Bad Timing Belt Symptoms

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Bad timing belt symptoms include engine misfire, loss of power, poor fuel efficiency, and difficulty in starting the engine. It’s important to have a complete understanding of how the engine timing belt works.

The timing belt plays a crucial role in providing a synchronized rotation motion from the engine crankshaft to the camshaft. Due to this, the opening and closing of the engine valve and piston movement are synchronized. They are synchronized in a manner that they do not collide with each other. 

If the engine timing belt fails to deliver synchronized motion, then there will be certain clear symptoms. A bad timing belt can result from serious engine-related problems to total engine failure. 

An early replacement of a bad timing belt will help reduce damage and save a lot in repairs. 

bad timing belt symptoms
bad timing belt symptoms

Bad Timing Belt Symptoms

There are 8 different bad timing belt symptoms that you can notice before it’s too late.

1. Bad timing belt results in engine misfire

As timing belts make it possible to have fuel inside the combustion chamber at the right time. So a bad timing belt will result in an engine misfire. 

Engine misfire is when the engine power stroke goes without combustion of fuel. This happens when there is no fuel to burn in the combustion chamber.

2. The car will lose power due to the engine timing belt going bad

The timing belt makes sure that fuel is delivered before the power stroke. A bad timing belt can cause either delayed or premature delivery of fuel. 

This will cause the engine to lose power, as complete burning of fuel is not happening during a power stroke.

3. A bad timing belt makes it difficult to start the engine

Due to the very same reason, the timing belt resulted in engine misfire and loss of power. The timing belt will make it difficult to start the engine. 

Delayed or premature delivery of fuel will make it difficult for the engine to develop enough power to make the engine run.

4. The car engine will stall if it loses synchronization

If problems with the timing belt cause a complete loss of synchronization. Then it can cause the engine to stall. It will be impossible for the engine to start again without solving the problem or replacing the timing belt.

5. Engine with bad timing belt will give poor fuel efficiency

As out of synchronization the timing belt will not deliver on time. This will cause incomplete burning of fuel. If somehow the engine still runs, it will deliver poor fuel efficiency. 

6. The engine will produce an unusual ticking noise

A bad timing belt will cause the engine to lose synchronization and so the timing to piston movement and exhaust stroke. When gasses produced due to combustion get compressed in the engine during exhaust, they produce a ticking noise.

7. A bad timing belt will cause vibrations

If the timing belt has a crack or a lot of wear and tear. Then it will or can cause vibration in the engine area. A timing belt rotates continuously with the rpm of the engine. Any misalignment caused by wear or tear will cause vibrations. 

8. The car infotainment system will show a check engine light

All problems of a bad timing belt are associated with the engine. So when something is wrong with the timing belt, the check engine light will come on. 

This can also cause engine overheating to come on as exhaust gasses remain a bit longer in the engine. Engines also have to work more to produce the required power.  

Causes of bad timing belt

Like bad timing belt symptoms, 6 factors cause a bad timing belt.

1. The timing belt has passed its useful life

A timing belt cannot work forever. They have a defined useful like and it varies from make and model. A timing belt can last for about 60 K to 100 K miles. After that, you need to replace them for good.

2. The timing belt is either too tight or too loose

Tension in the timing belt is very important for its proper working. There is a timing belt tensioner to maintain tension in the timing belt. This will make the timing belt go bad. 

If tension is too high then the timing belt will be stretched and will experience extra stress. 

If the belt is too loose then it will slip thus disturbing the synchronization process.

3. Oil contamination can cause the timing belt to go bad

The timing belt does not need any oil to operate properly. Any oil on the belt teeth can cause it to slip or worse material contamination. This can reduce belt life and make it go bad quickly.

4. The high operating temperature can affect the timing belt life

Timing belt material can very easily be affected by temperature. A very high temperature can make belt material soft thus making it difficult for the belt to operate properly.

5. There was a manufacturing defect in the timing belt

A defect hidden inside the timing belt due to a defect in the manufacturing process can cause the belt to go bad pretty quickly. 

6. A failed water pump will put an extra load on the timing belt

A timing belt like a serpentine belt is responsible for driving the other parts like the engine water pump. If the pump has a jam bearing or other failure. Then it will put an extra load on the timing belt, causing it to fail or go bad early.

Checking Bad Timing belt

To make sure that it’s the timing belt that has gone bad. Remove the timing belt cover and inspect the timing belt. If it shows any of the following 3 signs then it’s the timing belt that has gone bad. 

1. The timing belt has visible signs of wear and tear

Visually inspect the timing belt, you may notice visible signs of wear, fraying, or cracking. Not all engines allow for easy visual inspection. So you might need to work a bit here.

2. The timing belt has broken teeth

If you observe that the engine timing belt has a broken tooth, then it’s a clear sign that you need to change the belt

3. The timing belt has jumped a teeth

The timing belt and its related pulleys have teeth and signs marked on them. The sign on the belt and the sign on the pulley need not be aligned during installation. 

If you observe that your timing belt has jumped then it is the timing belt that is causing engine problems. Need to replace the belt or make it correct. 


How long can you drive with a bad timing belt

You cannot drive for long with a bad timing belt. As timing belt ensure synchronize motion between piston and engine valve, so a bad timing belt cannot ensure proper engine working. So you cannot drive for long with a bad timing belt.

Is serpentine belt the same as timing belt

No, serpentine belt is not same as timing belt. Serpentine belt gets its power from engine crankshaft and drive alternator and AC compressor whereas timing belt take controlled motion form engine crankshaft and transfer it to engine camshaft.

How do you know if the timing belt is broken

Your car engine will not start. This is the biggest sign to know that the timing belt is broken. If engine was running them it will stop as soon as the timing belt broke. Timing belt ensure that engine get air for combustion in its combustion chamber at the right time. With broken timing belt, no air will enter engine and there will be no combustion.

How to know when your timing belt is bad

Engine misfire with poor fuel efficiency, low engine performance, and difficulty in starting engine, these are the sign that let you know when your timing belt is bad.

Last Words

A bad timing belt symptoms can be a ticking noise, engine stall, and check engine light. You need to check and may need to replace the belt before total engine failure.

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