The timing belt is what controls the camshafts in your engine, opening and closing your valves at exactly the right time for optimal operation and performance. The timing belt has teeth that turn the camshaft in coordination with the crankshaft.
Some vehicles use a timing chain or timing gears, which are usually more durable. However, timing belts, because they are made of a rubber compound, are quieter and more efficient. Another advantage of belts over chains is they don’t need lubrication to work.
On many engines, if the timing belt fails, your valves will be held open when they shouldn’t be and they will be struck by the pistons, causing major engine damage to your vehicle. Therefore, you want to prevent such a failure at all costs.
It is a standard practice to get a new water pump, when you’re having the timing belt replaced, because water pumps have a similar life span, and they’re easy to get to while the timing belt is off. When is it time to change your timing belt? Most timing belts are rated for between 60,000 and 90,000 miles. The belt is very difficult to check so you ought to plan on replacing your timing belt on a schedule. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for details.