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Why is changing a timing belt such an expensive job?

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Updated 9 Oct 2019Rowan Johnstone
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If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to be in this situation, you’ve probably asked yourself this same question while on the way home from your local workshop, right after paying a pretty hefty bill for a timing belt replacement.

Considering a timing belt by itself is relatively inexpensive, you can be forgiven for questioning why replacing one is so expensive.

Replacing a timing belt is a labour intensive job, and this is where the cost comes from.

On most engines, replacing the timing belt first requires the removal of many other parts.

For instance, drive belts, pulleys or hoses that are either blocking access or could get in the way down the track need to be removed at the very start.

Some engines may even require the removal of the thermo fans and radiator.

On some cars, either the entire front end of the vehicle will need to be removed, or the engine will have to lowered from the car in order to access the timing belt.

Once they have access, the mechanic will need to check over multiple parts to ensure they are working fine.

Items such as hydraulic tensions, seals and pulleys will all be inspected and replaced if required.

The timing belt will then be replaced, and camshaft/valve timing will be set.

After all of this, the mechanic will need to re-assemble everything and test it all to ensure your car is running smoothly.

But wait, there’s more!

If your timing belt is being replaced, it is highly recommended that your water pump be replaced along with it, as there is more chance of it failing once the timing belt has reached its replacement interval.

Replacing the water pump is no small feat on its own, so the logical decision is to have it done whilst the engine is already pulled apart for the timing belt replacement.

Many timing belts are sold in kits that include a new water pump.

Additionally, you should make every effort to replace your timing belt as per the manufacturer's recommendations, especially If your car has an interference type engine.

For interference type engines, your timing belt is there to stop your valves and piston’s whacking into each other when they complete a stroke.

If you neglect to change your timing belt and it becomes too worn and snaps, there’s nothing maintaining synchronisation between these two parts and stopping them from smashing together, which can then cause bent valves or damage to either your cylinder head or camshaft.

Trust me when I say, none of those are cheap fixes and can cause the cost of what could have been a straightforward timing belt change to sky rocket!

Relatively speaking, a cost of $800 - $1400 for a routine (every 80,000 to 100,000kms) timing belt change seems pretty reasonable compared to the several thousand dollars it could cost you to fix, or replace, an engine after a timing belt has snapped.

The best part is, you can head over to AutoGuru and get instant quotes for your cars future service intervals, allowing you to easily budget for your cars more expensive services that require the timing belt to be changed.

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Written ByRowan Johnstone

On weekdays Rowan can be found in the AutoGuru office, driving content and growth with the rest of the marketing team.

On weekends you’ll probably find him in the garage with his father restoring a 1958 Ford Star Model Customline or enjoying a cruise through the Gold Coast hinterland on his Suzuki GSX-R600.

Despite his passion for being behind the wheel (or handlebars), Rowan looks forward to the day when he can commute to work in his own driverless car.