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Timing when to change your timing belt

A Hyundai owner wonders if his vehicle needs the belt swapped out; Brian Early has good news.

By Brian Early Wheels.ca

Oct 9, 2022 2 min. read

Article was updated 2 months ago

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Dear Ask a Mechanic,

We have a 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe that we bought new. It now has more than 100,000 kilometres on it. I am slightly concerned because I can’t find information anywhere on when the timing belt should be replaced. We had to change it in our previous car, a Honda, when it reached the same mileage. When should it be changed in the Hyundai? – Maintenance Minded

It’s good that you have preventative maintenance in mind, particularly involving your vehicle’s engine and its timing system. Certain mechanical operations within the engine must be precisely coordinated, not just to run well and produce good power, but to keep valves and pistons from inadvertently trying to share the same limited space inside the cylinder.

Normally in an engine, the valves are closed whenever the piston is at the top of its stroke. A failed or jumped cam drive system can result in a collision between these parts causing damage, which can be catastrophic and expensive.

There are three main methods used to synchronize the valvetrain and crankshaft in modern engines: a toothed belt drive, a chain or – in a few rare cases – gears. Of these, only belts tend to have regular, defined service intervals.

In older vehicles that use a timing belt (or sometimes multiple belts), maintenance schedules often call for the belt to be changed at 96,000 kilometres. As the material used to make the belts have improved, and the technology around them has also developed, that has now changed to 160,000. (Please note that in some cases manufacturers may specify shorter service intervals under certain operating conditions, like the Canadian climate.)

You’ll be happy to learn that unlike your Honda, the engine in Hyundai’s 2016 Santa Fe’s uses a timing chain. Chains (and drive gears) are generally considered to be good for the life of the engine and replaced only when excessive wear or other factors warrant it. So, there’s no need for you to worry about it being overdue for maintenance.

While chains can occasionally fail, it’s more likely there’ll be indications – such as noise or a check engine light – if it does happen. It would be rare for an outright and spontaneous failure to take place if the vehicle is being driven with normal use. Most vehicles will never need timing chain maintenance.

Ask a Mechanic is written by Brian Early, a Red Seal-certified automotive technician. You can send your questions to wheels@thestar.ca. These answers are for informational purposes only. Please consult a certified mechanic before having any work done to your vehicle.

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