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Drivetrain and Timing Belt Maintenance

This month I would like to cover a couple of topics that most people never think of. The topics are your vehicle’s drivetrain and timing belt. Generally, the only time someone might give these any thought is if one of them has failed and you are left stranded on the road.

The first item, the drivetrain, is responsible for transmitting power from the engine to the wheels. It has many components, including; the clutch, torque converter, transmission, driveshafts (in front wheel drive vehicles, the axle shaft), U-joints, CV joints, differential and axles. There are several signs that will tell you something is wrong. The worst of course is total failure, but others include leaks, strange noises and/or shifting problems.

There are many reasons why a drivetrain might fail. Chief among them is subjecting your vehicle to strenuous conditions such as a lot of stop and go driving, towing a heavy trailer without adequate cooling (most automatic transmissions are cooled by the engine cooling system.), or excessive rocking out of a snow drift. If you drive your vehicle under the above conditions, have your drivetrain checked regularly. With proper maintenance, you can help prevent bigger problems down the road.

The second item is the timing belt, which is responsible for transferring the rotation of the crankshaft to the camshaft. Some vehicles have a timing chain instead of a belt. Both serve the same purpose. The rotating camshaft activates the valves, which provide air and fuel to the cylinders and expel combustion gases to the exhaust system. The valves and pistons are constantly moving up and down at extremely high speeds and the timing belt ensures that these components do not collide. If a collision does occur, the ensuing damage can result in an expensive repair. The best way to prevent timing belt failure is to have it replaced according to your vehicles owner’s manual maintenance schedule. This is typically every 60,000 to 90,000 miles.

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