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How to Tell if Timing is Off on an Engine

March 18, 2024 | Victor Lukasso

This article will show you how to Tell if the Timing is Off on an Engine and possible ways to fix it.

As the name implies, the Engine timing belt or chain ensures that the whole engine component works in correlation.

If the timing of an Engine is off or not adequately set, you can tell from the stalling movement of your car, hard start, increased gas mileage, misfiring, oil leakage and knocking sounds, and so on.

The engine has several complex components that require running in harmony to give the driver a preset riding experience.


These components include the camshaft, crankshaft, ignition, valves, pulley, and connecting rods.

The work of an engine timing belt is to regulate when the intake valves administer fuel mixture into the combustion chambers. If the valve fails to open on time or begins before the required time, then it’ll result in power loss or fuel flooding in the combustion chambers.

It also makes sure other engine components run in perfect synchronization and coordination.

If the timing is off on an Engine, the components will run at different speeds, affecting the engine’s performance.

Continue reading to get more details about your engine timing and how to Tell if the Timing is Off on an Engine.

Why is the Timing Belt of an Engine Going Off

The timing belt is placed in a stand-alone covering, and its function is to connect and rotate the crankshaft and camshaft while ensuring they are in correlation to provide proper engine combustion.

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All engines come with their timing belt already set by the manufacturer; however, when car owners perform engine tasks such as cylinder head porting that requires you to dismantle the engine, they fail to specify the engine timing correctly.

Other factors that cause timing to go off include;

  • A loosed timing belt
  • Faults on the valves
  • Defects in the pistons
  • A damaged or cracked timing belt

An incorrect engine timing is often accompanied by several signs that’ll help you quickly tell if the timing for an engine is off, and that’s precisely what we will discuss in the next heading.

What are the symptoms of timing off?

The timing belt comes in rubber form while the timing chain comes in a metallic form; whichever way, both are susceptible to being bad.

However, the timing chain has a longer lifespan compared to the belt form because of the material.

Below are a few symptoms to watch out for that tell you that you need to reset your timing belt or get a replacement.

1. Poor gas mileage

The timing belt helps control the rate at which the intake valve admits fuel into the compression chamber.

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When the timing goes off, it’ll cause unburnt fuel to store in the compression chamber because the intake valve releases gas too often.

This will increase fuel mileage and cause severe damage if not managed on time.

2. Engine Misfiring

A weak or loosened timing belt will likely slip or cut from the camshaft, causing the engine components to lose balance.

This will cause the engine to misfire due to gas flooding in the combustion chamber.

3. Engine not Responding

Due to the absence of the timing belt to aid in the combustion process, you will have difficulty starting your car.

The engine might be engaged, but it’ll not start since the crankshaft and camshaft that aids cranking aren’t working as supposed.

4. Knocking noise in the engine

The timing belts aid the crankshaft in properly providing enough oil that powers the connecting rods, which in turn powers the pistons.

Once you start hearing ticking sounds, It’s advised that you take your car to an auto repair shop to ascertain the cause of the cause; it could be that your timing belt is off.

5. Black smoke from the Exhaust

When the timing is off, it’ll cause the intake valve to send out fuel mixtures in the wrong proportion, thereby causing excess Black smoke to come from the Exhaust.

The unburnt fuel mixtures remain clogged in the cylinder combustion chamber.

6. Oil leaks on the motor

If your timing belt goes off, probably because the bolt used to hold the belt in place inside became loose, then expect oil leaks to occur.

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7. Cracks on the Timing Belt

Over time, the timing belt will start degrading due to the impact of heat or tension, which mere looks can deduce.

There’ll be cracks, holes, and partitions on the timing belt, making it not function as it ought to.

8. Damage to other engine components

This is probably the last thing that’ll happen if you don’t take note of the above signs –especially diesel engine users.

When a timing belt goes bad or off while the engine is running, it causes severe damage to other components because of system regulation/coordination loss.

How to Tell if a Broken Timing Belt Damaged Engine?

According to mechanics on Carautomotives, a broken timing belt on a fuel engine won’t cause damage to your engine. All that’s required is to get and install a new timing belt.

Meanwhile, a broken timing belt on a diesel engine will cause the valve to bend due to sudden disorganization.

So, since most car owners use cars powered by fuel, A broken timing belt has nothing on you.

Regardless, ensuring your timing belt is regularly checked and maintained is still advised.

Will a Car Run if the Timing is Off?

No, the timing belt helps rotate the camshaft and crankshaft, which supplies fuel mixtures into the system.

If the timing is off, you’ll have difficulty turning your car On; talk more about running it.

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Meet Victor Lukasso, the owner of V. Auto Basics. Through this blog, Victor Provides Insights on the latest tips, maintenance, repair, and techniques in the automotive world.