Serpentine Belt vs Timing Belt | 12 Points Explained

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Serpentine belt vs timing belt explain their differences like their working, what components they drive, their design and expected life. Both are same when it come to their location, how they get power, and their materials. Both these belts are an important part of a car and its engine. 

It will not be possible for the engine and as well as for the car to operate properly if any of these belts fail. So this article will comprehensively cover all the differences between serpentine belts and timing belts. 

serpentine belt vs timing belt
serpentine belt vs timing belt

Serpentine Belt vs Timing Belt

Following is a comprehensive 12-point comparison of serpentine belt vs timing belt. 

1. Serpentine belt transfer power whereas timing belt transfer synchronize motion

The serpentine belt is used to drive different car components like alternators, power steering pumps, and air conditioning compressors. All these components drive power from the car engine through a belt drive.

The timing belt synchronizes the rotation motion between the camshaft and crankshaft. This synchronization motion enables the opening and closing of engine inlet and outlet valves at the correct time w.r.t piston movement.

drive belt vs timing belt
drive belt vs timing belt

2. Serpentine belt and timing belt both are at the side of the engine

Serpenting belt and timing belt both are present at the side of the engine. This is due ot the fact that both belts get their power from the crankshaft of the engine. timing belt tranfer that motion to the camshaft and serpentine belt transfer it to alternator and AC compressore.

3. Serpentine belt snake around pulleys whereas timing belt cover crank and camshaft

The serpentine belt snakes around different pulleys. It connects components like the alternator, power steering pump, air conditioning compressor, and sometimes the water pump.

The timing belt is positioned between the engine crankshaft and camshaft. It runs through an idler pulley and a tensioner.

timing belt vs serpentine belt
timing belt vs serpentine belt

Serpentine belt is also called drive belt. So all points of serpentine vs timing belt are also valid for drive belt vs timing belt.

4. The serpentine belt has V groves whereas the timing belt has teeth on it

The serpentine belt has V-type multiple groves and it connects multiple pulleys. Multiple V-type groves ensure that the belt does not slip under high load conditions.

The timing belt has specifically designed teeth that have to be of exact numbers as per the synchronization. This design is the same as the teeth made on the crankshaft and camshaft.

5. Both the Serpentine belt and timing belt are made from rubber

The serpentine belt is made from rubber material that is reinforced using fiber materials. The timing belt is also made from rubber but it is used as a specific high tensile strength fiber material called highly saturated nitrile.

serpentine belt and timing belt
serpentine belt and timing belt

6. The serpentine belt needs periodic inspection whereas the timing belt needs replacement

The V-shaped groves of the serpentine belt are designed to slide into the groves of their pulleys as the belt material wears. The belt continues to work until the groves are small enough to lose grip. So it needs inspection.

Serpentine belt vs timing belt also explains how these belts work to make the car and its engine work perfectly.

7. Both Serpentine and timing belts need tensioners and pulleys

A serpentine belt needs a belt tensioner and an idler pulley to keep pressure off its driver and driven pulley. This pressure is needed to avoid slipping.

Timing belts also need a tensioner and an idler pulley to increase the number of teeth engaged with the camshaft and crankshaft. This increase in the number of teeth ensures that the timing belt never loses synchronization.

8. A failed serpentine belt cuts power whereas a failed timing belt fails the engine

A serpentine belt is responsible for transferring power from the engine to different car components. So if the serpentine belt fails then the power to the alternator, power steering pump, and AC compressor will be cut off.

The timing belt is responsible for synchronizing the motion of engine valves and piston movement. So timing belt failure will be catastrophic for the engine. The piston can hit engine value and this can damage the engine permanently. 

is the serpentine belt the same as the timing belt
is the serpentine belt the same as the timing belt

9. The serpentine belt is in all vehicles whereas timing belt can be replaced by the timing chain

The Serpentine belt has been perfectly designed for its work. So it is found in every, old and new model of cars, trucks and jeeps. 

Timing belts have an alternative called a timing chain. For all high power and where the jerk load is very high, use a timing chain instead of a timing belt. The belt is made of rubber that can show elongation. The chain is made from metal and does not elongate like rubber.

Timing belt is also called cam belt or tim belt. Serpentine belt vs timing belt makes it easy to understand how each belt can affect the working of different car and engine components.

10. The serpentine belt is cheap whereas the timing belt is expensive

Serpentine belts are much cheaper and cost around $100 to $150 for each belt. It depends a lot on the engine make and model and from where you buy the belt.

Timing belts are much more expensive and can cost anything from $250 to $350. This is because you need a specific belt that has a specific length, teeth type, and teeth number. It should fit perfectly with your engine crankshaft and camshaft. 

11. Serpentine belt is easier to replace whereas timing belt needs proper knowledge

Due to its simpler working and design, a serpentine belt only needs skills about how to access, remove, and replace the belt.

As timing belts deliver synchronization, proper skills and knowledge are needed on how to access, remove, and replace the timing belt and keep the synchronization between engine components.

12. The serpentine belt can be done DIY whereas a timing belt is recommended against it.

As it only powers different car components. So the serpentine belt can be changed by DIY. As for the timing belt, it is only recommended if you have complete knowledge of how to keep engine synchronization. 

Some Important Questions about Timing belt and Serpentine Belt

Is a serpentine belt the same as a timing belt

No, serpentine belt is not same as timing belt. as mentioned there are some differences like their working, output, design and importance. Based on this it can be said that serpentine belt and timing belt are not same.

How do you know when timing belt is bad

Low engine performance, poor fuel efficiency, engine misfire, and difficulity starting engine are some of the signs that let you know when timing belt is bad.

Can you drive without a serpentine belt

Yes, if your serpentine belt came off or borke during driving, then you can drive without serpentine belt. Without serpentine belt you will not have any AC and battery recharging. It is not recommended to drive with broken, bad or missing serpentine belt.

Last Words

Serpentine belt vs timing belt. A 12-point difference between a serpentine belt and a timing belt has been explained. 

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