Picture of a cambelt

Your car’s cambelt (or its equivalent) is one of the most critical parts of your car’s engine, and your car won’t start without it. So if you’re buying a car, whether privately or through one of our online car auctions here at RAW2K, it’s one of the most crucial parts to ensure is in good repair if you’re planning on putting it back on the road. If you’ve got the skills and equipment to get the job done yourself, you may need to consult a professional mechanic – just be aware that it may not be an easy or cheap repair!

Before you get started, here’s what you need to know.


What is a cambelt or timing chain?

A cambelt or timing chain is responsible for keeping crucial parts of the motor working in sync with each other, ensuring all components have the space and time they need to do their job properly.

Cambelts are typically made of polyurethane or rubber, and some manufacturers stipulate that the timing belts of certain cars need to be changed as part of their annual or bi-annual servicing.

Some cars have a timing chain instead of a belt. These are more durable because they’re composed of metal links rather than rubber or polyurethane. Partially because of that, timing chains tend to last the lifespan of the car. Here’s another key difference: cambelts tend to be positioned outside the engine, but timing chains run inside the engine, and they’re lubricated with engine oil.


What is a cambelt or timing chain?

The clue is in the name: it’s all about timing. Its main purpose is to control the timing of your vehicle’s internal combustion engines, specifically when the vales to the cylinders open and close. The timing belt synchronises the engine’s camshaft and crankshaft, making sure they rotate in sync. They each perform important roles of their own – the engine’s camshaft controls the valves, which lets fuel and air in and out, controlling the fuel and air mixture. The crankshaft moves the pistons up and down at the same time.

If those actions aren’t synchronised, then there’s risk of damage to the valves, pistons or other engine parts. And any one of those scenarios can easily kill your engine.


When does a cambelt need changing?

Cambelts suffer from general wear and tear, just like any part of your engine. That’s why they’re generally replaced as part of a service or MOT. But sometimes they need replacing sooner than that. Here’s what to watch out for.

 Noises from the engine

Cambelts and timing chains don’t give a tonne of audible warning that they’re about to fail, but if you hear a rubbing sound from the belt cover area, that can be a good sign that the component is about to fail, or snap. If you hear that, pull over (if applicable) and call a mechanic.

The car won’t start

There’s obviously a variety of potential causes for that, but one can sometimes be that the cambelt. If the cambelt is broken then the camshaft will have nothing to rotate it when the crankshaft turns, and the car may not start at all.

You just get the feeling something’s wrong

OK, so it’s obviously considerably less helpful and specific than the other elements we’ve listed. But sometimes as a driver you’ve just got to trust your instincts. When you’re in that driving seat, you’re connected with the car – you can feel every tick and vibration out of place, even if you don’t initially realise why. And if you get the sense that something may not be quite responding as it should do – and you know that it’s been a while since your last service – then it could well mean that your cambelt is the issue. Don’t wait to get it seen to – get it to the nearest mechanic immediately.

If you think your cambelt might be on the way out, it can be a bit dicey to drive it for longer periods, as you can actually risk the engine blowing up. The safest thing is to get your mechanic to come to you (if you can) but if that’s not possible, plot the shortest route and put your heaters on full blast on the way there. If your cambelt is overheating, the heaters will take the heat from the engine, which can momentarily take the pressure off the belt itself.

That’s all the crucial stuff you need to know! And of course, if you ever need a few spare parts to fix up your car (including a timing belt or chain), or even a whole new replacement vehicle then that’s exactly where we can help here at RAW2K. We supply a huge range of used, seized and salvage cars to choose from in our online car auctions, which are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis. They include models from world-leading manufacturers like Ford and Vauxhall, as well as others, including Honda and Peugeot. Why not take a look around, and see what you can find?