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What Happens When Your Car's Timing Belt Breaks?

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Perrya is a major car enthusiast and loves sharing his extensive vehicular knowledge with his readers.

Will a Broken Timing Belt Destroy My Engine?

It depends. Some cars, like Subaru, have non-interference engines, which means that if the timing belt breaks while you are driving, there is no damage to the internal parts of the engine. Other cars do not have this sort of engine and damage results.

According to most mechanics, all the damage that will occur does so at the moment of the timing belt breaking. Trying to start it again will not create further damage.

The timing belt is critical for all the internal parts to be in sync. If the timing is off, you will surely know it by how the engine runs.

Most timing belts need to changed between 80-100K. The cost to do it varies, but always expect several hundred. The parts themselves are maybe $50, but doing it yourself is possible only if you know what you are doing; it only takes one bad move.

When It Happened to Me

When the timing belt breaks, it can be a harrowing event, depending ofn when it occurs and what is around. When my timing belt broke while on the highway at 60 mph, it was just an instant loss of power but no warnings, no noise, no warning lights on the dash. This was in a 2006 VW TDI.

I lost it going uphill and I was in the middle lane; I tried to not to panic as I glided to the far right, nearly having two accidents because of other drivers. Once pulled over, I found I was in a precarious spot and my rear was still protruding out into the road. It was drivers in other cars racing up that made me evacuate the car fearing a rear ender. There was a near miss when a van swerved and fought to regain control. Having the emergency light flashers on did not seem to improve the situation.

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My guess was that a fuel pump was out, which is why it wouldn't start and why I lost power—so I thought. Fuel pumps also go out with no warning or noise!

That was not the end of it. Even though I had AAA premium towing, it took them one hour to get there (seven miles from San Francisco). Upon arrival, the driver told us that he could only take two of the four passengers! This was because of seat belts and liability. Well, how about telling us 60 minutes ago so arrangements could be made? I mean, after all, our home was 70 miles away! I might have as well been in the middle of nowhere.

In my case, the $40 belt part broke, left me stranded, caused a chain reaction of issues, and will cost me at minimum $2000 for damage like bent valves. If the damage is more serious, we are talking about a rebuilt engine: around $3400 minus labor.

The worst part for everyone is that there is absolutely no warning, no sound. The only guide is your mileage since the last time it was changed. Some belts actually can go to 110K, others fail at 25K.Go figure.

They say there is a first time for everything. This is my first time ever. I hope it is my last.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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