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The timing belt or distribution chain

timing belt
ER Classics Desktop 2022

The timing belt or distribution chain is the most important part in the engine of your car!

Nowadays this is even more true than before. By digitally cutting costs, VW TSI engine blocks, for example, are already notorious because of the problems with the distribution chain. If that transmission fails, there is a chance that the valves will hit the pistons in an "encounter of the expensive child". With our classics, the pain is usually not due to design errors, but simply to overdue maintenance.

What goes wrong with the timing belt of your car?

If the timing belt - chains usually don't snap, but they stretch, which can have the same timing consequences - engine damage will usually be significant. Think of bent valves or even a hole in one or more pistons plus damage to the head itself. These are then very expensive damage. To avoid this misery, it is therefore better to check the timing belt regularly and in any case never keep it in place after the mileage stated by the manufacturer.


The durability of a timing belt / chain depends on the conditions of use, assembly, maintenance, tension and the correct handling of the timing belt / chain itself. The VW just mentioned used a lifetime strategy for the TSI blocks. But serious problems already occurred from 25D km.

The long-term car brand Glas was the pioneer in the field of the transmission belt. That was at the very beginning of the sixties. And the timing belt was already good at 100D km during tests.

Preventive (mileage indicated by car manufacturer) replacement of timing belt

The timing belt ensures that the camshaft, or the camshafts, is driven by the crankshaft. It is crucial that the timing crankshaft and the camshafts are adjusted to each other. Play due to wear can seriously throw a spanner in the works.

Timing of the timing belt:

Timing of the timing belt / chain is done during assembly. The valves must open and close at the appropriate time depending on the position of the pistons. Adjusting the correct timing requires the use of special tools on the most common cars. The all-important timing can be compromised by poor installation, but also if the toothed belt skips a bit, due to poor belt tension.

There is a tension value of the timing belt for each motor and that value is set by the manufacturer. The correct tension of the distribution is maintained by the tensioner and the idler. There are two types of tensioners. The tension is automatically set correctly with the automatic tensioner. The mechanic must adjust the tension with a mechanically adjustable tensioner.

The timing belt and the tensioning and running roll must always be replaced together. For example, it is possible that the bearing of the rollers is worn out, as a result of which the timing belt becomes extra loaded and can break. A preventive replacement of the timing belt and the associated roles after purchasing a classic is therefore the best investment. Especially when the maintenance history of the car is not 100% watertight.

What and why

If you replace the timing belt because it is broken, it is good to check whether engine damage has been caused. The reason for the break is also important. Both the cause and the consequences of the fracture must be tackled. If you have never replaced the timing belt on a certain type of car before, then it is good to know any typical guidelines for dismantling and assembly. For example, do you know with which tension the timing belt should be adjusted? And take a look at youtube. There are a huge number of videos about how this action should be taken.

A reaction

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  1. There are indeed a lot of videos on YouTube, but the quality of them is very variable. Perhaps a nice idea in the future to add a few links to good YouTube videos with these types of articles?

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