Timing Tools – What are timing tools and how to use?

Learn about Engine Timing Tools and How to Use Them

Timing tools are useful when servicing engine timing components. However, not much information is available concerning them. If looking to know more about automotive tools, you’re in the right place. We wrote this article to shed more light on their meaning, types, and use. The article also explains what a typical timing tools set or kit contains and the current price estimates.

What is a Timing Tool?

A timing tool is a type of tool that secures engine timing positions during repairs. This is necessary when replacing a timing belt, for example, or when servicing other parts and the belt or chain has to come out. When setting timing too, especially after rebuilding an engine.

Timing tools go by many different names such as engine timing tools, camshaft timing tools, or simply cam timing tools. Some sellers even call them timing belt tools owing to their use during belt replacement, sometimes also timing chain tools.

The basic function of engine timing tools is to hold the movable parts of the cam timing system in place. This helps prevent throwing the set timing out of step, which can be disastrous to the engine. But what’s cam timing? You may you may be wondering.

Your car engine runs on two types of timing systems; camshaft and ignition timing. Cam timing, as it’s also called, involves a synchronized operation of the pistons and valves. The pistons, in particular, must reach the TDC position just at the right time for the spark plugs to fire or compression to ignite the air fuel mixture.

More importantly, the pistons must move in relation to the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves. This timed motion relies on the rotation of the crankshaft in reference to the camshafts.

The crankshaft rotates with the up and down movement of the pistons, while camshafts open and close the intake and exhaust valves. This ensures the proper and efficient operation of the engine. In the operation of some engines, timing also helps prevent the pistons and valves from colliding.

Camshaft timing usually comes pre-set by automakers. In order to preserve it, a toothed belt or chain is used to link the crankshaft to the camshafts. As the engine runs, the belt rotates the camshafts to follow the manufacturer’s timing.

Removing the belt leaves the two parts free to move on their own. Other components may also rotate, leaving the timing in disarray. This is where the camshaft timing tools come in.

The timing tools essentially lock the crankshaft, camshaft, and several other parts in place to prevent them from rotating. Timing tools are also useful when realigning timing components during or after repairs that involve removing the cam belt.

Timing tools can be different types depending on application
Timing tools can be different types depending on application
Resource: https://www.e46fanatics.com

Types of Timing Tools and application

Automotive timing tools are made in many different designs. This is necessitated by the different types of engines and their configurations. There’s also not specific way to secure crankshaft and camshaft gears, which allows manufacturers to make the tools in various shapes and sizes. That said, the automotive timing tools on the market today are generally two types.

  • Engine-Specific Timing Tools
  • Universal Timing Tools

Below is a description of each type and situations that fit their application.

Engine Specific Timing Tools

As the name implies, these tools are meant for specific cars and engines. Examples include timing tools for a BMW, Audi timing tools, Mazda timing tools, and more. There are both advantages and disadvantages to that based on the required level of ease during use.

One of the good things about engine-specific timing tools is that they are easy to use. That’s because they are fully designed to fit the parts of the particular engine. On the downside, the tools are not suitable if you have to service several different cars.

Universal Timing Tools

Universal timing tools mean tools that you can use on a broad range of car types and models. As such, you do not need to purchase different sets of the tools. Most universal timing tools can service common car makes and models without switching to a different set.

Many auto repair shops use the universal types of engine timing tools. Their use means less storage space and fewer costs to acquire them. But despite their universality, these tools will not suit all car types, and you may still need an additional set or two if you’re a mechanic.

Many timing tool suppliers also classify timing tools by the type of engine. In that regard, there are gasoline timing tools and diesel timing tools. These are usually designed to fit the parts of each particular engine, which may be different.

Other classification methods include by vehicle type, make, and model. This allows buyers to narrow down their choices. The naming also helps to ensure the right timing lock tool for specific engines.

An example of a timing tools kit showing the different pieces
Resource: https://www.cruzetalk.com

What is in a Timing Tools Kit?

Automotive timing tools are mostly available as sets or kits. The set then typically contains a tool for each movable part of the timing system. The contents of timing tools kits are different across manufactures and car types. Just to give you an idea of what’s included, here is a list of the main tools in a typical kit.

  • Camshaft locking tool
  • Camshaft alignment tool
  • Crankshaft locking tool
  • Tensioner locking tool
  • Flywheel locking tool
  • Injection pump pulley tool

Let’s see where and how each tool is used.

Camshaft Locking Tool- this timing tool secures the position of the camshaft sprockets. Its function is to ensure camshafts do not lose their setting relative to the crankshaft. You insert it into the sprockets when you have to remove the timing belt, which can be during the belt replacement or when changing a part behind the belt.

Camshaft Alignment Tool- this is the pin or plate that you insert in a slot located at the ends of the camshaft. As its name suggests, the tool comes in useful when looking to correct or establish proper engine timing, especially when servicing a belt or doing major valve train repairs.

Crankshaft Locking Tool- just like the camshaft tool, the crankshaft locking tool locks the crankshaft during engine and cam belt repairs. It’s one of the main timing belt locking tools and exists in different designs. You normally insert it after rotating the engine to the Top Dead Center for cylinder 1.

Tensioner Locking Tool- this timing belt tensioner tool is specifically used to hold the tensioner in place. It’s usually fitted once you release the tensioner to remove the belt. In order to ensure the timing remains set, you should not remove this tool until you have re-installed or replaced the belt.

Flywheel Locking Tool– the tool simply locks the flywheel. The flywheel is connected to the crankshaft timing system. As such, it should not turn while you service the timing belt or repair other engine parts. To insert the flywheel locking tool, rotate the crankshaft to its timed position.

Injection Pump Pulley Tool- this tool is normally designed as a hollow pin. Its function is to ensure the correct injection pump position in reference to the camshaft timing. The hollow design helps prevent fuel from pushing it out in the middle of a repair or timing job.

Other tools found in an engine timing tool kit and worth mentioning are tensioner wrench and balancer shaft tool. The tensioner wrench helps with securing the tensioner pulley when removing its bolt, while the balancer tool serves to set the position of the balance shaft.

The timing tools list above includes what you will usually find in a conventional kit. Some kits will have more tools, most of which often serve the same purpose. It depends on the type of kit and the type of engine that it’s meant for.

A universal timing tool kit, for example, will often have more than 10 different tools, some up to 16 or more. Usually, a higher number of tools means a wider range of cars that you can service using the kit. Many auto repair shops prefer universal timing tools. They are more versatile and cost effective.

Image title: it’s crucial to know how to use timing tools safely and correctly
Resource: https://www.youtube.com

How to Use Timing Tools Correctly

Timing tools are simple components and usually in the form of locking pins and plates or blocks. When used correctly, they help set or preserve the cam shaft timing in a vehicle. Not so if you use them incorrectly. Use the below tips to ensure the proper installation of engine or camshaft timing tools.

Always Use the Right Timing Tool

Many timing tool kits cone with manuals on how to insert the tools that they contain. In order to avoid improper installation use the right tools for the specific part. Always refer to the manual, and have the identity of every tool in the kit. Some kits offer a universal application. However, that doesn’t mean they will fit every engine type.

Never Use Force to Install a timing Tool

However tempting it may be, never use force or leverage to insert a locking pin or plate. Doing so risks damaging the tool or even the timing gear being locked. Instead, install them gently. You may also be using the wrong type of timing tool if you have to force it into a slot or any other opening, which is not advisable.

Never Start the Engine with Timing Tools in Place

Engine timing tools lock timing gear and other components in place. Starting the engine with the tools in the bores and slots, therefore, risks causing breakage to the tools themselves and the locked parts. Before starting the repair process or tool installation, start by making the necessary preparations. These include switching off the engine and disconnecting the battery.

Remove all Timing Tools after Use

It’s crucial to ensure that no locking tools remains installed when you are done with servicing the engine parts or replacing the timing belt or chain. To avoid that always refer to your timing tools kit and manual to account for every tool in the set. That way, you will easily identify the missing piece and avoid damage to your car’s engine parts.

Timing tools for BMW
Resource: http://www.zhpmafia.com

Timing Tools FAQs

Timing tools are not frequently used. They are, therefore, often less understood both in terms of identity and application. This question and answer section will help you learn more about them.

Q1. Can I change a timing belt without timing tools?

A. You could.
However two things would happen.
First you would need to adjust can timing manually, which can be cumbersome and error-prone.
Secondly, you would risk damaging the engine or causing it to run incorrectly. Lost timing affects engine performance.

If your car uses an interference engine, the valves share the space above the cylinder bore with the piston but at different times. With the timing off, these two parts could collide and cause severe engine damage. A timing tool kit helps you avoid all these problems.

Q2. What timing tools do I need most when changing a timing belt?

A. The camshaft and crankshaft locking tools are the most essential when servicing a timing belt or chain.

That’s because the crankshaft and camshaft are the main parts of the engine timing system.

When replacing a timing belt or servicing the parts close to it, ensure that you have these two timing holding tools.
Other important locking tools are the belt tensioner pin and the injection pump pulley tool.

Q3. How much is a timing tool set?

A. It’s not easy to give a figure for the engine timing tools price. That’s because the prices are different for different types of the tools. Timing tools are also commonly purchased as kits. These kits contain different types and number of tools. That’s besides the many different manufacturers, each with own pricing for individual tool sets. With these factors in place, most timing tool kits go for $25 and higher.

Q4. Where do I buy timing tools?

A. Automotive timing tools fall in the category of car parts. They are, therefore, sold at most auto parts stores, whether online or at brick and mortar stores. Buying the tools online provides with an array of advantages which include offers, discounts, and price comparisons. You can even go through catalogs before making your decision, or run a search to find the timing tools set that suits your particular engine.

Q5. Can you buy individual timing tools?

A. You can. The timing tools for cars are normally available as sets or kits. They are also used as sets and comprised of tools to lock various timing components. However, you can still buy then as individual parts. Situations that would lead you to that include when you have misplaced a tool from a kit, or when looking to only buy the necessary tools for your type of engine.

Q6. Are all automotive timing tools identical?

A. They are not. There are thousands if not hundreds of locking tools in terms of shape and size. Do not expect the tools for different engines to look the same. A timing tool set from one manufacturer will also not match with that of another company. In addition to design differences, the number of the tools in set or kit varies wildly with some having less than ten pieces and others more.

Q7. What are the options when shopping for engine timing tools?

A. You will mostly need to decide between specialized and universal tools. The choice that you make will depend on several factors such as whether you need to service one or different cars using the same kit. Engine specific timing tools are great if you are a DIY enthusiast who own one or two cars. The costs to obtain such tool sets would be negligible. On the other hand, universal timing tools are an advantage if you own many different cars or a repair shop.

Q8. How do I choose the best timing tool kit for my car?

A. The best timing tools for your car are those that come from a reputable manufacturer. Different materials are used to make them, which means varying levels of quality and durability. The best tools should also fit your type of engine. This is usually indicated by the manufacturer. Always check the various specifications before settling for a particular tool or kit, and choose what suits your requirements.

Q9. Are engine timing tools all you need to ensure correct timing during and after repairs?

A. The simple answer is no. Engines use two types of timings to run properly, cam timing and ignition timing. Timing tools only preserve cam timing. It’s advisable, therefore, to check and adjust ignition timing as well after changing a timing belt or chain, even when using locking tools. That way, your engine will run at its optimum and without issues.


Timing tools come in useful when you need to set or maintain engine timing. They make your servicing the timing belt and several other parts easy. Most importantly, timing tools make the process safer for your engine. You can choose to purchase specialized tools for your car or opt for universal timing tools. Use the information in this article to decide the type of timing tools kit or set to buy.

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About Author
Richard Johnson
Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a writer and a content marketer who works for hand in hand with Sunbright Automotive Tools. Beforehand, Richard Johnson worked for multiple industries that had helped both small and big businesses to build better brands online through web page contents that productized services.

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