Published: 2019-04-29 01:02 |

Category: DIY | Tags: engine, engine repair, hyundai, hyundai elantra, piston, repair, timing belt

My car stopped running suddenly on the Indiana toll road about 10 days ago. The timing belt decided to break, which makes the car not want to do anything correctly. To keep engines smaller, some are designed so that the valves sneak down into the piston chamber. (This also increases fuel efficiency.) These engines are known as "interference" engines and is controlled by precise timing to make sure the pistons don't hit the valves. When your timing belt breaks, well...things aren't timed so precisely anymore.
A bent engine valve.

This should not be bent.

It's such a small piece, but it took me a day to get it out of the engine. We took the head (all the valves) off and inspected the pistons. When it hits a valve, the piston itself can be damaged, which would realistically mean ditching the car. I was super lucky because the pistons looked good. There was one small dent, but it wasn't catastrophic. The real danger is shearing the head off the valve and scratching the piston chamber, but that didn't happen either.

My car with the engine head removed, exposing the pistons in the combustion chambers.

Instead of repairing the valves myself, I decided to take it to an engine repair shop because they can do the work in a few hours what would otherwise take me days to accomplish. I picked up the engine head within a week and got it all put back together.

This car is so great. It's at 230,000(ish) miles and with this repair, could probably go another 200k if I keep up with oil and belt changes. This year alone has seen a new engine head, the head gasket, timing belt and water pump, a new alternator, a new clutch and flywheel, and several new sensors and other bits.

Now, this would not have been such a big job had the belt not broken. In a couple years, I'll pre-emptively change the belt to avoid such a situation.

Turns out our minivan also has an interference engine so I'll be taking a day to change that belt before we run into the same problem.

Comments are always open. You can get in touch by sending me an email at