Audi and VW engines must be timed correctly so that the opening and closing of the valves coincides with the up and down movement of the pistons. In your Audi or VW, it’s the job of the timing belt – a single piece of rubber – to make sure this happens. If the position of the timing belt is off just a single tooth, it can adversely affect engine performance. If the timing belt breaks, catastrophic engine failure can occur.
Indeed, the amount of responsibility engineers bestow upon a single strip of high-tensile fibers is dumbfounding.
Given the very nature of their construction and the role they play in engine operation, it’s not a surprise that timing belts break – often. But, what causes them to break?
Contrary to what you’d think, timing belts don’t stretch over time because they have fiberglass woven throughout. Instead, they just snap. This is because the fiberglass strands become brittle and break. When this happens your engine will inevitably stop, and if your engine is what’s referred to as an ‘interference engine” (and your Audi is) the pistons will likely make contact with the valves, causing major engine damage.
A friendly warning found in a Chilton repair manual
There’s only one way to protect your Audi or VW engine from a snapped t-belt: by changing it according to the manufactures recommendations. There is no way to tell whether a timing belt is worn just by looking at it. Getting a peak at it isn’t the easiest thing to do anyhow, since the timing belt is buried inside the engine and requires at least some dis assembly to view.
When To Replace Your Audi or VW Timing Belt
Audi and VW recommend timing belt replacement every 60,000 miles. Depending on the year and model of your Audi/VW, timing belt replacement falls somewhere between the 60,000 and 105,000 mile mark, with older models requiring more frequent belt swaps. In 2009, Audi/VW began using timing chains in some of their engines, which require no periodic maintenance.
Audi and VW Timing Belt Replacement Costs
Unfortunately, the majority of Audis cruising down the road today, including yours, still require timing belt replacement. It’s helpful to know what’s involved with the job, so you can appreciate why replacing a single belt can cost more than buying a used Honda Civic off Craigslist.
The bottom line is that timing belt replacement (Audi timing belt replacement in particular) is extremely labor intensive. The timing belt resides inside the engine, beneath the timing cover. Not only does the timing cover have to be removed to access it, but everything in front of the cover must be yanked out, too. On some older Audis, such as A4s, the entire front end of the car must be removed to access the timing belt. This typically includes a plethora of parts including the bumper, radiator, headlights, serpentine belt and more. So, don’t be surprised to pay anywhere between $800 and $2000 for timing belt service, depending on the model of your Aud or VW.
Once access to the timing belt has been achieved, there is still much more work to be done. A t-belt can’t be slid off all willy-nilly like a serpentine belt. Instead, the engine must be rotated by hand so that the belt matches tiny marks, hardly visible to the naked eye, that are printed on the engine. The old belt must be removed, and the new belt must be installed, in line with the timing marks. If the alignment is off just a smidge, major engine damage can occur. In other words, the technician performing the replacement must have steady hands and nerves of steel.
Because a great portion of the timing belt R&R cost is labor dollars, it’s a good idea to replace any related parts at the same time. You should always replace the water pump while doing a timing belt job because the water pump is driven off the timing belt. The pump is a relatively inexpensive item with a high failure rate, so not replacing it during timing belt service makes about as much sense as pizza, which is round, coming in a square box (just think about it!). Replacement of the various seals behind the timing belt (camshaft(s) and crankshaft) is often advised, too.
Of course, you should always replace the timing belt tensioner, actuator and idler pulleys for proper timing belt performance. These items ensure your brand spanking new belt remains nice and taut while driving your engine, and that things don’t go ka-boom.
That’s probably more than you need, or would ever want to know, about timing belts. The moral of the story is: don’t forget about that seemingly innocent little belt hiding beneath your timing cover. It plays a big role in the longevity of your engine.
Contact us if you have any questions about replacing the timing belt on your Audi or VW. We are located close to Salt Lake City in West Jordan, UT for easy access.