Serpentine Belt vs Timing Belt – What are the Differences?


Are you looking for a short guide on serpentine belt vs timing belt? If so, you are on the right page.

Because not all vehicles have timing belts, it’s important to understand how it differs from a serpentine belt, which is needed in most vehicles. While some people use them interchangeably, they are different and you’ll learn all that in this article.

What’s the Serpentine Belt?

If you want your car to serve you as it should, make sure that the engine is working very well. If the engine fails, you will have to spend extra money to repair or replace it.

To take proper care of the engine, you have to understand those parts that connect several other accessories and must be in great condition always without fail. Two of these important parts that I want to discuss is the Serpentine belt and the Timing belt.


The serpentine belt is a snake-like a belt which you see outside the engine block of your car. It is thin and made of rubber. It is an important part of your car engine that performs some critical functions.

As the name implies, it coils like a snake on your engine accessories to transmit the power that makes them work. It provides mechanical power to the alternator, the power steering wheel, the oil and water pumps, etc.

The serpentine belt is so important that if it fails, your car engine will overheat and stop. To prevent its wear, you must make sure that it doesn’t come in contact with oil or coolant because they can cause damages to it.


Another thing that can cause the serpentine belt to damage is when improper tension from the tensioner causes it to be misaligned.

It lasts longer than other belts and it is also cheaper to buy. Another good thing is that it can be easily removed or installed when you want to replace it.

What is the Timing Belt?

A timing belt is an important piece found inside your engine that drives the camshaft when there are no gears directly driving it.

Whenever there is air intake or exhaust stroke, the timing belt ensures that your engine valves open at the right time and closes at the right time too so that the piston will not strike them.

A timing belt can also drive some engine parts like the water pump and the oil pump depending on the type of engine.


The timing belt is found in the inside of an engine. It is constructed of sturdy materials like neoprene, molded polyurethane or welded urethane.

The belt has teeth on the inside surface and the distance between two of its adjacent teeth is known as the pitch.

These teeth help to connect the crankshaft and camshaft. The body of the timing belt is also covered by either a polymer timing belt cover or metal. It also has high-tensile fibers seen on the whole length as tension members.

Most importantly:

If the timing belt fails, the engine can become irreparable or too costly to repair because some valves will be held open and the piston will strike them.

To prevent its failure, make sure that your car engine is not hot and the oil doesn’t leak too. These two conditions can lower the life expectancy of the belt.

The good news is that some newer ones are now made with temperature resistant materials to elongate the life of the belt.

One good thing about the timing belt is that it is lighter and operates quietly.

What Are The Differences?

The serpentine belt and the timing belt are all important parts of an engine. They work separately to make your engine work very well.

Some people are usually confused about these two belts and this is why I want to help out with this article.

There are notable differences between a serpentine belt and a timing belt. These differences can be seen in their different functions, location in the engine, and others.

  • A serpentine belt does more work than a timing belt. Timing belts synchronize the movement of the crankshaft and the camshaft while the serpentine belt transmits mechanical power which drives the air conditioner, water pump, alternator, etc.
  • The serpentine belt can be seen coiled like a snake around engine accessories while the timing belt is not visible because it is covered.
  • A timing belt is expensive while a serpentine belt is cheap.
  • If a serpentine belt breaks while your engine is on the move, it is only those things that it powers that will stop working like the water pump, AC etc. If the timing belt breaks while you are driving, your piston, valve and cylinder head will be damaged.
  • The breakdown of the serpentine belt is cheaper to handle while repairing the damages caused by a faulty timing belt can cost a fortune.
  • You may need to change your engine if the timing belt breaks but if the serpentine belt brakes, it will not lead to engine replacement.
  • When it comes to servicing, the serpentine belt usually needs regular servicing while the timing belt is serviced once in a while.
  • To replace a serpentine belt is easy because it is outside of the engine. A timing belt needs more work to be replaced because it is covered.
  • The most important thing to a timing belt is that its timing must be accurate without variation while the serpentine belt must be sturdy enough to bear its load without slipping.

From the above differences, the serpentine belt also differs from the timing belt in their respective life expectancy. Since the former bears more load and is exposed, it is likely to damage easily.

The timing belt is hidden and works lesser so it lasts longer in the engine. Also, some vehicles can use more than one drive belt but a timing belt is always just one.

Final Words on Serpentine Belt vs Timing Belt

The bottom line is that both the serpentine and timing belts are very important to the proper functioning of your car engine. The breakdown of either belt can cause damages to your engine.

The effect from a worn serpentine belt may be less severe but it will still cause your engine to overheat.

The best thing you should do to keep your engine working is to take your vehicle to the mechanic for a thorough check from time to time.

The mechanic will check the condition of your belts and advise you when to replace either belt or readjust them as the case may be. Save yourself from embarrassment and extra costs today. Keep both belts in good conditions.

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