Understanding Automotive Brake Parts and Services

Ticking Noise in Your Engine? Your Timing Belt May Be Failing

Does your car's engine make a ticking noise, either all of the time or when running at a certain RPM? Maybe you've also noticed the engine misfire now and then, and perhaps you've seen some oil leaking from the engine. Though there are a number of problems that can cause these symptoms, the most likely cause is a failing timing belt. Here's a closer look at this part, what happens when it breaks, and what you need to do about it.

What is a timing belt?

The timing belt is a component within your car's engine that's responsible for making sure each cylinder within the engine fires at the proper time. In modern cars, most timing belts are made from rubber but reinforced with strips of nylon that run their length.

Why do timing belts break?

Your timing belt is put under a lot of pressure as the engine operates, so even though it is tough, it may eventually start wearing down. The belt may start fraying at certain points -- or some of the nylon cords may get stretched out, distorting the belt. This alters the speed at which the belt is pulled through the engine, which in turn affects the timing of the cylinders' firing. The ticking you hear is probably the frayed or damaged part of the belt moving past a cylinder, and any misfiring you hear is the result of a mistimed firing.

What should you do about a broken timing belt?

If you believe your timing belt is failing, make an appointment with an auto repair shop in the area. You can drive your car to the shop (assuming the shop is not too far away), but try to avoid driving the car any more than necessary until you have it repaired -- even though it may run. Driving a car with a broken timing belt may cause it to overheat or cause permanent damage to the engine.

How will your mechanic fix this problem?

Timing belt replacement is a common repair that most any auto repair professional should be able to handle. It should not take them more than a couple of hours to remove the old belt and put a new one into place. The average cost of timing belt replacement is $379, though your exact cost will depend on the make and model of your car and the economy in your area.