Car ownership 101: The timing belt

Don’t skip this vital service interval
by Paulo Rafael Subido | Aug 8, 2018

Congratulations! You've made it this far in your car-owership journey, and it is time for your first timing-belt change. Leave this to the pros if you are easily intimidated by an engine, but if you have some knowledge about how an engine works and some practical skills, it's a cool thing to do. A SOHC longitudinally-mounted engine is simpler to work on. A DOHC is more complicated and requires experience.  

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Difficulty level

This is a job that a true gearhead can handle if has the patience and time. It’s actually fun!  

Things to check

Timing belt changes should happen between 70,000km and 90,000km. Read your owner’s manual.

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The gear you need

New timing belt, water pump, accessory belts, oil seals, tensioner bearing

1) Cool down and prep

The coolant must be drained from the engine before even beginning the belt change. Also, make sure that the engine is no longer hot so you don't burn your hands when you start work.

2) Take the timing belt cover off carefully

Rarely will a timing belt show indications of wear. Plus, seeing and accessing it already involves some disassembly of components. You have to remove the timing-belt cover first. This is much simpler in a longitudinally-mounted engine. In the case of the 2006 Ford Ranger, it is straightforward. Remove the power steering and alternator accessory belts first if they are in the way. Keep track of what bolts on where.

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3) Note the crank position 

Once the cover is removed, find the camshaft sprocket and the crankshaft. These have markers to indicate the top-dead-center (TDC) position of piston number one. Keep these markers in mind, because when you put the new belt on, following the position of these points ensures that the camshaft and crankshafts are in sync. If not, the engine won’t run properly when you put the new belt on. 

4) Dive right in

Now is the time to loosen the belt tensioner and to remove the cam sprocket. Once it is loose, the belt should come off quite easily. It’s probably dirty in there, so clean the dust up a bit.

5) Change the water pump, too

A good mechanic will advise you to also change the water pump because it is bound to fail eventually. This is good advice, and will save you some trouble in the long run, especially as the engine is in a partially disassembled state already. Install the new water pump, timing belt, and camshaft oil seals. We advise using the metal water pump gasket that is already fitted on the engine. Put coolant back in, and if you did everything properly, the engine will start right up and you are good to go.

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Extra tips

-Before you begin the job, do research about the type of engine you are dealing with first. 

-Make sure you have all of the parts that you need. Your auto supply that specializes in your brand will have the necessary stock if they are a good shop. 

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PHOTO: Paulo Rafael Subido
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