What Happens If My Car’s Timing Belt Breaks?

One of the most recurring questions is what would happen to our car if the timing belt broke while we were driving it. A breakdown of that nature provokes severe damage to the whole engine, meaning a repair bill that can be prohibitive.

What happens if the timing belt breaks?

When the timing belt breaks, there is no longer synchronisation between the cylinder head and the crankshaft. The engine pistons continue to generate movement, while the cylinder head has stopped, as it is not receiving any movement from the belt. Eventually, the inevitable happens: the pistons end up colliding with the valves (located in the cylinder head) which are stuck in the wrong position.

Once the belt breaks, the level of damage is a game of chance.Most commonly, the pistons will pull the valves out of the cylinder head and the engine will have to be restored. In more extreme cases, the pistons may even end up broken, so that it would not be worth repairing a vehicle that has suffered this type of mishap. For this reason, good maintenance of vehicles with a distribution system that works with this technology is key to prevent this kind of accident.

Would it be the same if a timing chain broke?

Yes, it would. Apart from some technical differences, which would depend on the manufacturar, the breakdown of a car’s timing chain would have very similar effects.

However, timing chain failures are not so common, as they are designed to last. They occur mainly in odd cases of models with an endemic failure. Most of the time, it only happens to cars which have been poorly maintained or have been droven abruptly. A vehicle equipped with a timing chain normally never has to visit a workshop for a timing chain replacement.

Despite all this, you must not let your guard down. Learn how to maintain your timing chain and don’t risk a timing chain failure. Taking proper care of it is the key to avoiding breakage. If you want to learn more about this topic, you can take a look at these other articles on maintenance.