Timing is everything! The internal parts of an engine are kept just millimetres apart while rotating at very high speeds. The synchronisation of these parts is controlled by a timing belt, called a cambelt or a timing chain. If your car has a timing chain it might last the lifetime of your engine. If your car has a cambelt it will need to be changed at regular intervals and this varies depending on the make and model of your car. Oil or water leaks that find their way onto the cambelt will also result in it needing to be changed which is one good reason to have your car serviced regularly.
Cambelt failure usually causes the pistons to collide with the valves that let fuel and air into and exhaust gases out of the engine. At the very least, the valves may be bent and the engine's cylinder head will have to be removed to replace them.
The pistons could be damaged as could the cylinder head(s) and the camshaft could even be broken too. A damaged cylinder head requires specialist machining to 'skim' it, basically meaning the surface is made smooth again so it makes a tight seal against the engine block. Everything then needs to be refitted with new gaskets, oils and fluids. It is a very labour intensive process and a severely damaged engine could easily be beyond economical repair on an older car. The bolts that hold down the cylinder head(s) are stretch bolts (they stretch when tightened to maintain the correct torque setting on the head) and can not be reused.
When you come to us for a car service we will let you know if your car is due a cambelt change. The costs of parts are not usually very high but there is often quite a lot of parts that need to be removed to gain access to fit them. Depending on the car a cambelt change can be quite labour intensive. It is recommended that cars with a water pump driven by the cambelt should have that replaced too when a cambelt is changed.
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When you book your car in for a service we will check to see if your cambelt is due for renewal for you. Please contact us if you would like a quote to replace your cambelt.