If your cambelt fails, you could face a hefty repair cost. Here’s when and how you get it changed.
What is a cambelt?
The cambelt is a rubber belt that controls the timing of your vehicle’s internal combustion engines.
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.
What does it do?
It regulates the way your engine works.
It performs a vital function by ensuring that the crankshaft and the camshaft rotate in synchronisation. If it cracks, tears or snaps, it can cause a whole heap of expensive engine damage. With older cars, this usually means they won’t be worth repairing.
How often should you change it?
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ rule when it comes to how frequently a cambelt should be changed, as a lot depends on the car.
Most manufacturers suggest either a time- or mileage-based change, depending on which comes first. There’s a lot of variation between both manufacturers and engines when it comes to when a change is due. This could range from 40,000 miles up to 100,000 miles, and from four years up to ten years. The vehicle handbook will specify the change frequency, and let you know if a cambelt change is due when your car’s next serviced.
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. 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.
How much does a cambelt change cost?
The bill for changing a cambelt can vary from around £200 to over £1,000 depending on the make of car and who does the work.
It’s also one of those jobs where, while the part itself may not be hugely expensive, it’s often the labour that can bump up the bill. Replacing it can take several hours’ work, which involves taking apart the engine block and putting it back together.
Any early-warning signs?
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.
(2) Starting Issues
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.
(3) Visual Check
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 that the belt needs.
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.