Most car owners don’t understand the difference between the serpentine belt and the timing belt. Sometimes these two names are used interchangeably by people. However, the serpentine belt and timing belt serve two completely different purposes.

The serpentine belt takes mechanical power from the engine and transmits it to several peripheral devices of the vehicle, such as the water pump, power steering pump, alternator, air pump, oil pump, and air conditioning compressor.

A timing belt, on the other hand, is responsible for keeping the camshaft and crankshaft movements synchronized. Let’s explore why these functions are so important to your vehicle.

Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt is a very long single belt which runs continuously. It is located on the exterior of the engine block. If you’re looking at your engine block, the serpentine belt is often easy to notice from the front.

It is long, black, thin, rubbery, and ribbed on the outside. The most important accessories of your car engine depend on the serpentine belt for their power needs.

The reason why it is called the “serpentine” belt is the belt acts like a snake. Not only is it a continuous snake-like belt, but it coils on these other accessories to provide them with power. If the serpentine belt were to fail for some reason, then all these peripheral engine accessories would malfunction or stop working altogether.

A failing serpentine belt will cause your engine to overheat and eventually stop running. The serpentine belt will usually fail due to age but also if coolant or oil from within the engine leaks out onto it. In other cases, the tensioner may be putting the wrong amount of tension on the serpentine belt, resulting in a misaligned belt.

Timing Belt

The timing belt is located inside of your engine. It helps move the camshaft at times when the gears are unable to do it. More importantly, it allows the camshaft to open and close the intake valve and exhaust valve at the appropriate times. That way, the piston doesn’t hit them.

In certain types of internal combustion engines, the timing belt may also help run the oil pump and water pump of the engine. But in every engine, the timing belt’s main job is to keep the camshaft and crankshaft connected with its teeth.

The inside surface of the timing belt is where the teeth are located. The space between each pair of teeth is called the pitch. The belt itself is made from durable materials, such as welded urethane, neoprene, or molded polyurethane. These materials are made to last for a long time.

A failing timing belt is worse than a failing serpentine belt. If your timing belt doesn’t function properly, then it could cause permanent or expensive damage to your engine. The main consequence of a bad timing belt is your valves staying open and getting struck by the piston.

To keep your timing belt strong, it is important that your engine is doesn’t run too hot or leaks oil. Overheated engines and oil leaks are the two biggest causes of timing belt failure. It’s important to check your owner’s manual for the specified timing belt change interval and actually do it.

If you have any more questions about the difference between a timing belt and a serpentine belt, give us a call at Murrieta Tire & Auto