Timing belts are used in any number of mechanical devices, but you most often think of this type of toothed belt in connection with your car or truck, where it serves to drive the camshaft.
The original timing belts were made of rubber over various sorts of natural textiles. Today, though, they’re more likely to be created from flexible polymer laid over a reinforcing fabric. The newer belts are more durable, but they can still fail.
What happens when a belt fails?
A timing belt problem can happen in a couple of ways – it can develop gradually, or it can occur suddenly and with potentially catastrophic results. As time goes on, the chances of either type of failure will increase exponentially.
You should never ignore timing belt wear, and one of the most common types of wear is a destruction of the teeth. The teeth ensure that the belt doesn’t slip. Timing belt teeth can take a bit of damage, but eventually if they deteriorate too much, there will be slippage. The belt will continue to work, but the timing will be off. When this happens, you should replace the timing belt. It’s not likely that the belt will break, but constant slippage could damage other components in the engine compartment.
If your belt is showing significant wear, or has several teeth missing in succession, don’t delay. Have it replaced.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Why Timing Belts Have Teeth and How They Work and was authored by Valerie Johnston.