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10 Nov 2020
Adam Bate

When should you change your cambelt?


Mechanic changing a timing belt on a car

If your cambelt bites the dust, you could face a hefty repair cost. Here's when and how you get it changed.

Not all of us are mechanics in our spare time.

So the prospect of a crucial part of our motor breaking is likely to fill some of us with equal parts dread and confusion.

But while your cambelt is a vital bit of kit, it can be easily sorted by a professional. Here’s how you find out when yours needs changing.


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What is a cambelt?

The cambelt, or timing belt, is one of the most crucial bits of kit in the engine.

It’s a rubber belt with teeth that synchronises the rotation of the crankshaft and the camshaft.


What does a cambelt do?

It regulates the way your engine works.

It controls the opening and closing of the valves to the cylinders in time to ensure correct combustion in the engine. Its primary role is to control the timing and sequence of the opening and closing.

Like most bits of kit, it'll eventually wear out. If it cracks, tears or snaps, it can cause a whole heap of expensive engine damage. With older cars this usually means they won’t be worth repairing.


How often should you change the cambelt?

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ rule when it comes to how frequently you should change your cambelt, as a lot depends on the car.

Most manufacturers suggest either a time- or mileage-based change, depending on which comes first.

There’s a lot of variation between both manufacturers and engines when it comes to when a change is due. This could range from 40,000 miles up to 100,000 miles, and from four years up to six years.

The vehicle handbook will specify the change frequency, and a decent garage should let you know if a cambelt change is due when your get your car serviced.

Manufacturer’s intervals should be treated as the absolute maximum, though. Cambelt failure can cause serious mechanical damage.


How much does a cambelt change cost?

Our research shows that the average cost to replace a cambelt is £287*.

Replacing it can take several hours’ work, which involves taking apart the engine block and putting it back together.

It’s one of those jobs where, while the part itself may not be expensive, it’s often the labour that can bump up the bill.

So it's worth comparing garages to find a quote that suits your wallet. Our research shows that the average saving for comparing cambelt repairs online is £113*.


How can I tell if my cambelt needs changing?

There’s usually no sign that your cambelt’s reached the end of the road as it’s deeply embedded in the engine.

If you're lucky, they might hear a rattling or slapping noise prior to the cambelt going. But in some cases even an expert might not be able to predict a cambelt failure”.

And unlike new brakes or other replacement parts, you may not notice any difference in the way your car drives.


* Figures based on 1,058 cambelt repairs posted to between 16 September and 16 October 2020.


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