Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. How Engine Timing Works

How Engine Timing Works

engine timing

Your car engine consists of a number of rapidly moving parts, including a crankshaft, camshaft, pistons, engine valves, rods and pulleys. As the piston moves up and down, the valves move correspondingly, in and out. The crankshaft spins, and the connecting rods pull and push. All of this has to work in perfect harmony.

Different types of timing

There are two kinds of timing, cam timing and ignition timing. The cam timing regulates the valves and pistons, and the whole process is controlled by the timing chain or belt. If the timing is off, damage can occur. In some engines, called “interference engines,” the consequences can be especially bad. With this type of engine, the engine valves and pistons actually occupy the same space in the cylinder, but at different times. Since the intervals between the time when the piston owns the space, and the time when the valve owns the space is far less than a second, you can probably imagine the consequences if the timing is off. You could end up having to have your engine rebuilt, or even replaced.

If your cam timing is off, chances are you’ll know because your car will not be running well, if it’s running at all. Your ignition timing, on the other hand, can be harder to identify, but it’s easy to adjust. Ignition timing has to do with the four cycles of your car’s engine. The four cycles are:

  • Air gets sucked in by means of the intake valve, while the injectors deliver fuel.
  • The fuel mixture is compressed.
  • The spark plug combusts the fuel mixture, pushing the piston down.
  • The exhaust valve opens to let out the burnt fuel gases (the exhaust).

The most important thing is that the spark happens on time. If it doesn’t, you can end up with choppy idle, no power, or an engine that just won’t work.

You should never ignore engine timing problems, since if the timing is off, serious engine problems can be the result. If your car displays any of the symptoms of bad motor timing, consult a professional mechanic.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

The Traveler’s Guide to Driving in Malaysia
CraigBurrows / Shutterstock.com Malaysia is a popular destination for many tourists today. The country has amazing sights and attractions that you will want to explore....
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in New Mexico
The state of New Mexico offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch...
P2159 OBD-II Trouble Code: Vehicle Speed Sensor B Range/Performance
Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC): P2159 P2159 code definition Vehicle Speed Sensor B Range/Performance...

Related questions

Q: Q: High idling

This may be a sign of a failing idle air control valve. The idle air control valve is located on or near your intake manifold and monitors the air intake as it is mixed with fuel prior to being injected...

Q: Can my car drive 350 miles with this issue?

There are several possibilities for the issues you've described, but I would look more towards a belt being the issue. It could be the belt, belt tensioner, air conditioning compressor, the alternator, or one of the other belt driven accessories....

Q: Overheating and struggling to start

Hello. If your engine is overheating and you are having trouble starting it then you more than likely have a failing head gasket. When it fails the engine will overheat and it will also allow coolant to enter the combustion...