In a marching band, the drums keep the tempo going for the other performers to follow. Without it, the other instruments would have a hard time starting and keeping up the beat in an orderly fashion. This is similar to the role of a timing belt and the purpose it serves. Your timing belt is that drum in the marching band that helps keep all the other parts running in sync. Thus, it is important to routinely service your vehicle with a timing belt replacement.

This article will give you an inside look at the timing belt’s important role within your vehicle.

How Does a Timing Belt work?

Typically a stock timing belt is comprised of a band of synthetic rubber reinforced with fiber cords and has teeth on the inside surface. When you get your engine going, the belt is responsible for keeping a constant timed motion going to keep the engine running in sync via the crankshaft and camshaft. With those two components in sync, then the valve timing follows. Without proper valve timing you will likely experience rough running conditions, or your engine will not start at all and you will likely be looking at a timing belt replacement. The belt even helps to regulate your water and power steering pumps.

In a four stroke engine there are four phases your engine goes through to operate. During the process, a timing belt will turn the camshaft pulley in union with the crankshaft pulley. A worn belt will allow the two pulleys to run out of sync and ultimately throw off that neat four stroke process you need for a smooth running engine. Thus, it is important to undergo a regular timing belt replacement at the recommended intervals. The timing belt that fails can snap and cause bent rods and valves and even ruin your pistons.

Many who choose to use their vehicles in a racing venue have their timing belts upgraded to a timing set that has been redesigned and created with higher strength components. This includes gears that are made from steel or powdered metal. They tend to be more durable and give you less cam issues later on.

General Specifications of a Stock Timing Belt

  • Quiet when in good condition;
  • Creates less friction than timing chains or gear drive options;
  • Reduces loss of horsepower while improving power and fuel economy;
  • Usually made of synthetic rubber like neoprene;
  • Reinforced with fibers such as Kevlar;
  • The reinforced cord allows the belt to maintain its shape longer and prevents stretching;
  • Timing belt replacement recommended between 100,000 to 120,000 miles;
  • Can be swapped out for timing chains or gear drives depending on the application.

PROs and CONs of Timing Belt Tuning

PROs

  • Double row roller chains are stronger and more durable for hot rod applications;
  • Billet steel gears can handle horsepower output of 600 to 700;
  • Race applications convert to a gear drive which eliminates a belt all together. No belt- no worries about slop or stretch;
  • Pro stock dragsters often go for a high performance drive belt setup;
  • Belt drives are easy to inspect and adjust;
  • Chains and gears have longer lives than belts. In performance applications, belts will need to be changed much more often, sometimes after every race.

CONs

  • Timing chains and gear drives require a sealed timing cover which makes inspection and adjustments more difficult;
  • Gear drives can be noisy in high RPM applications;
  • The cost to convert or design can be high;
  • Conversion requires some modifications that you will need to do (seal plate, oil seals);
  • Upgrades can interfere with other mods because there is less flexibility than with a belt to configure the set up.

Examples of Timing Belt Parts

  1. Gates Racing Timing Belt: Gates racing claims a 300 percent increase in strength when compared to stock timing belts. This belt uses Kevlar and HNBR elastomeric composites which not only make the 300 times stronger, but 300 times more heat resistant. Gates Racing continues to please their customers with their parts that specifically suit high demanding engine applications. Racers look to Gates for the dependability and durability they have come to know from the company.
  2. Lunati 93117-010 Sportsman Race Double Roller Timing Set: Lunati designs their chain sets for heavy street and racing applications. They are created from higher durability materials with the cam gear in cast iron and the sprocket in billet steel. They are pre-stretched and heat treated for long lasting strength and durability. Lunati has been known for their high quality components since the 1960’s. Customers continue to enjoy the craftsmanship and reliability of their products.
  3. JEGS Performance Products Noisier Performance Gear Drive: This item is created from carburized steel and gives you the option of a quieter or noisier configuration. Some people like that noise. Customers like that this will fit a stock or aftermarket cover. They also love the easy install. Also, without the need for a belt, it eliminates belt or chain wear. Customers also take not of JEGS consistent ability to deliver well made and durable parts that they have come to rely on.

Conclusion

A timing belt is an integral part of your vehicle running properly. Thus, it is important to maintain it by following the recommended timing belt replacement intervals. If you are modding or using your vehicle for more demanding applications, look into changing your timing system to help eliminate constant timing belt replacements, gain superb timing, and help eliminate vampiric horsepower draw. Just keep in mind, the more exotic your timing system, the more it will cost you to install. However, it can be the edge you need over your competition.

What suggestions do you have for applying the different cam options? What road blocks did you come across when upgrading or replacing your timing components? Please feel free to leave any helpful comments or experiences below for others looking to their options when they look into timing belt replacement.

Image: wikimedia.org.

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