Some people know everything there is to know about timing belts, some people have a vague understanding of what a timing belt is, and others are hearing that term for the first time.
This post is for the two out of those three people, because it's a question we get asked every now and then, and this is a good place to explain our answer.
What is a Timing Belt?
Without delving too far into the mechanical engineering of all this, the timing belt is the device that insures the moving internal components of your engine -- most crucially the pistons and valves -- are all moving in concert and are all in the right places when the spark plug flashes and the gas goes boom. It connects the crank shaft and the cam shaft in a way that is mechanically identical to a bicycle chain. In fact, older vehicles used timing chains instead of belts.
What Happens If It Breaks?
Ah, well, this is a mildly tricky question, because there are two potential outcomes: (1) the engine won't run (but is repairable), or (2) the engine is destroyed.
Whether you get No. 1 or No. 2 depends on whether your engine design is a "close tolerance" engine or not. If it is, a broken timing belt will cause the pistons and the valves to smash into each other, likely destroying both and turning your engine into a giant paperweight. If it isn't, a broken timing belt will cause the engine to simply not run. Your trusty Honda of Clear Lake technician will be able to tell you which kind of motor your vehicle has, but this is information you very much need to have if your car has more than about 50,000 miles on it.
So What Do I Do?
Check the maintenance schedule for your vehicle, and have your timing belt changed at the recommended intervals. These are usually between 50,000 and 90,000 miles, but your owner's manual will have the exact recommendation.
We don't mean to scare you with this. Most vehicles will meet their demise some other way before they ever throw a timing belt, but with cars lasting longer and longer these days, it's a good idea to have that timing belt serviced before something devastating happens.
And if you're due, come see us at Honda of Clear Lake. We'll get your vehicle in and fixed and get you back on your way in no time, at a fair price.