Can Oil Damage A Timing Belt? Take Immediate Action!

Oil can damage timing belts as they’re mostly made of rubber, polyurethane, and other reinforced materials. These materials can get easily damaged with lubricant oil. Oil can also make the teeth of the belt slip from the pulleys and it can lead to engine off-timing and belt damage. Furthermore, excessive debris can accumulate in the belt and make the belt weaker over time.

There’s more than a simple yes or no answer to “can oil damage a timing belt.” If you notice oil in the timing belt, you must clean it immediately and in a certain way. You will also know what to do with the oil in the timing belt from this article.

Can Oil Damage A Timing Belt? 

Oil can damage the timing belt by accumulating excessive dirt and belt slippage. Long exposure to oil will also deteriorate the belt. 

If your timing belt is exposed to oil, it will face the following problems:


Exposure to oil can cause the belt to become brittle and break more easily. The timing belt is typically made of rubber, polyurethane, and neoprene. However, some belts are made of polyurethane as well. Both of the materials are sensitive to oil (1). 

The motor oil soaks in the timing belt and gradually degenerates the belt. 

Timing Belt Slippage

Another problem the oil can cause is making the belt slip while rotating. Oil between the belt teeths and camshaft or crankshaft pulley/gear can make the belt slip sideways. As a result, the timing belt can completely slip off the pulleys and this can damage the engine 

Dirt Accumulation on The Belt

An oily timing belt can attract more dirt and debris than usual. Accumulated dirt can hinder the smooth rotation of the belt. As a result, it can cause rough driving and engine misfiring, and tearing of the belt early. 

Excessive Belt Noise

Due to the oil on the belt, the belt will make annoying squeaking noises as it rotates. This is due to the reason that the belt keep slipping from the gear teeths while rotating. This noise can be very loud when driving your car.


Oil can damage a timing belt by degenerating and slipping it from the track. Oil can also lead the belt to break earlier than it should and damage the engine. 
Oil Damage to a timing belt Infographic

How Does The Timing Belt Get Exposed To Oil?

Oil leakage is the most plausible instance of getting oil in the timing belt. The oil leakage can come from several parts, including any broken seal valve or gasket. 

Oil can also spill on the timing belt while doing valve adjustments or other repairing activities around it.

How To Identify And Fix The Oil Leakage Sources? 

If the oil continuou to leak from the engine valve or piston seals, it will severely damag your car’s timing belt. So, before you clean the oil from the timing belt, you must identify the oil leakage source and fix it.

Here’s what you have to do to identify the leakage source and fix it. 

Step 1: Open the timing belt cover and roughly wipe the debris and oil with a washcloth.

Step 2: Now check where the oil is coming from. It might come from a loose or broken camshaft seal or valves, broken crankshaft seal, or a gasket.

Step 3: You have to fix the oil leakage problem after identifying the faulty part. If any seal or gasket is broken or worn out, replace those and attach the new seal correctly. For replacing this part, it is recommended to take the car to a mechanic shop. 

Step 4: If the seals are corroded, remove the corrosion. Corrosion can damage the bolt quickly and cause leakage. You have to spray the corrosion cleaner on the corroded seals and keep it for 1-2 minutes. After that, wipe off the cleaner from the seal with a washcloth. 


Leakage from engine parts and incautious engine repair causes the timing belt to get exposed to oil. You have to identify and fix the oil leakage source to protect the belt from damage. 

How To Clean Oil From The Timing Belt

If there’s oil on the timing belt, it should be cleaned as soon as possible. 

Here are the things you should have with you before starting the cleaning process. 

  1. Washcloth
  2. Detergent
  3. Water
  4. Denatured alcohol
  5. Wrench

Here is the process of cleaning oil from the timing belt. 

Step 1: Shut down the engine and wait for a few minutes to let the engine cool down before cleaning the timing belt.

Step 2: Clean the dirt and debris before opening the timing belt cover to ensure no dirt can go into the engine. 

Step 3: Remove the timing belt cover by unscrewing the nuts with a compatible wrench.

Step 4: Clean the timing belt with water and detergent if the belt has dirt and debris. After that, you have to clean the oil from the belt. Motor oil and grease are stubborn and don’t go away easily. So, detergent and water won’t help with that. 

Moreover, The detergent leaves residue on the belt as well. In this case, you should use denatured alcohol. It will remove the oil from the belt all the way and won’t leave any residue.

[Caution: Denatured alcohol is flammable and should be used with care. Avoid using it near open flames or other sources of ignition.

Step 5: Spray the alcohol on the belt. Keep the denatured alcohol on the timing belt for a few seconds to a minute at most. The alcohol should quickly evaporate, leaving the belt clean and dry. 

Step 6: Make sure to wipe off all the cleaner and water residue from the timing belt with a fresh washcloth. The belt needs to be completely dry before installation to avoid slipping.

Step 7: Reassemble everything once you are done cleaning.

This is how you clean an oily timing belt. 


Use denatured alcohol to effectively remove the oil from the timing belt. 

How To Prevent The Timing Belt From Damaging?

Ensuring essential timing belt maintenance can prevent the belt and the engine from early damage. Here are some of the ways to do it. 

  1. If you spill oil on the belt while repairing any engine part, clean it immediately. 
  2. Occasionally check the timing cover for oil leakage. If you notice any oil leaking from the timing cover, open it and fix the leakage.
  3. Most car manufacturers recommended an interval for inspecting the timing belt. On average the interval is after every 30000 miles of driving. Check for any crack or breakage on the timing belt after this interval. If the belt appears to be wearing unevenly or has become cracked or brittle, replace it immediately to avoid further damage to the engine. 
  4. Even if the timing belt is doing fine, you should replace it after every interval recommended by the car manufacturer (2). On average, the interval is five years or 60,000 miles to 100,000 miles of driving. 


What Are The Signs That My Timing Belt Needs To Be Replaced?

Signs that your timing belt needs to be replaced include a squealing noise from the engine, excessive emission, engine misfiring, and engine idling roughly. The engine may not even start.

What Happens if My Timing Belt Breaks?

If your timing belt breaks while driving, the car will stop immediately. In the case of a non-interference engine, there might not be any further damage. However, if you have an interference engine, the valves and pistons in your engine will collide. It will cause severe damage to your engine. 

Can Oil Damage A Timing Chain?

No, oil usually doesn’t damage a timing chain. The timing chain is made of metal and oil works as lubrication in these chains.


That’s everything on whether can oil damage a timing belt or not. You should immediately clean the oil as it can severely damage the belt. 

The timing belt is an essential component to keep the engine running smoothly. So, you must take proper care of it and regularly diagnose any issues. 

Now, it’s time for me to say goodbye. Good luck, and have a great day!

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Aaron Byrne

Hi, Aaron Byrne here. I'm an expert automotive mechanic with 10 years of experience. I work on engine parts especially timing belts for their repair, maintenance, and replacement.

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Talha Atta

Talha Atta, a Mechanical Engineer and experienced technical content writer and editor at with a passion for the automotive industry.