What is a cambelt and why does it need replacing?

A cambelt, often also referred to as a timing belt, is the most important part of all internal combustion engines. While some manufacturers have switched to metal timing chains, most cars still use a ribbed rubber cambelt. It is placed in a specific configuration on one side of the engine to keep the pistons and crankcase in sync with the valves and cylinder head. It is yet another essential part that performs vital functions to keep you, your family and other road users safe.

Although cambelts are made from very tough rubber, they don’t last forever and need replacing at some point in time. While various car manufacturers state different schedules for cambelt replacement, the general consensus is 60,000 miles or 5 years, whichever is first. For added peace of mind, consult your owner’s manual to find out your recommended schedule.

What happens when a cambelt goes?

Prolonged use means wear and tear that often leads to a cambelt snapping and an expensive engine repair. A broken cambelt can cause bent valves and serious damage to the cylinder head, pistons or camshaft. In other words, if the cambelt fails, the valves and pistons in your car will crash into one another more than a hundred times per minute. This can cause irreversible engine damage leaving you stranded and footing a hefty bill. That’s the last thing you need when fetching the kids from school or spending a weekend away.

It is always best to get it checked annually for any signs of damage. Replacing a cambelt before it snaps is relatively straightforward, especially for the experienced technicians at Elite Garages, and also more cost effective than an engine repair.

What are the signs of a faulty cambelt?

As we’ve uncovered, it is without a doubt much safer and more cost effective to replace a cambelt before it slips or snaps. If you suspect that something is wrong with your cambelt and it’s close to the recommended replacement schedule, watch out for these signs:

  • Metal shavings in the oil is a common sign of extensive wear on the cylinder head valves
  • If you notice engine oil and coolant leaks, your cambelt could be at risk.
  • A misaligned cambelt can cause vibration and excessive heat as the internal components of the tensioner have failed. This can also affect overall performance.
  • Cracks along the belt mean it is being worn out and should be replaced rather sooner than later.
  • A cambelt with a shiny underside means that it is stiff and inflexible
  • When you notice missing teeth on the belt, it’s time to look at fitting a new one


How much does it cost to replace a cambelt?

While a cambelt in itself is not a very expensive part, replacing it is not an easy task. The job can take several hours and involves taking apart the engine block and putting it back together. For that reason, the biggest portion of the bill is labour. It is difficult to give an exact amount but on average, it could cost anywhere from £300 to over £1,000 depending on the car you drive and where you get it done.

Even though we mentioned a few warning signs, it’s often impossible to detect anything prior to cambelt failure. And unlike brakes, shocks, clutch or other replacement parts, you not even notice a difference in how your car drives. We recommend checking your cambelt regularly and look out for any of the potential issues we covered earlier. The golden rule is to get your car serviced regularly and to check the cambelt at the same time.

If your car is displaying any of the warning signs, it’s likely due for a replacement. Before it’s too late and you are left with extensive engine damage, contact your nearest Elite branch to discuss your cambelt. Our friendly, expert technicians will get the job done in the most cost-effective and convenient way.

With 13 branches offering exceptional customer service, expert and professional workmanship, trust Elite Garages to offer dealership quality at competitive prices you’d come to expect from a family run business. We service all major makes and models using only matching quality parts according to the vehicle manufacturers.  

Remember the Elite Price Promise – “If you find a genuine printed cheaper price for the same product which is in stock we will meet or beat this price at the time of purchase.”