How to check if your timing belt needs changing

Car repair bills are never easy to accept but as your car gets older it’s inevitable over time, hence why many of us save for those rainy days. Many repairs however can be avoided through good maintenance and frequent checks. One of the most costly repairs which can usually be avoided by checking for warning signs is the damage done when your timing belt (also known as tooth belt) snaps. If you’re unlucky you could be looking at anywhere from £1,000 upwards in costs for repairs as it may damage other integral parts of your car. This brief guide will help you to try and avoid it happening by telling you what to check.

VW service


Keep to your service schedule

Ensure that you always have regular services as indicated in your car manufacturer’s handbook. Your garage will inform you should your timing belt need replacing as part of the service interval. You can usually expect this to be every 40k-60k or after 3-4 years. If you remember to keep your car serviced then it’s highly unlikely your timing belt will break on you.

Locate your timing belt

You’ll usually find your timing belt within the engine compartment of the car. Always try and check your manufacturers handbook to locate it precisely. You’ll be looking for a relatively thin (2-5cm wide) belt. Try not to mistake it for the fan belt which is usually close to the front of the car.

Check for telltale signs that your tooth belt (timing belt) is worn

Once you’ve located the belt, then see if you notice any obvious signs that there is wear. If there is any cracking of the material it would be recommended to get a garage to inspect it thoroughly – they can tell you if there are any issues. You may see signs of fraying or pieces of the belt missing. You may even notice that when the car is under load or in wet weather traction is weaker than normal. If you can see the underside of the belt, then check that the belt edges are not excessively worn or the surface appears shiny, these can make the belt slip as it doesn’t have enough grip. Another obvious sign that the timing belt needs replacement is that the belt is misaligned and not running true or looks too slack, not creating enough tension. If you suspect anything is odd you’re best to get your car checked out.

Still not sure or can’t find your timing belt to check?

Don’t worry if you can’t check the tooth belt yourself as sometimes manufacturers can hide it underneath a cover for protection. The best option if you suspect the belt is worn is to take your vehicle to your local garage and get it checked out. This will put your mind at rest and save your wallet by catching the problem before it costs you even more to fix.

Should you be in the Bath/Bristol region and need your car’s timing belt checked or suspect any other faults with the car, MCM Garage would be happy to help and asses the vehicle. We also specialise in fleet car servicing too if that is of interest. Book an appointment today – fill out our contact form.