Take the 2-minute tour ×
Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for mechanics and DIY enthusiast owners of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I own two cars: a 2003 Acura TL and a 2005 Volvo S60.

I've been told that depending on what car you drive, a failed timing belt can result in immediate engine damage.

I would like to know (not just about my two cars, but in general) how I can know if a failed timing belt can result in immediate engine damage for a particular car.

share|improve this question
    
I was going about 5 or 10 mph when my 99 kia sportage just die on me I put a timing belt on there n everything is good, I guess im one of Da lucky ones –  user3318 Jun 20 '13 at 11:59
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Check with the manufacturer to see if it's an interference engine or not. Even so, that's not an absolute guarantee. Occasionally someone with an interference engine will get lucky and not have the valves and pistons attempt to occupy the same space at the same time. I've also heard anecdotal reports of non-interference engines suffering damage when losing timing belts at high RPM. Not sure what the mechanism of damage would be though. Could be inversion of cause and result... :-)

share|improve this answer
add comment

Short of tearing apart the engine, there's really no way to tell externally. The manufacturer knows, and sometimes it'll be listed in the owner's or service manual. Otherwise, using something like Gates lookup will usually get you the right answer.

FWIW, your Acura almost definitely has an interference design (I believe all or most Hondas do). Not sure about the Volvo.

share|improve this answer
add comment

tl;dr: a broken timing belt always means some sort of damage.

Like Brian says, interference engines are obviously at risk of the most straightforward damage: pistons hitting valves with great energy, causing ma$$ive destruction.

Here is a cautionary video illustrating some of the parts that can be immediately broken, causing a appalling domino effect of damage.

Even if the pistons and valves can't technically occupy the same space, a broken timing belt is effectively a high energy whip slashing around in your engine bay. The easiest way to eyeball what could be damaged by a broken belt is to look at all the components that are dependent on, connected to or adjacent to the belt. Assume that they'll all be hurt and that, in their death throes, they will lash out at other blameless parts purely out of spite.

share|improve this answer
    
I broke the timing belt in my '89 Escort and there was no damage. Man that thing was a pain to replace! –  Jaime Nov 16 '11 at 2:25
    
@Jaime, I guess you could call yourself "lucky." From my point of view, though, the hassle of replacing the timing belt is something that I put under the heading of damage. –  Bob Cross Nov 16 '11 at 12:22
    
I haven't ever seen a timing belt do damage from whipping around after breaking, but when timing chains go, they seriously tear things up under the hood! –  Brian Knoblauch Nov 16 '11 at 12:50
    
@BrianKnoblauch, the third part shown in the video is an example of the damage that can be caused just by kinetic energy. Not as horrifying as the broken bits near the valves, admittedly, but it's a clear example. –  Bob Cross Nov 16 '11 at 17:00
    
Good video. And a +1 for 'purely out of spite' - it seems to feel that way sometimes :-) –  Rory Alsop Nov 17 '11 at 9:21
show 2 more comments

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.