Cambelt replacement and its relevance to your mobility

There are some service items on modern cars that, if ignored, can factor in unwarranted huge costs, when they break, highlights motoring journalist Iain Robertson, who recalls a regretful cambelt breakage on one of his former cars.

No matter how lovingly you maintain and look after your motor vehicle, some mechanical items can just fail. When they do, they can incur significant additional repair costs, because the breakage can have a damaging effect on other components.

Also known as a ‘timing belt’, the cambelt is one of the most crucial and hard-working service items fitted to your vehicle’s engine. In fact, it is a regulator. Its toothed and toughened rubber belt construction synchronises the rotation of both the crankshaft and camshaft (of which there may be more than one) in the motor. The camshaft controls the timed opening and closing of the valves that allow the engine to breathe properly.

Sadly, like many rubber-based products, the cambelt can perish, crack, tear, strip its teeth and even snap. In the process, it can cause major engine damage. Most vehicle and engine manufacturers recommend that the cambelt be changed regularly. You will find the recommendation details within the Driver’s Handbook for your car but the term can range between 40,000 and 100,000 miles, or every four to ten years, dependent on make, model and usage.

An up-to-date service book should record when cambelt changes have been made on older vehicles but the skilled technicians at Mr Clutch Autocentres will also question whether a replacement is due, or not. While it may be possible to tell that a cambelt has reached the end of its life, as a rattling, or ‘slapping’, noise may be heard, even some experts cannot tell when a cambelt failure is imminent and there may be no difference in the way the car drives.

Personal experience highlighted the issues to me, when I bought a sporty hot hatchback a few years ago. It had been maintained immaculately but, only two months into my ownership of the car, the cambelt snapped on its twin-cam, 16-valve engine. The final damage tally amounted to several hundred Pounds, most of which was labour costs, and included replacement valves, water pump, pistons and antifreeze. I was forced to rent a car, while it was repaired, which took ten days in total. My mistake was not asking the previous owner of the four years old car when the cambelt had been changed.

Mr Clutch Autocentres offers a Fixed Price Cambelt Schedule to its customers (mrclutch.com/cambelts), which is based on engine size and number of camshafts, that is designed to help you avoid the big bills associated with cambelt failure. Prices start from £179.95 (inc. belt, tensioner and associated parts, labour and VAT), although a new water pump, seizure of which will cause the failure, and coolant will be at extra cost. Using only the highest quality replacement parts, Mr Clutch Autocentres also provides a one year, or 12,000 miles, warranty on all cambelt and kit replacements.

Most of us are unaware of precisely how often the cambelt should be changed on our cars and what the implications might be of failure. As a result, Mr Clutch Autocentres urges its customers to ‘Think Smart – Cut Unnecessary Costs!’ , as prevention is invariably better than cure. For more information on cambelts, visit ‘mrclutch.com/cambelts’, or call your local branch (mrclutch.com/branches).