As you may know, an internal combustion engine harnesses the power of an explosion when electricity, fuel and air come together in a small chamber. This forces a piston downward to turn a shaft, which ultimately transmits power to the road wheels. While this is where all the energy is generated, nothing would happen without a carefully orchestrated sequence of events that are timed to the split-second and controlled by one crucial component — the timing belt. You may not be familiar with this part, but you do need to make sure that it is in good condition if you are to avert disaster. Why is it so important?
How an Engine Works
Each engine has four or more pistons moving up and down in succession to provide constant motion. The explosion that triggers this movement can only happen if the right volume of air and fuel is introduced to the combustion chamber on time. Furthermore, after the explosion has finished the remnant gases need to be evacuated from the chamber towards the exhaust pipe.
To enable all of this to happen, valves open and close on call and this action is in turn controlled by the camshaft. Unlike the crankshaft, which is at the bottom of the engine and produces the driving power, the camshaft sits at the top and is basically the conductor of the orchestra.
Timing Belt in Action
You may wonder how all this action can take place in such a regimented fashion and it's due to the timing belt, which runs between the camshaft and the crankshaft. It is very carefully adjusted to make sure that the upper shaft (with its concentric cams) pushes and pulls the valves at just the right moment.
As you can see, the timing belt is the most important component of all, as nothing would work without it. Because it has such a big job to perform it is made from very sturdy materials, typically a mix of wear-resistant fabric and high tensile cord. It also needs to deal with heat and oil as it will encounter these whenever the engine is running under pressure.
Change Is Necessary
However, the timing belt is not meant to last forever, and it will eventually need to be changed. You will certainly want to do this before it gives out altogether, as if it does snap then this will lead to mayhem within the engine and a catastrophic failure. In short, it will be much easier to replace the belt before you get near to that point, rather than deal with a full engine rebuild.
Having a Look
If you open the bonnet and have a look at the front of the engine, you will be able to see the timing belt. If you can see any evidence of wear, excessive oil or a buildup of rubber deposits, then you need to take action. Take the vehicle into a mechanic for car repairs as soon as possible.