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What is my timing belt interval?

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This is one of the most popular questions fielded by GEM's technical help team

Typically, our members ask our technical service, 'What is a timing belt interval checker, or cambelt interval checker? Can you explain what is meant by a 'timing belt replacement interval?' and, 'What are my timing belt intervals for my car?'

Essentially, the answer is both mileage and time-dependent. While belts wear with use, they are not immune from natural ageing over time.

Therefore, our top five recommendations are:

1. Be wary of over-egging

When consulting your handbook for the official replacement schedule, consider that some car manufacturers publish an over-long replacement interval. Subsequent real-work warranty experience with premature timing belt failures has lead to some companies reducing the replacement interval.

2. Take garage advice

To find out if the timing belt intervals in your handbook are current, consult a trusted workshop and ask if your car manufacturer has altered the original cambelt replacement intervals.

Some carmakers state different timing belt replacement schedules, if the car has been used frequently in urban conditions. Some technicians may recommend a timing belt replacement interval, based on your car's history. Consider that their advice tends to be in your best interest.

3. Whichever comes first

Most carmakers state that the belt should be replaced after the time limit has elapsed, even if the mileage has not been reached. This is because the timing belt degrades over time and is subjected to more wear during stop-start driving, compared to long motorway journeys.

Some cars also employ timing belts that run inside the engine (called 'belt-in-oil') and have their lives reduced by neglected oil changes.

Therefore, an older, low-mileage car is likely to still require a timing belt change.

4. Use quality parts, the correct tools and procedures

Whether doing the work yourself, or paying a garage, never buy cheap parts, or components from a spurious supplier.

Low quality, or badly-fitted components, could result in a wrecked engine.

5. Other components

If a garage recommends that other parts are changed, do not think that they are trying to rip you off. While this feature has mentioned the belt alone, in reality, a kit of parts should be renewed, which includes idler and tensioner bearings.

If driven by the timing belt, consider replacing the water pump, too. Any auxiliary belts should be renewed as well (not forgetting the associated components in this belt drive, such as tensioners, or alternator pulleys).

Even though replacing all of these parts will add to the final cost, should any of them fail, they can break the timing belt, which is very likely to result in serious engine damage.

How often should I check the timing belt?

Timing belts are very difficult to check quickly. As they tend to be difficult to access, the only sure way is to remove the belt and check it closely. By then, you may as well replace it and its associated parts.

For specific advice about your vehicle, GEM members benefit from our free technical service, where we can advise on your specific car's requirements

Keep up to date with GEM Motoring Assist at:

Twitter: @motoringassist

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LinkedIn: @gem-motoring-assist-limited

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