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Cambelts, Cam Chains and Wet Belts; What you Need to Know

Cambelts, Cam Chains and Wet Belts; What you Need to Know

Your cambelt is an important part of your car and if you don’t understand it or keep note of when it may need changing, you could find yourself in a difficult situation in terms of safety and finances.

We all talk about cambelts and know that if they go wrong, they tend to go seriously wrong, but many motorists are actually unaware of what they are, let alone the difference between a wet belt and a cam chain. This blog aims to help you to know your cambelt from your timing belt or timing chain, how to prevent them going wrong, and what to do if they fail.

So, what is a cambelt?

If you struggle to tell the difference between a cambelt and a timing belt, that is because they are the same thing! Both terms are used to describe a belt made out of polyurethane, Kevlar or other rugged composites that can hold their own under extreme heat and tension. It works a bit like a rubber cog, connecting the camshaft and crankshaft.

To understand why a cambelt is so important, it can help to understand what the crankshaft and camshaft do. The camshaft is in control of valves, letting fuel into the engine and releasing air. At the same time as the camshaft is opening and closing these valves, the crankshaft is moving pistons up and down. The pistons and valves must move in harmony with each other, or they could cause damage to each other or other parts of the engine.

Cam chains

Cam chains perform the same function as a cambelt but instead of being made of a rubber-type material, they are made of metal. While cambelts are found outside of the engine, cam chains are housed inside the engine and are lubricated by the engine oil.

Wet belts

Some manufacturers use wet belts, which are similar to cambelts, but which operate internally and use engine oil like the cam chains. Wet belts have their name because they are kept “wet” by oil. This means that they are less likely to crack and deteriorate like the dry cambelts.

Replacing the cambelt

Cambelts will probably need to be changed between two and four times in your vehicle’s lifetime. Precisely when this should happen is largely dependent on your vehicle make and model, and how often you use it. Generally, manufacturers recommend every four years, or between 40,000 and 100,000 miles.

If you are unsure whether your cambelt needs replacing, ask your garage next time you get your vehicle serviced. If you are buying a second hand vehicle, it is always a good idea to find out when the cambelt was replaced so that you have a rough idea of when you might need to do it. For signs that your cambelt needs replacing, or to find out what happens if your cambelt breaks, follow Trust A Garage on Facebook or Twitter for next week’s instalment.

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