Reviews

Best Timing Belts: An Essential Maintenance Item

A high-quality timing belt is an essential maintenance item that provides longevity and peak engine performance

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BY Daniel Rika , Richard Bowen / LAST UPDATED ON February 16, 2020

Your car’s timing belt is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your car. It’s responsible for keeping your engine running, not just at its peak performance, but at all. The timing belt is what causes the camshaft in your engine to open and close the valves at precise intervals. While it’s not something you need to replace often, replacing it before it breaks is key. Not replacing your timing belt before it breaks can be a costly mistake that can result in you needing to replace your engine all together. To help prevent serious damage to your vehicle, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best timing belts available. We will help you select a rugged and reliable timing belt that will keep your engine running smoothly for years to come.

Best Overall
Aisin Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump
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Summary
Summary

The tensioner, idler bearings, and belt match OEM parts. Water pump attains engine-specific water pressure while not overloading the engine. Upgraded body design makes for more strength. Carbon ceramic seals prevent leaks. Matches Mitsubishi OEM belts.

Pros
Pros
  • High-quality parts that match OEM specs mean that everything fits and functions properly
  • The accurate instructions make installation easy 
  • Cast parts are made of aluminum for reduced size and weight
  • This kit costs about half compared to dealer price
Cons
Cons
  • You may need a strap wrench to remove the camshaft pulley
  • The specs in the instructions for the crank pulley/balance torque install may not be accurate
Best Overall
Aisin Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump
Best Value
Gates TCK304 PowerGrip Premium Timing Belt Component Kit
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Summary
Summary

This kit provides you with high-quality, dependable parts at a refreshingly low price point. It includes a TCK timing belt, tensioners, tensioner springs, idlers,  necessary hardware, and detailed installation instructions.

Pros
Pros
  • This is an excellent OEM replacement kit for Asian and European imports of different makes and models.
  • Detailed installation instructions also include handy and informative troubleshooting tips for difficult application issues
Cons
Cons
  • Double check to be sure that the idler bearings are made in Japan, and not another country
  • This means they’re not OEM parts
Best Value
Gates TCK304 PowerGrip Premium Timing Belt Component Kit
Honorable Mention
ACDelco Professional Timing Belt and Water Pump Kit with Idler Pulley and 2 Tensioners
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Summary
Summary

Water pump, idler pulley, and hydraulic tensioners included: everything needed for a professional installation. Traditional, trustworthy brand. OEM fit for all parts. For Honda Odyssey, Pilot, Accord, and Acura models as well.

Pros
Pros
  • The water pump’s design makes it durable and provides for efficient cooling
  • The hydraulic tensioners work well and last long
Cons
Cons
  • The timing belt does not have marks
  • The belt may be longer than the OEM one
  • The tensioner spring pull pin may bend
Honorable Mention
ACDelco Professional Timing Belt and Water Pump Kit with Idler Pulley and 2 Tensioners

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Benefits of a New Timing Belt

  • Avoid engine damage. When a timing belt breaks while the car is running, the camshaft no longer turns. This can cause major engine damage. Replacing an old and worn timing belt allows you to avoid this type of problem.  
  • Peace of mind and great performance. A new timing belt gives you peace of mind that your engine is running optimally and is not in danger of damage. An engine that is running at its best produces more power and uses less fuel and oil. 
  • Increased resale value. Replacing the timing belt at the recommended intervals increases the resale value of your vehicle. If a prospective buyer has proof that you have installed a new timing belt, he or she may be willing to pay more for your vehicle when it comes time to sell. 

Types of Timing Belts

A Single Timing Belt Versus a Timing Belt Kit

Timing belts (also called serpentine belts) are available for purchase as a single item. However, professional technicians and shade-tree mechanics alike recommend replacing the pulleys, tensioner, and coolant pump (water pump) at the same time. This is because a lot of labor (and labor costs) go into partially dismantling the engine to access and replace the timing belt. As a result, you should also replace these items and save yourself problems (and money) in the future. If the timing belt is worn, these items are most likely worn as well and are therefore subject to failure. 

OEM and Aftermarket Timing Belts

As with many auto parts, some aftermarket components are of higher quality than OEM components. This is because aftermarket manufacturers may use superior materials to construct the belt. Also, they may use better manufacturing techniques and more stringent testing. From an engineering standpoint, OEM belts can stretch at high revs, affecting engine performance. Aftermarket timing belts that are stronger won’t stretch as much. 

Timing Belts and Timing Chains

Automakers commonly used chains to perform the required functions in an engine through the 1980s. Timing chains are usually more durable than belts. However, timing belts became the standard after this time because they are less noisy, less expensive, and are lighter and more flexible. Timing belts are made of rubber material infused with Twaron/Kevlar or fiberglass, which gives them these desirable properties. 

Top Brands

Aisin

The Aisin Company, also known as Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd., is a Japanese company founded in 1949. The Toyota Group owns 30 percent of the company. This Fortune Global 500 company makes a variety of OEM parts and also produces automotive accessories. It has offices and manufacturing facilities in Japan, Europe, and the United States. Check out the Aisin Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump and the Aisin Timing Belt Kit with New Water Pump

ContiTech

ContiTech is a division of Continental AG. This German company makes automotive items such as safety components and powertrain parts in addition to accessories. Founded in 1871, the company began as a tire manufacturer and now owns brands like General and Uniroyal. The company has offices and plants in North and South America, Africa, Australia, China, Japan, and Europe. ContiTech makes the Accessory Drive Belt Kit and Black Series Timing Belt Kit, among others. 

ACDelco

General Motors owns ACDelco. The company makes parts for GM products and also produces aftermarket parts for GM and non-GM cars, trucks, and SUVs. ACDelco was founded in 1916 and has a long history of being associated with General Motors and its founders. ACDelco features the Professional Timing Belt Kit with Tensioner and 2 Idler Pulleys and the Professional Timing Belt and Water Pump Kit with Tensioner, Idler Pulleys, and Bolt, plus many others.

Timing Belt Pricing

  • Under $50: Here you will find timing belts and accompanying components (water pump, gaskets, pulleys, tensioner) made in China. Many users report that these kits are serviceable with parts fitting the way they’re supposed to, and they are fair quality. 
  • $100-$200: In the medium-priced range, the timing belt kits include the same components as the lower-priced ones, but the reputation of the manufacturing company is better and the overall quality is enhanced. 
  • Over $250: In the high-priced range, you find kits made by OEMs that perhaps include additional parts like a camshaft seal not found in lower-priced kits. OEM parts tend to be higher quality and fit better than aftermarket ones. These kits may also simply contain more necessary parts, thus the higher price. 

Key Features

All-Inclusive Kit

When you buy a timing belt replacement kit for your vehicle, it’s good to know that the kit contains everything you need to replace key wear parts in addition to the timing belt itself. These parts include a replacement water pump, pulleys, timing belt tensioner, and gaskets. It’s wise to replace these parts in addition to the timing belt for peace of mind.

Fit

Make sure the timing belt kit you choose is the correct one for your vehicle. Do your research. Check the specifications and details about the product before you buy it. Also, check the reviews and questions and answers because they may have additional information about the proper fit. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer or distributor. 

Durability

When you replace the timing belt and ancillary components on your vehicle using one of these kits, the job is good for seven to 10 years and between 60,000 and 105,000 miles. This means you do not have to be concerned about your timing belt wearing out again, most likely for as long as you own your car, truck, or SUV.

Other Considerations

  • Timing: It’s wise to be sure your timing belt actually needs replacement. Specifications vary, but manufacturers recommend replacing it between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. Check your vehicle owner’s manual. Many shops will recommend a replacement for you if you are having other work done, such as the brakes or a water pump replacement.
  • Warranty: Most timing belt kits warranty the workmanship of the parts for one year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. While it’s disheartening when a part fails after the work of dismantling your engine and reassembly, there’s consolation in the fact that the manufacturer will replace the defective part free of charge.

Best Timing Belt Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Aisin TKF-001 Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump

This kit includes, in addition to the timing belt, a tensioner, idler bearings, and water pump. The water pump maintains the correct water pressure while not overloading the motor. The pump’s new design provides greater strength than previous versions. 


The parts are manufactured of cast aluminum, which reduces size and weight, and they match OEM specifications for a great fit and proper function. This kit includes precise instructions, which makes installation easy and fast. Compare the cost of the kit to the dealer price, and you’ll find that you save about half. 


Some buyers report that you may need a strap wrench to remove the camshaft pulley during installation. You also should have a torque wrench so you can properly torque the bolts. While the instructions are well written and easy to use for the most part, check those for the crank pulley/balance torque installation for accuracy.

Best Value
Gates TCK304 PowerGrip Premium Timing Belt Component Kit

Just because you’re a bit more budget conscious, doesn’t mean you will have to sacrifice quality for cost. The Gates TCK304 PowerGrip Premium Timing Belt Component Kit is a happy medium. It provides you with high-quality, dependable parts at a refreshingly low price point. This all-encompassing kit includes a TCK timing belt, tensioners, tensioner springs, idlers,  necessary hardware, and detailed installation instructions.


This kit is suitable for, and is popular with, many Asian and European import vehicles. Gates promises that its timing belt kits are OE-equivalent or better in terms of durability, quality, and performance. This universal kit is designed for convenience with easy parts sourcing of non-proprietary components.


While this is a reasonably priced timing belt kit, and Gates is a well-known manufacturer, there have been some complaints that the company is including non-OEM idler bearings that are made in another country than the original manufacturer bearings. Check your kit prior to install to be sure.

Most Comprehensive
ACDelco Professional Timing Belt and Water Pump Kit

This economical kit includes a water pump, idler pulley, and the hydraulic tensioners you need, in addition to the timing belt. With these parts, yours will be a professional installation. These components give you an OEM fit and ACDelco is a traditional brand you can trust. 


The parts in this kit include an exceptionally well-designed water pump that provides highly efficient cooling for your engine. The hydraulic tensioners are durable and perform well, which means the belt can do its job. It also means you probably won’t have to replace the tensioners again for as long as the belt itself lasts.


Be aware that the timing belt does not have marks for the proper setup. The belt also may be slightly longer than the OEM one you’re replacing. And during installation, the tensioner spring pull pin may bend.

Best for Lexus and Toyota
AISIN TKT-026 Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump

For a well-priced, dependable, and high-performance vehicle specific timing belt, check out the AISIN TKT-026 Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump. This specific kit includes a water pump with gaskets, hydraulic tensioner, OE-matched idler bearings, tensioner bearings, and an OE-matched timing belt supplied by either Mitsuboshi or Gates.


This timing belt kit is an ideal replacement for Lexus models ES300, RX330 AWD, RX330 FWD, ES330, RX400h AWD, RX00h FWD, Toyota models Camry, Sienna FWD, Highlander AWD, Sienna, Highlander FWD, Solara, Sienna AWD, and Highlander. 


This high-quality timing belt kit comes in at an extremely affordable price compared to dealerships and professional installers. You’ll save a solid chunk of change purchasing it this way. Just be sure to read the installation instructions thoroughly prior to install to get a clear picture of the process. Watching a few online tutorials can’t hurt either.

Honorable Mention
ACDelco TCK285B Professional Timing Belt Kit

The ACDelco TCK285B Professional Timing Belt Kit gets a shout out for being one of the most versatile timing belt kits on our list. ACDelco offers parts that cover more than 33 million import applications. This kit includes a timing belt, tensioners, and idlers for a wide variety of Asian and European makes and models.


While not exactly OEM parts, this kit contains very dependable and premium professional aftermarket components that deliver the performance and reliability customers have come to expect from ACDelco.


This kit does not include a water pump, which is a common part that is replaced at the same time, so consider purchasing one with it. You’ll also need to have on hand or purchase the proper installation tools, as they’re not included in this kit. Because it’s a universal kit, there aren’t any vehicle specific installation instructions either.

Honorable Mention
SKF VKMC Timing Belt and Water Pump Kit

Reliably designed, the SKF VKMC Timing Belt and Water Pump Kit comes complete with everything you need to reset this critical component. Essential to coordinating the movements of the crank and camshafts, without a quality timing belt, nothing works. This model is designed to bear tension effectively, while also cooling down in an efficient manner. If the material isn’t tough enough, it won’t provide the correct tension. This is where the SKF belt shines. Cooling down efficiently, it isn’t prone to structural damage, even on the smallest scales. The high-resistant belt with a top-of-the-line thermal range is compatible with a range of systems, though be sure to ensure that it’s a fit beforehand. So long as it is, this complete set enables you to enhance engine performance and prevent further damage. 


Complete with all the tools you need to set up this timing belt and water pump, the manufacturer does recommend professional installation. Once it’s in place, it keeps your engine humming smoothly over the long term.

Honorable Mention
APSG Timing Belt Kit

Though it’s a vehicle-specific type of belt kit, the noteworthy quality of the APSG Timing Belt Kit earns it a shoutout on this list. For starters, it is crafted specifically to work with the mechanics of the compatible vehicles. That means friction and heat are both optimized relative to the belt-engine interaction. The set comes with everything needed for install, including the water pump and seal for the camshaft and crankshaft. With parts manufactured directly by Honda, all of the materials have a proven track record of success in all types of road conditions. Because it is a precise fit, installation is straightforward. Working on most Acuras made between 2004 and 2012, Accords made between 2003 and 2012 and Ridgelines made between 2005 and 2014. Though it does require a professional to set it up, the quality fit and precisely designed parts make it a worthy investment. 


The only downside is that this timing belt kit is only really compatible with older vehicles. It doesn’t fit with anything made after 2016. That said, you are more likely to replace your timing belt later in the game, so provided it’s the right part for your ride, it remains a good choice.

Tips

  • If you are doing the installation yourself, make sure you have the proper tools and the mechanical know-how to do the job properly. If you don’t, have a professional install the kit and save yourself money and stress.
  • Most timing belt kits include a belt tensioner. It’s best to replace this part while you’re replacing the timing belt and water pump even though it may look okay. Symptoms of a bad tensioner are chirping, rattling, and squealing sounds; slapping noises; and the illumination of the “check engine” light. 
  • If you have signs of a timing belt failure, such as your engine misfiring or rough starts, don’t delay; get your vehicle checked. It may save your engine and save you lots of money in repairs and parts replacements.

FAQs

Q: How do I know if my timing belt needs replacement?

A: The best way to know if your timing belt needs to be replaced is to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacement in your car’s owner’s manual and just go with that. It’s not something you want to chance. Signs that it may need to be replaced are ticking sounds from the engine, failure of the engine to start, or misfiring during starting. Oil leaking from the front of the motor is another sign you might need your timing belt replaced.

Q: Can I replace a timing belt myself?

A: Yes, if you have the proper tools and knowledge. But beware: Replacing the timing belt involves taking apart major areas of the engine, replacing pulleys and gaskets, replacing the water pump, and then reassembly. Unless you have the tools and the mechanical ability, it is better to have a professional tackle this task.

Q: How do I select the timing belt that fits my car or truck?

A: Your vehicle owner’s manual should have the proper specs for replacement parts listed inside. Most online retailers offer a metric that allows you to input your car’s specific make, model, and year, and they will come up with proper parts recommendations for you. Be sure to double check prior to purchase, and always read through online user reviews to see if what you’re considering is worth it or not.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to our top pick for the best overall timing belt recommendations, we have to go with the Aisin TKF-001 Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump. This kit includes high-quality parts that match OEM specs so that everything fits and functions properly. The accurate instructions make installation easy.

For a more budget-friendly option, check out the Gates TCK304 PowerGrip Premium Timing Belt Component Kit. It’s an affordable option that will suit a wide variety of makes and models.

If you’ve got any game-changing tips or tricks to make timing belt installation easier, hit us up in the comments.