Timingbelt, or cam belt, is a part of an internal combustion engine that controls the timing of the engine's Valves. Some engines, such as the flat-4 Volkswagen air-cooled engine, and the straight-6 Toyota F engine use timing Gears. First seen in the 1954 Devin, which won the SCCA National Championship in 1956 , timingbelts replaced the older style timing chains that were common until the 1970s and 1980s . Some manufacturers, such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are known for using timing chains because of their durability. The term timingbelt is sometimes used for the more general case of any flat belt with integral teeth, although such usage is a misnomer since there is no timing or synchronization involved.
In the internal combustion engine application the timing belt or chain connects the crankshaft to the camshaft, which in turn controls the opening and closing of the engine's valves. A four-stroke engine requires that the valves open and close once every other revolution of the crankshaft. The timing belt or chain does this. It has teeth to turn the camshaft synchronised with the crankshaft, and is specifically designed for a particular engine. In some engine designs the timing belt may also be used to drive other engine components such as the water pump and oil pump.
Gear or chain systems are also used to connect the crankshaft to the camshaft at the correct timing. However, gears and shafts constrain the relative location of the crankshaft and camshafts. Even where the crankshaft and camshaft(s) are very close together, as in pushrod engines, most engine designers use a short chain drive rather than a direct gear drive. This is because gear drives suffer from frequent torque reversal as the cam profiles kick back against the drive from the crank, leading to excessive noise and wear. Fibre gears, with more resilience, are preferred to steel gears where direct drive has to be used. Even though the official purpose of fiber or nylon gears may be to deal with kickback, a fiber or nylon cam gear is cheaper to produce. Steel gears almost never fail. The cam lobes wear out long before the gears do. Most large truck and industrial diesel engines have steel gears, and they go 300,000 to 500,000 miles without gears failing. In fact, usually the only time a direct-gear cam drive setup will fail is when the cam gear is nylon or fiber.A belt or chain allows much more flexibility in the relative locations of the crankshaft and camshafts. While chains and gears may be more durable, rubber composite belts are quieter in their operation , are less expensive and more efficient, by dint of being lighter, when compared with a gear or chain system. Also, timing belts do not require lubrication, which is essential with a timing chain or gears. A timing belt is a specific application of a synchronous belt used to transmit rotational power synchronously.
Timingbelts are typically covered by metal or polymer timing belt covers which require removal for inspection or replacement. Engine manufacturers recommend replacement at specific intervals.The manufacturer may also recommend the replacement of other parts, such as the water pump, when the timing belt is replaced because the additional cost to replace the water pump is negligible compared to the cost of accessing the timing belt. In an interference engine, or one whose valves extend into the path of the piston, failure of the timing belt invariably results in costly and, in some cases, irreparable engine damage, as some valves will be held open when they should not be and thus will be struck by the pistons.Indicators that the timing chain may need to be replaced include a rattling noise from the front of the engine.
When an automotive timing belt is replaced, care must be taken to ensure that the valve and piston movements are correctly synchronized. Failure to synchronize correctly can lead to problems with valve timing, and this in turn, in extremes, can cause collision between valves and pistons in interference engines. This is not a problem unique to timing belts since the same issue exists with all other cam or crank timing methods such as gears or chains.
Timing belts must be replaced at the manufacturer's recommended distance and/or time periods. Failure to replace the belt can result in complete breakdown or catastrophic engine failure, especially in interference engines.The owner's manual maintenance schedule is the source of timing belt replacement intervals, typically every 100,000 to 150,000 kilometres.It is common to replace the timing belt tensioner at the same time as the belt is replaced.
The usual failure modes of timing belts are either stripped teeth or delamination and unraveling of the fiber cores. Breakage of the belt, because of the nature of the high tensile fibers, is uncommon.Correct belt tension is critical - too loose and the belt will whip, too tight and it will whine and put excess strain on the bearings of the cogs. In either case belt life will be drastically shortened. Aside from the belt itself, also common is a failure of the tensioner, and/or the various gear and idler bearings, causing the belt to derail.
Construction and design
A timing belt is typically rubber with high-tensile fibres running the length of the belt as tension members.Rubber degrades with higher temperatures, and with contact with motor oil. Thus the life expectancy of a timing belt is lowered in hot or leaky engines. Newer or more expensive belts are made of temperature resistant materials such as highly saturated nitrile (HSN).The life of the reinforcing cords is also greatly affected by water and antifreeze. This means that special precautions must be taken for off road applications to allow water to drain away or be sealed from contact with the belt.
Older belts have trapezoid shaped teeth leading to high rates of tooth wear. Newer manufacturing techniques allow for curved teeth that are quieter and last longer.Aftermarket timing belts may be used to alter engine performance. OEM timing belts may stretch at high rpm, retarding the cam and therefore the ignition.Stronger, aftermarket belts, will not stretch and the timing is preserved.In terms of engine design, shortening the width of the timing belt reduce weight and friction.