The time to take care of the belt that helps drive your engine is before it fails.
Some auto pros liken a timing belt or chain to a pacemaker that synchronizes functions of the engine, which is the heart of a vehicle. If the timing belt breaks, so will your engine, causing your car to stall or not start.
In internal combustion engines, the timing belt or chain controls the rotation of the camshaft and crankshaft, and the opening and closing of valves that allow air and gas in and out. The belt's function is to open and close the engine's valves in sequence, at the right time.
When the timing belt breaks, valves will open at the wrong times, striking pistons and causing damage.
Highly rated mechanics recommend replacing the timing built every 60,000 to 100,000 miles, especially because a belt won't show many warning signs of impending failure. However, always be sure to check your vehicle owner's manual to see what the manufacturer recommends.
The typical cost for preventive replacement of a timing belt is $500 to $900. The cost to replace a broken belt can be $2,000 or more if failure causes valve, piston or water pump damage. Plus, you also might have to pay to have your car towed to the shop.
If you need help in finding a reliable mechanic, for a timing belt or any other automotive matter, look for businesses with good reviews on a trusted online site and that offer warranties, and are appropriately insured and licensed.
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie's List, a trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home improvement to automotive repair. Follow Angie on Twitter @Angie_Hicks.