Can Timing Belt Cause Jerking? Know It All

Yes, the timing belt can cause jerking if it’s faulty. If the timing belt is stretched or slipped, it can cause your car to jerk. Also if the timing belt gets misaligned, it can lead to jerky movements. Fortunately, these issues can usually be fixed.

This is just a quick summary. Keep reading to find out more.

timing belt can cause jerking

When Does Timing Belt Cause Jerking?

There are different scenarios when the timing belt can cause jerking. Here we’ll discuss all the potential situations when the timing belt can cause jerking.  

When the Timing Belt Stretches

If the timing belt is stretched, it slips. When it slips it causes the engine timing to be off, resulting in rough idling and finally jerking.

But how can a bad timing belt cause rough idling?

The timing belt synchronizes the crankshaft and camshaft, which controls the valves. If it’s not working correctly, the valves may open and close at the wrong times, disrupting the engine and causing rough idling. As a result, the engine jerks.

However, there is a pretty easy solution for this issue. 

Solution: Tighten the Timing Belt Properly

The only solution for the stretched and slipping belt is tightening the timing belt properly. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to tighten the timing belt tension. To follow the steps along, you need to have the following tools ready:

Tools Needed

  • A socket wrench
  • A tension gauge
  • Ratchet

Step 1: Take the serpentine belt off

To access the timing belt, it is necessary first to remove the serpentine belt. The timing belt is usually found inside a cover, and the serpentine belt is located on top of this cover.

To remove the serpentine belt, use a socket wrench to loosen and remove the bolts that secure it. Afterward, remove any other pulleys that are mounted on the timing belt cover.

Step 2: Uncover the timing belt

You will need to remove some bolts to remove the timing belt cover to access the timing belt. After removing the cover, you should be able to see and access the timing belt easily. Remember how you disassemble these parts so they can be reassembled correctly later on.

Step 3: Locate the timing belt tensioner 

The timing belt tensioner is a pulley that is used to maintain the proper tension on the timing belt. In most cases, it is located near the camshaft. For more clear direction, have a look at the image below.

Locate the timing belt tensioner

Step 4: Check the tension 

Use a tension gauge to check the tension on the timing belt. The tension should be within the manufacturer’s specified range. In the following video, learn how to check the tension of a timing belt using a tension gauge.

Step 5: Adjust the tensioner 

To adjust the tension of the timing belt, you’ll need to use a ratchet to turn the tensioner bolt. If the tension is too loose, turn the bolt clockwise to tighten it. If the tension is too high, turn the bolt counterclockwise to loosen it.

Step 6: Check the tension again

After adjusting the tensioner, use the tension gauge to check the tension on the timing belt again. Make any additional adjustments as needed until the tension is within the specified range.

Step 7: Check if the timing belt is working properly

Start the engine and let it run for a while; check to ensure that the tension of the timing belt is still in the correct range. If it’s not, go back and repeat step 3. 

Step 8: Reassemble the Components 

Reassemble all the components back in their place accordingly, and you’re good to go.

It’s always recommended to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when working with the timing belt. This is because an improperly-tensioned timing belt can result in poor engine performance.

When the Timing Belt Breaks

When a timing belt snaps or breaks, it can prevent the valves from opening and closing at the correct times, thus disrupting the engine’s operation. This can cause the engine to stall, resulting in a jerky motion as the vehicle comes to a stop.

In addition to causing the engine to stall, a broken or snapped timing belt can also damage the engine itself. If the timing belt breaks while the engine is running, the valves and pistons can collide, causing them to bend.

Solution: Replace the Timing Belt

If the timing belt breaks, the only solution is to replace the belt. Replacing the timing belt is a complicated procedure. Several engine parts need to be disassembled. So, it’s better to contact an expert to replace the timing belt.

However, I’m providing a video for your reference if you’re a DIY person. But always make sure you follow the user manual, as the procedure will vary from car to car.

When the Timing Belt Becomes Misaligned or Out of Sync

If the timing belt becomes misaligned or out of sync with the rest of the engine’s components, it can cause the engine to run poorly and result in jerking or stuttering while driving. 

Nonetheless, some straightforward steps can solve this problem.

Solution: Realign the Timing Belt

The timing belt can be realigned by following some easy-to-perform steps. Let’s see what those are-

Tools Needed

  • A socket wrench
  • A tension gauge
  • Long ratchet

Step 1: Take off the serpentine belt, and timing belt cover

To do this, follow steps 1 and 2 of the tightening timing belt tension.

Step 2: Locate the tensioner pulley & loosen the tension

Locating the timing belt tensioner pulley is the first step. When you’ve found the tensioner pulley, loosen it by turning the tensioner bolt counterclockwise.

Step 3: Find the timing mark

To align the timing belt correctly, you need to find out the timing mark on the camshaft and crankshaft. The timing mark typically looks like a dot on both the camshaft and crankshaft.

Step 4: Align the crankshaft and camshaft by turning the belt

In this step, you must correctly align the camshaft and crankshaft by turning the timing belt with a long ratchet wrench. See the diagram below to understand the correct alignment. 

Step 4: Tighten the timing belt tension accordingly

You must tighten the tension according to the manufacturer’s guide by adjusting the tensioner pulley. Then check the tension by using the tensioner gauge and make necessary adjustments. 

To check the tension on the timing belt, follow step 4 in the tighten the timing belt section.

Timing Belt Maintenance Guide 

Here are some special tips to keep your timing belt in good condition for an extended period:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule
  • Keep the timing belt and the area around it clean
  • Check and adjust the belt tension regularly
  • Look for signs of wear and damage, and replace if needed
  • Lubricate the pulleys according to the manufacturer’s recommendations

Following these tips will help ensure your timing belt stays in good condition and functions properly.

Timing Belt Maintenance Guide Infographic

What Else Can Cause Jerking?

There are many other factors that could be causing your car to jerk, aside from the timing belt. To make it easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of all the possible causes in the table below. Have a quick look. (1)

Dirty or clogged fuel injectorsClean or replace the fuel injectors
Faulty spark plugs or ignition wiresReplace spark plugs or ignition wires
Worn out or damaged engine mountReplace engine mount
Failed mass airflow (MAF) sensorReplace MAF sensor
Worn out or damaged transmission mountReplace transmission mount
Failed transmission control moduleReplace transmission control module
Low transmission fluid levelAdd transmission fluid
Failed catalytic converterReplace catalytic converter
Faulty oxygen sensorReplace oxygen sensor

It’s worth noting that these are just a few of the potential factors that could cause a car to jerk.

To accurately diagnose and fix the issue, you should have your car checked by a professional. They will be able to perform diagnostic tests and identify the root of the problem. There can be other issues like the timing belt being off by one tooth, get yourself ready to deal with them.


Does The Timing Belt Affect Shifting?

Yes, the timing belt can affect shifting in some vehicles. When the timing belt is damaged or not functioning properly, the engine misfires, causing the transmission to malfunction and shifting problems. Your timing belt needs to be in good shape to ensure smooth operation.

Can A Bad Timing Belt Cause Transmission Problems?

Yes, a bad timing belt can cause transmission problems. If the timing belt fails or becomes damaged, it can cause the engine to stop running or run poorly, affecting the transmission and leading to problems such as hard shifting, slipping gears, or a loss of power. 

Can A Bad Timing Belt Cause Loss of Power?

Yes, a bad timing belt can cause a loss of power in a car. The timing belt coordinates the crankshaft and camshaft rotations, which are essential for the engine’s efficient operation. Wear or damage to the timing belt can lead to engine misfiring or power loss.


So, now you should have a better understanding of whether can timing belt cause jerking. It’s important to remember that a bad timing belt is just one potential cause of jerking in a vehicle. 

There could be a variety of other factors at play as well. You should contact a professional mechanic for further assistance if you’re still experiencing jerking after addressing the timing belt.

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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.