pistons and the valves, but also the cooling of the engine.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Timing Belt?

car timing belt

As previously noted, many symptoms may occur when a timing belt goes bad. However, it should be noted that timing belts and chains should be changed in regular intervals specified by the car manufacturer.

This is important as there is a great risk that the timing belt will abruptly break causing damage which can end up in a very expensive repair bill.

Generally, modern vehicles have timing belts last up to 100 000 miles. It is also recommended to change the water pump when changing the timing belt as it is very time-consuming to access the compartment.

If you still have not hit the threshold for changing the timing belt, but experience any of the following symptoms, you should get it checked out as soon as possible.

Ticking Noise From The Engine

woman on phone opens car hood to look at engine

A ticking noise from the engine may be a sign that the timing belt is getting worse and is due to a replacement.

The ticking could also be due to low oil pressure or an inadequate amount of oil in the lubrication system.

Therefore, if you notice a ticking noise from the engine, make sure that all the car fluids are filled up and that there is no oil leakage.

Engine Misfiring

car engine with hoses

As the timing belt plays a pivotal role in the synchronization of the power-producing process in the engine, it is logical that a bad timing belt may cause a desynchronized process, causing misfires.

This symptom may also be caused by many factors, nevertheless, it is important to diagnose the problem as soon as possible to prevent extensive engine damage.

Excessive Smoke From The Exhaust

white smoke coming out of exhaust pipe

During winter, it is normal to notice vapor exiting from the exhaust. However, if you notice an abnormal amount of smoke coming out of the exhaust, it may be a sign of a bad timing belt.

This may happen as the exhaust valves open and close in a disorganized fashion, leading to abnormal exhaust gases.

Engine Not Turning Over

man inserting key in car ignition lock

If you try to start the car but only hear a clicking sound, chances are that your timing belt is broken. The clicking sound is from the starter, but as the timing belt does not work, the engine can’t turn over.

There may be other reasons for why your car does not start, if the odometer shows a mileage that is below the regular service interval for a timing belt, the culprit is probably something else.

Piston And/Or Valve Damage

engine rod knocking, engine rod repair cost

An extremely serious sign is damage to the pistons or valves. If this occurs it is too late to do anything except for repairing the components which unfortunately cost a lot.

If the timing belt is faulty, the piston may hit the closed valves in full force, damaging both the valves and pistons.

These things can occur while you are driving, which may be a very scary and dangerous situation. It is therefore extremely important to follow the service intervals and change the timing belt when it is due.

This problem will cost several thousand dollars, excluding the timing belt replacement. It is also very possible that the whole engine must be scrapped.

Replacement Cost

bad timing belt

In ideal cases, a replacement is done before any symptoms occur. The interval for changing the timing belt is specified by your car’s manufacturer and should be strictly followed.

When it comes to the timing belt replacement cost, the greatest expense is the labor cost as many parts must be disassembled to reach the timing belt.

This is also the reason why it is recommended to replace the water pump, tensioners, and pulleys when changing the timing belt as it would be inconvenient to pay similar labor for a water pump 2 months later.

In terms of parts, on average, a timing belt will cost you between $30 to $50, but as with all car parts, it depends on the car model you drive.

As previously stated, it is wise to also change the water pump, tensioner, and other components, which will bump up the repair cost, but it is more budget-friendly in the long run.

There are timing belt kits that are available to buy which include pulleys, seals tensioners, water pump, and all other components that are recommended to be changed with a timing belt replacement.

These kits vary by price but are usually cheaper than buying each part individually. Expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $500 for a timing belt kit.

The work is very labor-intensive, and unless you are extremely comfortable with cars and have the tools available, you should not do this by yourself.

Because of the extensive work, the labor cost is on average $300 to $500, again, this is why you should replace other components in the same area as you “save” the potential labor cost.

To summarize, the cost of replacing the timing belt will set you back $500 to $1000 but may be even less (or more) depending on the car model and if you decide to change other components (which you should!).


auto timing belt

The timing belt should always be changed before symptoms occur by adhering to the service interval determined by your car manufacturer.

The timing belt may fail before the expected interval. In that case, it is important to recognize the symptoms and fix the problem as soon as possible.

Symptoms that may occur when the timing belts turn bad include engine misfiring, ticking noise from the engine compartment, and excessive smoke from the exhaust.

Instead of timing belts, some cars have timing chains, which work on the same principle but usually last longer.

A broken timing belt can have extremely serious consequences that may result in a repair bill of several thousands of dollars. It is extremely important to change the timing belt on time.

The timing belt cost in itself is not very expensive, but it is very labor-intensive, making the labor cost very high. Other compartments should also be replaced which brings a total of $500 to $1000.

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Bajro Muric

Bajro is a big car enthusiast with a love for writing and teaching. He writes about anything regarding cars - from common problems and fixes to racing.