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what is a timing belt, and why do i have to change it?

A timing belt is a toothed belt that connects your engines camshaft and crankshaft so they rotate together.

Basically, the camshafts job is to rotate while opening and closing valves. The intake valves let air and fuel into the engines combustion chamber so it can be burned. The exhaust valves let burned exhaust gasses out ot the combustion chamber and into your exhaust sytem. The crankshaft moves the engines pistons up and down, which will either suck air and fuel in, squeeze the air/fuel mixture so it can be burned, or push exhaust fumes out.

In order for the engine to run right, all the valve and piston movements need to be precisely timed. This is where the timing belt comes in. It wraps around pulleys on the camshaft and crankshaft and keeps them spinning together, in perfect time.

The problem is that belts do not last forever. Over time they will dry-out, crack and eventually break due to fatigue. If this were to happen, the valves and pistons would be out of sync with each other, and the engine will die. Worse yet, some engines are what they call "interference" engines. This means the pistons and valves are in such close proximity that, if the timing belt breaks, they will smash into each other and cause internal engine damage. We will see things like bent valves, cracked heads and even broken pistons. Needless to say these types of repairs can run into the thousands of dollars. (If you ever had this happen to you, you know what I'm talking about). Even if your engine is "non-interference", a broken timing belt will give you no warning, and leave you stranded wherever your car coasts to a stop.

So the question now is when to replace it. The best thing to do (besides call us!) is to look in your owner's manual. Change intervals can range from 60,000 to 105,000 miles. If you bought your car used, and are not sure if it's been done, see if you can dig up any documentation on past services, either from the dealer or past owners. Unfortunately, the timing belt is very hard to inspect. Once it's been on the car for, even a few thousand miles, it's almost impossible to tell how old it is. If you still cannot find out if, (or when), it's been done, the best thing to do is just replace it. Better safe than sorry.

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American Imports Inc.
N96 W14433 County Line Rd.
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