Steps for Changing a Timing Belt

One of the most difficult and costly mechanical repairs on a car may be the timing belt or timing chain. The model and year of your car are going to determine which you have. Either one handles the same process inside your engine. The timing belt, as the name implies, controls the timing of the valves and pistons in your engine. These instructions will walk you through this process if you decide to change the timing belt yourself. Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need before you get started. You’ll need basics like sockets, drain pans, wrenches, and screwdrivers on top of the new timing belt. In addition, you’ll need some specialty tools. Your local auto parts store should have these tools in stock. What you’ll need is a harmonic balancer puller, gear puller, and a timing light.



Disconnect the Battery Cable

Disconnect the negative battery cable. Remember you’ll need to reset any radio stations or clocks once your repair is completed.


Remove the Distributor Cap

If your vehicle is equipped with a distributor cap, remove it at this point. If you don’t have this piece then you likely have a cam position sensor. You’ll need to find top dead center with this kind of sensor. This is a something you’ll need to consult your user’s manual on, since it can vary from model to model.
*a) Using either a wrench or a socket on the crankshaft bolt, rotate the engine until the timing mark found on the crankshaft pulley is lined up with the zero degree mark found on the timing scale.
*b) Make sure the rotor on the distributor is lined up with the index mark on the housing. This shows that the rotor is in position to fire the number one cylinder.


Remove Parts

Remove any parts that block your path to the timing belt or chain. Since engine setup varies by model, this will need to be verified in your user’s manual.


Access Timing Belt

There will be a cover protecting the timing belt. Using a socket or wrench, remove the bolts holding this in place.


Loosen the Tensioner and Bolts

*Loosen the timing belt or chain tensioner. This may require a special tool depending on the location of your timing belt, but most use a tensioner, which can be adjusted with regular sockets and wrenches.
*Next, loosen the mounting bolts, but don’t remove them completely.
*Pivot the tensioner away from the belt, and then tighten the mounting bolts again to hold the tensioner in place loosely.


Remove Parts Again

The belt or chain should just slip off the gears now. Old belts may stick to the gears and need to be pried off with a screwdriver.


Install the New Timing Belt

Install the new belt. There should be a diagram for the pulley’s either on the radiator cover or in the user’s manual.


Adjust Tension

In this step, you’re going to loosen the mounting bolts and let the tensioner touch the belt again. Refer to your user’s manual for the proper method for adjusting the tension for your specific vehicle. Once it is adjusted, turn the crankshaft with a wrench twice, and return to the zero position. This will properly seat the belt on the gears. When you’re done verify all of the timing marks.


Reinstall Covers

Reinstall the covers and tighten down with the bolts. Do not over tighten the bolts.


Replace Components

Replace anything that you had to remove to get to the timing belt. Make sure everything is properly tightened. Once you have everything back together, start the car and verify proper operation.

Following these steps to change a timing belt will get you back on the road with the least amount of cost. You may want to look into buying a repair manual or user’s manual if you’ve lost yours. It can be full of helpful hints and tips on how to make this repair even simpler. This is good to have on hand even if you don’t need it for this repair. It can give you a lot of maintenance and troubleshooting tips as well.