If your timing belt breaks, you're probably wondering why. However, across different platforms, many drivers attributed timing belt breaks to low oil. And this has been a debate among car owners on these platforms. Low oil does not cause the timing belt to break; to others, the reverse is the case. This begs the question, can low oil cause timing belt to break?
Can low oil cause timing belt to break?
Low engine oil can cause the timing belt to break, but not directly. See what happens. The timing belt works together with the camshaft tensioner. Basically, the camshaft tensioner helps hold the timing belt in place. This tensioner in many engines is driven by engine oil pressure. So if your engine oil is low, which invariably results in low oil pressure, the camshaft won't get enough oil to operate.
Since the camshaft is starved of oil, it will begin to seize. This invariably stresses the timing belt, causing it to operate in ways it was never designed to work and pushing the timing belt to break. A camshaft tensioner starved of engine oil will also cause the timing belt to lose and probably disengage or break from the pulley.
However, if your camshaft tensioner is not oil-driven like the D and B Honda series that is spring loaded, then low oil is not the reason of your timing belt breaks. These motors with spring-loaded tensioners really do not need oil to lubricate them. So low oil can't affect the timing belt on such cars.
Symptoms of worn timing belt
A worn-out timing belt will cause your engine to behave in specific ways. So, here are some of the tell-tale signs your timing belt is failing.
Rough running engine or engine misfires
Faulty or loose timing belt times will slip. This slippage causes the cylinder to open and close earlier than it should. With this timing off, your engine will run roughly (that's if it even runs), and in other cases results in engine misfires.
Ticking or clicking engine noise
Your car's timing belt is connected to several pulleys in your engine crankshaft and camshaft. When your timing belts start failing, they won't hold on to these pulleys well enough, creating a ticking and clicking noise in the engine.
However, a faulty timing belt does not always cause a ticking or clicking noise. It could also stem from low oil, in this case you should use oil additive to stop engine knocking. But if all fluids seem to be at the right level, a possible cause of a ticking or clicking noise in the engine will be the timing belt.
Your car won't start
When you turn your key, the camshaft and crankshaft engage the starter motor, which aids in starting your car. But because the timing belt is responsible for operating the crankshaft and camshaft, your car won't start if this belt is bad.
You will hear a clicking sound when you turn the key, but the engine won't ignite. The clicking noise emerges from the starter motor. So technically, a broken or worn-out timing belt won't allow you to drive your car. But remember, a bad timing belt is not the only reason your car won't start. Thus, make a proper inspection, so you don't spend money on what's not.
Excessive exhaust smoke
A faulty timing belt will cause your engine to work harder than it should. This excess work done by the engine will eject more smoke from your exhaust pipe than it should.
However, while a bad timing belt can cause excessive exhaust smoke, it could also stem from other faulty components. So ensure you make a proper diagnosis before changing the timing belt as it is pretty expensive.
Oil leaks around the engine
Your timing belt has some nuts and bolts securing it. If, however, these nuts and bolts loose, it will let the engine oil seep into the belt, which causes the deterioration of the rubber in the belt over time.
The best option will be to fix the belts together with whatever is causing oil to seep into the belt. Aside from loose bolts and nuts, the gasket between the engine block and timing cover, when broken, can cause oil leaks around the engine.
Can a loose tensioner cause an oil leak?
Yes! The timing belt tensioner, also called the camshaft tensioner, ensures the timing or serpentine belt stays in place. It does this with the aid of a spring or oil stored in the strut of the tensioner assembly, depending on your car. If the tensioner loses, the assembly will also lose, causing the oil stored in the strut to leak out.
Does oil affect timing belt?
Yes, only indirectly. The timing belt is held in place with the help of a camshaft tensioner. For vehicles whose tensioner is driven by hydraulic pressure, if the tensioner does not get enough oil to lubricate, it will dwindle in its responsibility. Hence, it causes the belt to break.
In the same vein, if the camshaft tensioner experiences an oil leak, the oil can enter the teeth of the belt, causing it to slip. If this happens for long, the timing belt may snap.
Can low oil cause timing problems?
Low oil can cause timing problems. Generally, the tensioner is either spring-driven or oil driven. Low oil pressure will not cause timing issues if your tensioner runs on springs. However, if an oil-driven tensioner lacks oil to operate, it will cause the timing belt to lose and eventually slip.
A slipping belt will eventually intercept your cylinder's appropriate time to open and close. This timing issue will later result in engine misfires or engine running rough.
What causes a timing belt to break?
A failing timing belt tensioner will cause the timing belt to break. Others include misalignment, excess load, under-tensioned belts, weak drive structure, and damaged pulleys. Age and dirt build-up in the timing pulley or drive can cause timing belt breaks.
Will a broken timing belt destroy my engine?
Yes! Your timing belt can destroy your engine if it snaps. Usually, when the belt breaks, it results in many engine malfunctions that are left like that for long and could damage the engine leading to costly repairs. So when you notice those symptoms listed above, try inspecting and fixing the time on time.
But the thing is, timing belts may break without showing any sign. This is why it is recommended to change the timing belt when due–usually, after 60-100k miles. Or better still, follow the interval recommended by your manufacturer.
If you're wondering, can low oil cause timing belt to break? This article has answered it. A recap? Yes, low oil can lead to low pressure in the tensioner, invariably causing the belt to break. Look out for those symptoms listed above and fix the issues before it damages your engine. Alternatively, replace your timing belt when due because the timing belt can break without alerting you.
Timing belt replacement could from $500 to $2000 plus, depending on your vehicle and whether it had broken or not. Some car manufacturers recommend changing the timing belt every 60 to 100k miles. Alternatively, follow your manufacturer's recommended intervals.