Timing Belt vs Drive Belt – What’s the Difference?

In this article, we will explain the functional differences of the timing belt vs drive belt.

Belts are integral components of engines and should be regularly inspected. The timing belt and drive belt are among the most confusing parts of a vehicle, especially for new car owners.

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However, it is essential to know what you are talking about when changing yours. If you are confused right now, don’t worry. After reading this article, you will have a perfect understanding of the timing belt vs drive belt.

What’s the difference between a timing belt and a drive belt?

Your car’s drive belt, also known as a serpentine belt, drives the engine’s accessories. It includes the alternator, the water pump, the air conditioner compressor, and the power steering pump.

On the other hand, the timing belt connects the engine crankshaft to the camshaft. It is extremely important for keeping internal combustion engines running.

You can see the drive belt when you open the hood, while the timing belt is hidden behind shields.

DescriptionTiming BeltDrive Belt
FunctionTurns the camshaft(s) which open and close the valvesTurns runs the power accessories bolted on the engine
LocationPlaced behind a coverExternal to the engine
GroovesV-shaped groovesHorizontal “teeth”
Replacement60,000 to 100,000 miles50,000 to 60,000
Cost including labor$500 and $2000$120 and $160
Difficulty to replaceLabor-intensiveDIY friendly
The difference between timing belt and drive or serpentine belt

Now let’s discuss their basic functions and the signs that indicate that it is time to replace them.

What is a timing belt?

A timing belt connects the camshaft of the engine to its crankshaft so that the engine’s valves open and close at the proper times during each cylinder stroke.

It is usually a toothed belt made of rubber, fiber, or composites. A timing belt is crucial because the combustion process in your car requires precise timing.

The timing belt may also be known as the cambelt or is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the timing chain.

Timing belt vs timing chain

While all passenger cars will have something that controls the timing, it’s not always a belt. Some engines have a timing chain that is made of metal, similar to a bicycle chain. instead of a belt.

According to Napa Online, they are heavier and more complex but they are more durable than timing belts.

Symptoms of a bad timing belt

As with the drive belt, some symptoms indicate a problem with your timing belt:

  1. Misfiring
  2. The car makes an odd noise
  3. The car idles badly
  4. The engine won’t start
  5. Smoke from the engine or exhaust

When should you replace a timing belt?

The lifespan of a timing belt is nearly as important as the car’s recommended oil change interval.
This is because a broken timing belt can damage your engine and make it suffer expensive repairs or replacements.

Most manufacturers recommend you have your vehicle’s timing belt replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. Replacing a timing belt is labor-intensive and may cost you $500 and $2000.

What is a drive belt?

Among all of the belts in your engine, one that is essential to your vehicle’s maintenance and performance is the drive belt. Drive belts are made of high-quality reinforced rubber.

Newer belts are made from Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) rubber, which lasts longer than Neoprene rubber belts.

Drive belt vs serpentine belt vs accessories belt

The drive belt is also called the serpentine belt and accessory belt. The serpentine belt got its name from its appearance and ability to weave through various accessories and pulleys.

As mentioned above, it drives your alternator, AC compressor, power steering. It also drives additional accessories for your car. In addition, a serpentine belt is important for the longevity of your vehicle.

A car’s serpentine belt is responsible for keeping all its accessory systems working, so it makes sense to maintain it well.

If the serpentine belt completely fails and breaks, it may cause performance issues. Your car may overheat and your battery may drain because the alternator and radiator will also stop.

Related: How to Test an Alternator Without a Multimeter? Top 6 Easy Ways

Symptoms of a bad drive belt

Aside from its functions, it’s important that you know the signs to look for that indicate a bad drive belt.
Replacing a timing belt before it breaks is important to keep your repair costs low.

Below are signs that your drive belt needs to be replaced:

  1. It’s cracked
  2. You notice a vibration
  3. You face problems with acceleration
  4. You can’t hear the air conditioning compressor
  5. The water pump is not running

When should you replace a drive belt?

You’ll know they need to be replaced if they begin to exhibit the symptoms mentioned above. According to Valvoline, a good rule of thumb is to check them around 50,000 to 60,000 miles.

Replacing a serpentine belt is easier compared to the timing belt.

We wrote a detailed guide on how to how to put a serpentine belt and how much does it cost to replace it.

Timing belt vs drive belt – What’s the difference?

Both drive belts and timing belts are important for your engine. Timing belts are more critical because they control the precise opening and closing of your engine’s valves.

Drive belts, on the other hand, drive your accessories while a timing belt keeps your engine running smoothly.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below.

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