The importance of a cam belt and timing chain check

Previously we’ve covered how important it is to check your tyres and check your brake fluids. Assuming you drive a petrol or diesel-powered car, however, the cam belt or timing chain is just as an important check to make.

Some motorists, however, may not be aware of what they look like or why they are so important to begin with.

Here’s our guide to cam belts and timing chains, why they are important and how to check and replace them.

What is a cam belt?

Both cam belts and timing chains serve the same purpose. They are designed to keep the moving parts of the car’s engine synchronised which is a necessity for it to function properly.

The cam belt, also known as a timing belt, is different to a timing chain in that it is traditionally made from rubber. The cam belt also usually features teeth on the inside surface which allows it to keep a firm grip on all necessary components.

Compared to timing chains, the cam belt is lighter, cheaper and runs quieter on an engine.

What is a timing chain?

A timing chain looks very similar to the kind of roller chain found on a bicycle and works in a similar manner as well.

These sorts of chains are also commonly found in motorcycles and other machines like conveyers and printing presses.

While a timing chain is heavier, more expensive and louder to use in a car or van engine, they are also more durable.

Why it’s important to check

The most important thing to remember is that both cam belts and timing chains usually degrade over time from the stresses of keeping an engine working.

Although they could potentially last as long as the engine’s life cycle, it is always possible that they can break sooner under too much stress.

The rate of wear a belt or chain endures over time can vary according to driving style as well as environmental conditions.

Happily replacing a cam belt or chain is in itself an inexpensive thing to do. If a cam belt or chain were to fail while the engine is running, however, it can cost motorists up to £5,000 to fix the damage according to organisation such as the RAC.

Another important thing is that while a change to the cam belt or timing chain is a routine maintenance item, with time and mileage parameters, it doesn’t usually form part of a scheduled service. That makes it more important for a car owner to inspect this component themselves.

Checking and replacing a cam belt or chain

To inspect your car’s cam belt or chain then you should be able to find it as part of the engine block under the bonnet while it is idle. You might want to use a torch if you do have any trouble finding it or you are inspecting it during night time.

If your car is using a cam belt then look for any signs of cracking which can emerge when the component is being worn out. If the cam belt is covered in any oil or grease then it’s highly recommended you get it changed as this could lead it to come loose and break the engine.

If the top of the cam belt appears shiny or stretched then these can also be taken as signs that it is damaged and should be changed.

Similarly when inspecting a timing chain for your car’s engine, check that it does not appear loose or rusted or in any other way damaged.

If there is an excessive amount of noise being noticeably made by your car’s engine then this could be directly caused by a loose engine belt or chain. Additionally an engine warning light could appear on the dashboard of your car to warn you of such an issue.

When you know you should replace your cam belt or timing chain, then contact a trusted service garage, preferably run by a franchise dealership like Perrys for example.

If you are unaware of your car’s cam belt/chain history then it’s a good idea to contact your local retailer who will be able to advise on the correct change interval.