DIY Timing Belt Installation

Timing belt installation is a procedure that you can do at home with a standard set of tools and about two hours worth of time. The timing belt in your car is responsible for regulating the speed at which the valves in your car's engine operate. If the timing belt is offset or broken, the engine will not function properly and may not even start. Fortunately, timing belts can be replaced at home, even if you don't have extensive experience working on your vehicle.

Tools and Materials

  • New timing belt for your car model
  • Auto owner's manual for your vehicle
  • Standard tool set

Step 1 -- Prepare the Vehicle

Begin by first disconnecting the battery from the engine. Locate the distributor cap on the engine and remove it. On many models you can do this by hand. Store the distributor cap in a safe place where it will not be lost. If your vehicle doesn't have a distributor cap, look to the cam position sensor instead. This should be set to TDC before you begin.

Step 2 -- Set the Engine

Rotate the engine by hand. You can do this by pulling on the engine rotator belts or by very slightly turning the key in the ignition. In the second case, have an assistant operate the key while you monitor the position of the engine. The engine should be rotated until the crankshaft pulley is aligned with the timing scale so that the timing mark and the "0" position are adjacent. This ensures that your engine begins its rotation on the proper alignment.

Step 3 -- Remove the Old Belt

Look to your vehicle owner's manual for guidance as to how to remove the timing belt on your car. Because each car is slightly different in this respect, the manual is the best source of information. You'll need to use a wrench to unscrew a set of bolts that hold the timing belt in place, and you may also need to remove other pieces that cover the timing belt. Once the belt is exposed, remove it carefully by hand by first loosening the tension bolts without removing them. Move the tensioner out from the bolts, then hold it in place by tightening the bolts once again. Next, pull the timing belt out by hand.

Step 4 -- Install the New Belt

Fit the new timing belt around the engine. Loosen the tension bolts and put the tensioner back into place. Check on your manual to see how to properly torque the tension bolts with the wrench. Replace any other parts that you needed to remove in order to take out the old timing belt, and ensure that the distributor cap is tightened over the engine again. Once all of the parts are back in place, reconnect the battery and check the timing belt by attempting to start the car again.