I have a 1999 Toyota Corolla with a 1.3 litre 4EFE non-interference petrol engine. The car has 90,000 miles on the clock, I have owned it for five years and clocked up 30,000 of those miles myself. I do not know if the belt has been changed. I have taken off the timing belt cover, put the car in fifth gear and pushed the car to rotate the belt. I filmed it (poorly!) and have uploaded the footage to YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYIObwa6kxI

What should I be looking for that could indicate an imminent replacement is required? Based on the linked video, would you recommend changing it now, or could I get another six months, 10,000 miles of use out of it (money is tight)?

Many thanks in advance,


2 Answers 2


Realistically there is no accurate visual way to tell. Once in a great while you'll see it start to fray, but that is very infrequent. What usually happens is that the belt will stretch beyond it's hold limit, where it will slip a tooth or two, which causes the timing to be haywire and bad things to happen. There is just no visual way you can account for the stretch without measuring it against another newer belt.

If you do not know when the last time a timing belt was changed and you are beyond the point when the first belt change was due, my suggestions is to always change out the belt. It is the first bit of maintenance I will perform on a new to me car. The second is to do a tune up (if past the time for O2/plug replacement). It is ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry. As I've said before, it is better to pay a little money now for a new belt than to pay a lot more later for a new engine. When they slip/break it happens all of a sudden. There is no way you can avoid damage. There are a few people who get away with it, but those situations are far and few between.


"Bent Valves" by Andrew Fogg - http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndrwfgg/223185737. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bent_Valves.jpg#/media/File:Bent_Valves.jpg

  • In repairing dozens of timing belts in NON-INTERFERENCE engines, I have only seen one that caused any damage; The broken belt 'bunched up' and broke the bottom of the plastic timing cover. Interference engines are another story...
    – Nick G
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 20:59
  • @NickG - The single non-interference (old Chrysler 4-cyl) I changed out the timing belt had lost its teeth at the crank shaft. You'd have never known there was an issue by looking at the belt ... until you got down to the crankshaft, that is. Obviously it wasn't going around when you cranked the engine, but yah. Absolutely no damage to the engine. Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 0:45
  • This is relevant for interference engines. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interference_engine#/media/… Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 17:29
  • @JasonHutchinson - I'm adding that photo to my answer ... very pertinent! Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 22:50
  • Paulster2 and Nick G: many thanks for your answers. I didn't really appreciate that when timing belt 'fails' it has stretched too much, rather than actually fraying or snapping. I will start saving for a replacement now! Don't fancy trying to do this job myself though! Thanks again, Joel
    – Stacker
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 12:08

Other than obvious physical defects such as cracking or fraying, there is no way to visually determine 'how much time' is left before the belt will cause problems.

If I were in the same financial situation with this same vehicle/engine, I'd drive it another 10k. As you've stated, this is a non-interference engine. This means the valves and pistons will not touch and damage each other even if the belt breaks. Worst case scenario is that you're stuck somewhere and will need a tow, not a new engine.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .