Belt Up With A Redundant Car Part

The toothed belt that turns the camshaft in synchronization with the crankshaft on many motor vehicle engines is something of an under-appreciated component. Unless you are unlucky enough to ave had one fail and destroy your engine, it’s probably something you’ve never given a second thought to outside of periodic service intervals.

For something to perform such a task over so many thousands of miles of motoring it must be made of pretty strong stuff. Even when a belt is life-expired it is still in good physical shape, and [Crispyjones] saw the potential in a used Subaru belt to make a different type of belt. After keeping his engine in sync for so long it would serve no less vital a purpose, and keep his pants from falling down.

You can of course buy the hardware for a belt from a decent crafting store, but he chose to recycle a buckle from a worn-out leather belt. Cleaning the timing belt and cutting it carefully so that the Subaru logo would be on show to the outside world in the finished article, he secured it round the buckle with some epoxy glue and a bit of stitching. The original leather retaining loop is not really appropriate, so one is fashioned from wire. Finally we see the process for measuring where the holes should be placed, followed by their creation with a hole punch.

Hackaday isn’t a crafting site, so we don’t often feature projects like this one. But the humble timing belt is a component that we’ve probably all replaced and thrown away more than once without really thinking what the properties of the thing we’re throwing away are. So we like this relatively simple project for its re-use of something few of us would otherwise keep, as well as for its delivering rather a cool belt. We’ve featured plenty of cambelts here doing their traditional job, but this is the first time we’ve had one as an item of clothing. We’ll leave you with a glimpse of a future without cambelts at all.

61 thoughts on “Belt Up With A Redundant Car Part

    1. That would be cool as hell, honestly. Sure would beat punching holes for a normal mechanism, or the slippage throughout the day that I seem to get with the flat-web buckles.

      I look forward to your article!

    2. I agree. That’s the second thing I thought of.

      It has meshing teeth that would be perfect for locking an adjustable length.

      My first thought was that I wouldn’t want to wrap something around my waist that is porous and had spent six months or more exposed to high carcinogen environment.

      That’s the problem with hacking ans doing things that haven’t been done a lot before. There are risks and sometime they’re not oblivious.

      I cut fiberglass PCB material for many years oblivious to the risk of silicosis.

      1. Six months? Normally such a belt lasts for years, so it could have been 6 years. But perhaps you misunderstood something: You are not supposed to lick or eat the belt, just wrap it around your clothes.

        1. “You are not supposed to lick or eat the belt, just wrap it around your clothes.”
          You might want to rethink this. Ever play with glitter or chalk? They get around freely. I’d expect a similar dynamic in this context. If you must make a clothing belt out of a timing belt, get a new, unused one. (but that would just be silly, but on second thought, most styles are :-) )

        2. Timing belts are replaced by distance or time, whichever is first. I live in a country of vast distances and 6 months is realistic in many cases.

          The most common path for carcinogens is respiratory. Some can even travel via skin contact.

          Buy a cheap surplus belt and do this.

        1. This is more creative recycling than a hack, for sure. But Jenny thought it was kinda cool, so she posted it. (I think it’s fun too, and second the comments about the belt buckle that meshes with the belt’s teeth.)

          Ease up folks, it’s the weekend.

          1. Wow that caught me out.

            I have been reading here for a while (very long while) and I think I know most of the writing styles and authors preferred topics.

            To cut a long story short. I didn’t read the author name and assumed it was Dan.

      1. I don’t think that’s the definition. Hell, I don’t think there is a good definition. What is a hack? Is a hacker just a normal engineer or programmer who wants desperately for people to call them something other than “nerd?” That’s always been my assumption and my goal. Is it just someone who makes garbage out of other garbage for no reason or benefit, like the crap you see on DIwhy? Hopefully not.

        I generally eyeroll pretty hard when I hear the term used irl. Would a person making a belt out of car trash accurately be termed a hacker? What if you went the other way around, used a pants belt for a timing belt in an engine? Then you’d have no car and no way to hold your pants up, that’s what. All sorts of piston and valve damage. That’s what I originally thought this article was about, so at least that’s somewhat relieving.

        1. I think you’re right, there will probably never be an agreed definition, re using something other than the original design or intention sounds good right up until someone peels a cow and makes some shoes or a belt, do we consider that a hack? If so the cam belt was already a hack as a cambelt, or is the fact of re using something that a human made with a clearly defined use, like a toothed belt to drive toothed wheels, i:e not as a belt, this makes it hack, were just not impressed with it enough to say “good hack” obviously if the buckle was another engine component that locked the teeth into mesh to hold and adjust, then we’d all be impressed and saying good hack.
          Oh and..
          Doesn’t it make your clothes dirty?

    3. When I make mine, I’ll be making it with that feature.
      And it’ll be used on the clothes I wear when working on cars which are already dirty.
      And I’ve got an idea for xmas presents for all my car mates (and nos belts can be had for sub $10).
      Thanks HaD.

    1. Middle class at best. Still stretches, wears sprockets. Saws through an aluminum block when it has too much slack and low clearance. Seen that happen once. How about a direct herringbone gear drive, like a WWII fighter plane? Never ever a timing problem, no matter what. And they shot down the original “master race” back then too, which I think deserves points.

      There’s some motorcycle engines out there with geared timing. Used to have one, I loved that chunky old thing.

          1. 3 – Driver on the crankshaft replacing the bottom sprocket, an idler, and a driven gear where the top sprocket was located. All steel. There were a couple of different sets on offer. All steel, 2 steel with a nylon idler, and case-hardened aluminium. I’ve no idea what happened to the nylon-idler options, but there were stories about brinnelling on the aluminium gears when not installed properly. This was related to me long ago from a Moto Guzzi specialist. You were supposed to drill a hole through the crankcase into the sump, so that the bottom gear would sit in an oil bath and fling oil everywhere to lubricate the other gears. When the oil hole wasn’t drilled, there was inadequate supply for barrier lubrication, and the gear teeth ended up getting worn and sloppy, requiring replacement or a return to the chain drive. Fortunately mine are fine.

            I used to run it on open bellmouths to revel in the induction roar, except that it needed a top-end refresh roughly every 100,000km – rings and bore. My mechanic told me that it was OK to run bellmouths in Europe, but not in Australia. Apparently the dust here is very high in iron (lots of iron ore deposits, so lots of iron oxides in the general dust), and it wears out the bores and rings very quickly – so I relented and put air filters on it. At anything up to AUD$1000 for rings, bores, sometimes pistons, and labour, I can settle for imagining the induction noise. Anyway, he checked the condition of the gears every time he opened the engine up, and they’re doing fine.

    2. garage owner here checking in. timing chains by all manufacturers these days are made of chocolate. requiring replacement usually before 100k miles and costing a fortune when they do. at least belts are designed to be serviced.

        1. yes and no, have had plenty in which were instant failures, just this month (to use actual examples) a peugeot gti somethingorother (same engine as mini cooper S) came in for valve stem oil seals, 80k on the clock, upper chain guide was cracked in 2 and moments away from getting chewed up and spitting the chain, engine was running (and silent)sure, but that counts as a failure. The other one was a tdv6 rangerover sport. this has a timing belt but it only drives one cam per bank, the other cam is chain driven from the first. the design of the system means the left hand bank the chain tensioner runs on the slack side as it should. but due to the banks being mirrored the right bank chain tensioner tensions on the driven side of the chain, awefull design, but as the chain wears and gets more slack they slap about, and snap, likely due to valves kissing pistons after it jumps a tooth or 2.

          Yeah timing belts fail if not serviced, and rarely they will even when well serviced, for example due to a waterpump failure, but I recon the ratio of chain to belt failures I see is 5:1 mainly cause people know to service belts, and let chains run till they start jumping teeth. Just what I see day to day. in the last 10-15 years all manufacturers (IMHO) have been producing weaker and weaker chains.

  1. Amateurs. Gear-driven is the way.
    (back in the day…)
    ‘course, we’re now on our 11th Subaru in our family since ’83. Worn belts, blown head gaskets, stale option packages and rust aside, they’re still great.
    That gear-drive one? A 1953 Willys Jeep, RIP. 56 horsepower, top speed 60 mph, no power anything, but could still haul 1-ton loads. When the cam gear shredded itself one winter we carved one out of hardwood — lasted until spring, when we could get a new one. I wish we had pictures. *that* was a hack.

    1. Bungie cords as ad-hoc suspenders linking from belt loop over the shoulder down to another belt loop. Done. Bungie cords also make good replacemnets for the tiable cords in sweat pants, especially the carbuckle type.

  2. You serious? this is definitely not why I’m here, and I would say it’s not why long time readers are here. If you want to spread out to a larger audience do it by adding different blogs, not watering down the main one.

  3. Wow, some of y’all can really be an elitist bunch, can’t you? This is the very definition of a hack–a life hack, to be precise. Why all of the hate? Do you not remember when you didn’t have the skills or money to build a drone out of box fans or make an FPGA emulate an Amiga? FOR SHAME! This will allow those who want to create things but don’t have your deep pockets or knowledge base to dip their toes in the maker lifestyle. It may not be your cup of tea, but there’s no need for y’all to whine about it!

  4. What’s wrong with the Hack A Day community? This item is pure hack even if it doesn’t use a Raspberry combined with a home made fusion reactor working with an old vaccum cleaner linked to an modified Dual Shock 4.

    1. It should be noted that there there are 2 different kinds of internal combustion engines, non-interference and collission. With non-interference the belt/chain fails and the crankshaft and cam shaft(s) get out of phase and the engine stops running and you are stranded on the highway. With the collsion type add that the pistons driven by the crank shaft and the valves driven by the cam shaft collide with each other destroying many parts and causing the need for an engine rebuild/replace. Or you could just switch to an electric like I did and not have to worry about all that. :-) ..still 100,000 miles on a belt is pretty impressive.

      1. I’ve alwasy heard them called non-interference and interference.
        Which is the same thing but easier to remember than collision.

        Nothing beats rocking up to buy a spares or repair car with a new timing belt and driving it away :)

        1. I’m sure it does feel good taking a dead car, changing a timing belt, and then driving it all happy and such. :-) I was sitting on the fence about choosing the term “interference” vs “collision”. I think I’ve heard both terms, perhaps from people who both like and dislike such engines. You can’t just change a belt and drive those units. :-) This whole conversation makes me glad I’m driving a modest electric as my main go to vehicle, just a nice friendly, reliable Nissan LEAF, nothing showy and contentious like a Tesla.

  5. Has anyone on here ever worked on a car? These belts are gross, especially used ones. They are covered in a fine film of oil and grossness, and the material they are made out of sheds rubber and marks anything it touches. Not to mention the metal and/or fiberglass reinforcement woven in them that can cause nasty slivers and scrapes. I’m all about reduce/reuse/recycle, but this is a terrible idea.

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