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I think my timing belt broke

How can I find out if my timing belt broke or if it could be my starter. The motor just makes a zing noise when turned over and yes it’s the vTech engine 4cyl. Would someone please help me on this one ?

If the starter drive has failed the crankshaft won’t turn. Observe the front crankshaft pulley and belts while someone cranks the engine for you. If the pulleys and belts don’t rotate the problem is with the starter.

I don’t know from what decade your Civic is from, if it has a distributor remove the cap and watch for rotation while cranking the engine. If the timing belt broke the distributor won’t turn.

Year, trim, engine size?

If this is a Honda or Accura motor the broken timing belt would lock up the motor. The starter zing noise might be the starter gear not engaging the flywheel. Not sure if this is a starter problem or broken timing belt.

A “zing” noise is not typical of a busted TB. It’s typical of a starter motor that never engages with the flywheel ring gear. Your starter has an assembly that uses a solenoid to (1) slide a gear on the starter motor forward to engage the ring gear to turn the crankshaft, and (2) engage some electrical contacts that enable the starter motor circuitry. (2) doesn’t happen unless (1) happens… they’re mechanically connected. A “zing” usually suggests that the starter motor gear teeth are sliding into a zone of the ring gear where the teeth are stripped out.

No disrespect meant, but I think a shop needs to look at this. The nature of your post suggests that trying to diagnose and repair this yourself will result in only frustration.

I would check the wiring to the starter. I had a Honda that drove through a flood. The wires had just enough corrosion and contamination that the starter would spin but not engage the flywheel. I had to clean up the contacts in the solenoid too.

Just another reason not to drive a car through high water.

Agree the zing is a starter motor not engaging, now a broken tooth because of a timing belt failure caused the engine to lock up another possibility.

Zing is not really defined, but if the starter motor is cranking the engine in what sounds to be an abnormally fast fashion then the belt has likely snapped.

Since this appears to be a Honda Civic you would now be faced with engine damage if the belt is broken.

I expect it is a problem w/the starter motor too. You can confirm it by asking a helper to crank the engine (producing the zing sound) while you watch the crankshaft pulley. If it doesn’t turn, most likely the starter isn’t engaging the flywheel for some reason. Good idea to wear eye protection for this.

If the crank pulley turns, then the next question is whether the camshaft is turning too, like it should. On many in-line 4 motors like yours you can see inside the camshaft area simply by opening the oil filler cap and peering in with a flashlight. On my Corolla I can see the camshaft sprocket easily by doing that. If the crank pulley is turning but the camshaft sprocket (or the camshaft itself) isn’t, then you’re probably looking at a broken timing belt. If you think there’s a good chance the timing belt it broken, stop. Tow the car to a shop & let a pro-mechanic take over, as doing more experiments may damage the valves and pistons.

I have only had one belt break and it was a non-interference engine. I was driving along and the engine lost all power and would not restart. IT also spun very freely like it had no compression.

I hope your situation isn’t the TB as most Hondas are interference. If you find out it is just the starter, then look at the service history and change the belt ASAP if it is due or overdue.

Something you can do to check without turning the engine is to pull the top bolts off the timing cover and pull it back 1/2 inch or so from the head. It is just plastic so will have some flex. You may need a flashlight but should be able to see the belt, cam sprockets, etc. If the belt is just loose in there or you cannot even see it, then you know what happened.