How Engine Timing Works

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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.


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Pardeep

20 years of experience
652 reviews
Pardeep
20 years of experience
Ford Fusion - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Fremont, California
Again 5 star service. And already scheduling him for my next appointment. Highly recommend Pardeep for your car needs.
Chevrolet Camaro - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Jose, California
Great knowledgeable mechanic and fast great work. I will use Pardeep and your services again. Thank you

Theodore

15 years of experience
1137 reviews
Theodore
15 years of experience
Toyota Camry - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Everett, Washington
Theodore arrived on time, he did a great job replacing my brakes on my Camry, I will definitely work with him again.
Subaru Outback - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Renton, Washington
We have had previous work done by Theodore. Really appreciate his thoroughness and professionalism!

Matthew

32 years of experience
734 reviews
Matthew
32 years of experience
Jeep Wrangler - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Yorktown, Virginia
We've been using Your Mechanic services for a few years, for a few reasons. The convenience of having an expert mechanic "on-call," the great pricing and transparency for services (saving 10% - 25% at times), most of all Matt is our go-to guy who is highly qualified, knowledgeable in the work and knows how to explain it to us in detail.
Ford F-150 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Newport News, Virginia
Matt's technical knowledge of his profession is incredible! He is prompt, thorough, friendly, professional, engaging, and completes the job to 100% perfection! Thank you, Matt for the most outstanding auto repair service in all my many years!!!

Jason

31 years of experience
162 reviews
Jason
31 years of experience
Nissan Altima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Mateo, California
Jason was very professional and friendly. He provided extremely honest and helpful advice on issues with my Altima that would require proactive future maintenance.

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