Bent Valves and Other Common Issues After a Timing Belt Snaps

Ignoring your timing belt can come with a high cost. Timing belts don’t often snap, but when they do, it can cause piston damage, ruined cylinder heads, and engine valve damage.

Probably, when you think of your engine, you picture the valves and pistons, but you don’t think much about what keeps them in good working order. Let’s state it plainly – nothing is more important than the timing belt. It drives the camshaft, which is what keeps the valves synchronized, and the crankshaft, which controls the pistons. Your timing belt tells the pistons when to rise and fall, and the valves when to open and close.

How to tell if your timing belt is bad

Timing belts don’t often give you a lot of warning when they’re about to give way – they might squeak or chirp, or they might just suddenly break. More often, though, damage is due to wear in the timing belt. You can do a visual check – see if there’s any cracking, glazing, missing teeth or oil contamination. Or you can have a mechanic check the belt for you. Most vehicle manufacturers also recommend that you make timing belt replacement a part of your routine maintenance, replacing it every 60,000 miles. Some belts are good for up to 100,000 miles. If you’re in doubt, check your owner’s manual, or ask your dealer or mechanic.

Interference vs. non-interference engines

The level of damage caused by a broken timing belt can depend on the type of engine you have in your car. A non-interference engine provides clearance between the valves and pistons, so if the timing belt breaks, you might end up with bent valves, and you might have to have your cylinder heads rebuilt, but the engine isn’t likely to be destroyed.

With an interference engine, though (and about 70% of the vehicles on the road today have this type of engine), the pistons and the valves move within the cylinder – just not at the same time. The pistons and the valves “own” the cylinder at different times. Here’s the thing, though – the period of time between “ownership” can be less than a second. If the timing is off, be it less than a second, there is nothing to stop the pistons and cylinders from colliding. This throws the rods off, and they start to poke holes in the engine block. Eventually, the engine simply cracks in half, and there’s no way to repair it.

Now you know the disastrous consequences of neglecting your timing belt – engine valve and piston damage, bent valves, cylinder heads that need to be rebuilt or replaced, and possibly even total engine destruction. If you don’t want to see those dollar signs adding up, check your timing belt regularly, and have your mechanic replace it on schedule.


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Recent Timing Belt Replacement reviews

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Chris

22 years of experience
2223 reviews
Chris
22 years of experience
Toyota 4Runner V6-3.4L - Timing Belt - Anaheim, California
Chriss was really great. I appreciated his knowledge of my vehicle. He shared maintenance tips. Oh and he did a really good job with a difficult ask. New timing belt, drive belt, Radiator. Thank you!
Honda Odyssey - Timing Belt - Murrieta, California
We always use Chris for our auto repairs when he is available. He is very reliable and does a good job.

William

34 years of experience
517 reviews
William
34 years of experience
Ford Ranger L4-2.3L - Timing Belt - Phoenix, Arizona
I was scammed out of 2300 dollars by another mobile mechanic who said I needed a new engine. William came out and replaced the timing belt and water pump. He explained everything to me and was honest when asked certain questions. I will use this service again because William is now my mechanic. Great service.
Honda Pilot - Timing Belt - Phoenix, Arizona
Awesome person, friendly and did a great job. Had my timing belt done with the pulleys, water pump and thermostat. Defenitly knowledgeable in his field of work and will be using him again in my future repairs.

James

30 years of experience
873 reviews
James
30 years of experience
Honda Pilot V6-3.5L - Timing Belt - Kissimmee, Florida
This was a great first experience with YourMechanic. James was professional and worked diligently to get the job done. Highly recommend and will be using him again. Thanks!
Chrysler Sebring - Timing Belt - Orlando, Florida
James kept in touch with me the day of the repairs. Hard-working guy! Stay and finished job till late evening. Timing belt, new water pump and valve cover. So far so good! Thank you James!!

Jermaine

24 years of experience
244 reviews
Jermaine
24 years of experience
Lexus GX470 V8-4.7L - Timing Belt - Clarksville, Maryland
Jermaine always does a great job. He has worked on three of my cars, and done efficient and flawless work. He's a great guy too.
Honda Ridgeline - Timing Belt - Rockville, Maryland
I want to thank Jermaine for the quick, professional service on my 06 Honda Ridgeline. Outstanding. I didn't know what to expect, but after he completed the work and was explaining what he inspected afterward, I was very pleased. He was very professional and was able to help diagnose another potential issue. This is the first time I used "yourmechanic.com" and from the estimate I received (both timeframe and money), compared to the auto shops around town, I couldn't believe what could be done outside my home. After this experience, I will be a returning customer.

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