A cambelt, also called a timing belt, regulates your engine's timing. It controls combustion and can cause very expensive damage when it fails. A timing belt replacement will usually cost around £350 in the UK, but labour rates and the car you drive can increase/decrease this. You should book a cambelt change every 40,000 - 100,000 miles or 4-6 years or as per the manufacturer recommendations in your vehicle handbook.  

Every vehicle has a cambelt, also known as the timing belt, or a timing chain. Your car wouldn't run without it, but it is buried deep within the engine, so many of us don't know much about it.

Whilst it may be out of sight, you should definitely keep it in mind - a timing belt replacement could be costly. Not only that, but a cambelt failure could put you in danger, by doing serious damage to the rest of your engine. You can significantly reduce the risk of this happening by following your manufacturer’s replacement guidelines, so there are things you can do to prevent this from becoming a concern.

Read on to learn how you can stay safe and save yourself from incurring unexpected costs.

By the end of this article, you will understand:

  • What a cambelt/timing belt & timing chain are (including how you can tell the difference)
  • What the cambelt does
  • The average UK timing belt replacement cost
  • The recommended mileage to change your timing belt
  • How to tell when you're due a timing belt replacement

 

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What is a Cambelt/Timing Belt?

The cambelt is a rubber belt with teeth, with nylon-reinforced cords to provide extra strength. It sits in the front of your engine bay and synchronises the movement between the camshaft and crankshaft.

toothy rubber belt with various tensioners on white background  

 

The timing belt assembly contains several parts. These are:

  • The belt itself
  • Tensioners and pulleys
  • Drive belts
  • Seals
  • A water pump

Over time, the cambelt stretches and becomes less efficient. Unfortunately, this means that as a cambelt becomes less effective, and the material it is made from begins to dry out, it can actually snap violently.

As you can imagine, this can spell disaster for your engine if this happens whilst driving. Best to look after your cambelt to avoid any unnecessary stress. 

 

What is a Timing Chain?

A timing chain is similar to a cambelt, except for the fact it is made from metal. A timing chain looks like a linked bicycle chain and requires lubricant to work. The teeth grab onto the different wheels and gears to power your engine. Hydraulic tensioners keep it taut, using your engine oil pressure to do so.

Your timing chain can have one, two or three chain links. The more links it has, the more teeth and gears it has as well.

Whilst it requires less maintenance than a cambelt and is less likely to snap at the end of its life, you still need to be vigilant about certain things. If your oil pressure falls too low, the tensioners will fail and the chain will become slack.

Just like the cambelt, a slack timing chain can cause serious engine problems that could be costly to repair. Stay safe by monitoring your oil pressure, and keep engine issues at bay.

 

close up image of timing chain, linked metal chain attached to car engine  

 

Does My Car Have a Cambelt or Timing Chain?

Many popular UK models feature a timing chain instead of a timing belt. These include:

  • Audi A3 & A4
  • All BMWs since 1993
  • Citroen C1, C3 & DS3
  • Dacia Sandero
  • Ford Fiesta & Focus
  • Honda Jazz & Civic
  • Hyundai i10, i20 & i30
  • Kia Rio, Picanto & Ce'ed
  • Mazda 2, 3 & MX-5
  • All Mercedes
  • All MINIs
  • Nissan Qashqai, Note & Juke
  • Renault Twingo, Clio & Megane
  • Toyota Aygo, Yaris & Prius
  • Vauxhall Corsa, Astra & Zafira

 

HonestJohn has a much more comprehensive list, where you can find out which engines use a timing chain. However, there are easier ways to check this for yourself. You can check your vehicle handbook, and it may tell you whether or not your vehicle uses a cambelt or a timing chain. If not, then you can follow this simple test instead.

Open the bonnet and inspect your engine. If you can see a plastic cover on the right- or left-hand side of your engine, then this means that your car uses a timing belt. If there is no plastic on the side, your car uses a timing chain.

If you’ve checked and you still don’t know for sure, then getting a professional opinion is a great idea. You can book in for a cambelt check with one of our UK garages, for added peace of mind about the quality of your cambelt.

 

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What does a Cambelt Do?

The cambelt regulates the combustion process by synchronising your crankshaft and camshaft which, in turn, open and close the cylinder valves. These influence the timing and power of your engine.

This is incredibly important, as without the cambelt, the engine can’t run.

The cambelt influences the timing and power of your engine and helps to ensure that everything happens in the correct sequence. The cambelt is responsible for such actions as letting fuel and air into the cylinder valves and keeping the pistons moving up and down at the right time.

When this timing goes out of sync, you run the risk of incurring thousands of pounds in engine damages. Cambelt failure could lead to the need for new valves, pistons, and other highly expensive engine parts, as these components smash together at more than a hundred times a minute when things go wrong.

To avoid irreversible damage, it is definitely worth taking good care of your cambelt.

 

How Much Does a Timing Belt Replacement Cost?

The average UK timing belt replacement cost is £350. However, the price can range between £200 and £1,200! Two reasons affect your timing belt cost:

  • The garage you choose. Labour rates vary across the UK and, as this repair takes 3-6 hours, expensive labour costs will significantly increase the price.
  • The make and model of vehicle. A timing belt replacement costs more for a Mercedes or Jaguar than a Ford, VW or Vauxhall.

The actual parts don't cost that much. A timing belt kit costs around £100 and includes everything you need to change the belt. However, you should not attempt the repair unless you're an experienced mechanic. The cambelt is so important that a botched repair could ruin your car altogether.

The best thing to do is find an expert garage near you to look after your cambelt.

 

Protect Your Cambelt With Regular Maintenance

The best way to protect your cambelt is through frequent servicing. While it can be difficult to perform a visual check on a cambelt (since it's so well hidden in the engine), a BookMyGarage service includes a check of the timing belt intervals. If yours is due a change soon, the BookMyGarage team is happy to advice you on what you can do next.

You should know that having the cambelt checked is not a requirement during an MOT, but mechanics may notice a fault as part of the inspection. That’s why it is important to book an annual cambelt check, so that a professional mechanic can ensure your timing belt is healthy and functioning correctly.

You can book a cambelt check on its own, or alongside your regular MOT or service if this is more convenient for you.

 

How to Save Money on Your Cambelt Change

Spending money on a part of your car that is hidden away might seem silly, but this can protect you from a multitude of astronomical repairs in the future. Compare garages near you with BookMyGarage, and find the service that suits you best, at a price that works for you. You can book your appointment in just three simple steps!

  1. Enter your reg and postcode and select the services you need
  2. Compare instant prices from garages near you and click 'Book Now' with the best deal
  3. Select a date and time for your appointment that suits you and enter some basic contact information. This is so that the garage can keep in touch with you during the appointment.

We can help you find the best timing belt replacement cost near you, so you know that you will receive quality car maintenance that is relevant to you. Plus, you have full control over your booking. Filter by reviews, distance, availability or price to find the perfect garage near you. There's no sign-up, hidden extras or up-front payment either. Take the hassle out of your car maintenance.

Book a FREE visual inspection for your next cambelt change through BookMyGarage today.

 

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What is the Recommended Mileage to Change the Timing Belt?

You should book a timing belt replacement every 40,000 - 100,000 miles or every 4-6 years. Some manufacturers recommend different intervals, so you may need to check your vehicle handbook to find out when yours is due.

As always if you notice a problem, you should book an inspection as soon as possible.

 

Timing Belt Warning Signs

Despite the importance of the timing belt, it doesn't give much warning at the end of its life. Some timing belt warning signs include:

  • A rattling noise or high-pitched sound when the engine is idling or just after you switch it on
  • Your car will struggle to start, or won't start at all
  • Car vibrates and overheats a lot
  • Your car is leaking oil
  • A glazed, glossy cambelt underside
  • Cracked or fraying cambelt

If you notice any of these warning signs, you should book a cambelt change immediately.

 

close up of glossy cambelt, shiny rubber belt attached to engine in engine bay

It's worth checking your cambelt regularly to measure its condition and keep on top of any signs of failure.

 

Timing Chain Warning Signs

While your timing chain needs less direct care than a cambelt, it is definitely worth noting that problems can still arise. These are usually linked to an issue with the oil pressure or oil level. Common warning signs include:

  • A misfiring engine while driving
  • Metal shavings in the oil
  • Engine rattling while idling

If you notice any of these warning signs, you should stop driving immediately. Contact your recovery provider and have them tow you to a garage for a timing chain inspection.

 

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How Long Does the Timing Chain Last?

A timing chain can last more than 200,000 miles when looked after well. As it is made of metal, it has much more longevity than a timing belt. While you may never need a timing chain replacement, you should book a check when your car reaches 125,000 miles and invest in regular oil changes to keep it well-lubricated.

Taking small steps like this can help you keep on top of any issues before they evolve, and help your car stay in the best possible shape.

 

Book a Water Pump Replacement Alongside a Cambelt Change

A water pump circulates water in your engine, keeping it from overheating.

 

old and new car water pump side by side with engine bay in background during water pump replacement

The old water pump is in the mechanic's hand and the new water pump resting on the engine.

 

Booking a water pump replacement and cambelt change together saves you time and money. Both components last roughly the same amount of time, are difficult to replace and sit in the same part of the engine. If you replace them separately, you're effectively doubling down on the cost.

To find the best price on a cambelt and water pump replacement near you, enter your reg number and postcode into BookMyGarage to compare instant prices and book with the best garage in your area.

 

Water Pump Replacement Cost

The average UK cambelt and water pump replacement cost is £383.50, according to Checkatrade.