Bristol Caravans

Motorhome and Campervan Cambelt Replacement: A Complete Overview including What, How, When, and Top Tips

Engines have internal parts, and many of these parts need to be connected. One of the Mechanisms is the timing assembly, parts (example: Crankshaft, Camshaft, Water Pump) are usually connected via a chain or a belt. If you have a Cambelt system, you will need to plan and budget for its replacement.

What is a Cambelt?

The Cambelt is a toothed belt that connects key parts within the engine, it ensures the internal components are synchronised and do not touch each other whilst the engine is running. Some engines have a Camchain, rather than a belt, chains generally last the lifetime of the engine.

Why is it important to replace your Cambelt?

The Cambelt will deteriorate over time, if it breaks, components within the engine will probably collide, causing extensive/costly damage, possibly a new engine.

When should I change it?

This depends on the Make and Model of your engine, refer to your owner’s manual or speak to your trusted mechanical repairer.

Top Tips

Here are our Top 5 Tips on Motorhome and Campervan Cambelt Replacement, so you can make an informed decision before replacing your cam belt… the aim of Bristol Caravans is to build your motorhome & campervan knowledge, so you can make an informed decision about the maintenance of your vehicle.

Before we jump in, and just for transparency, “disclosure”, Bristol Caravans is a workshop, and we replace Cam Belts. Customers often ask questions about Cambelts, I figure an article covering frequent questions and top tips will help to inform you, so specific questions about your vehicle are built on a common understanding. Not all repairers are the same, hopefully this article will help you decide if we are the right fit for you and your vehicle, you can find out what we believe in here.

Motorhomes and Campervans come in all shapes and sizes, just like cars, they can have different features and benefits. Purchase decisions are usually made on; layout, external length, how many births, etc. The Cambelt is not high on this list, so this might be the first time you have considered the Cambelt in your maintenance programme.

For this article, let’s call the company that made the base vehicle (which includes the engine, chassis and running gear) the “manufacturer” and the organisation that has built the motorhome or campervan element of your vehicle the “converter”.

The Cambelt is fitted within the engine, the engine was made by the Manufacturer. Popular manufacturers within the world of Motorhome and Campervans include Fiat, Peugeot, Citroën, Ford, Merc, Iveco.

Your Cambelt keeps all the valves and pistons in your Motorhome or Campervan working together, but “more” importantly, it also stops them from touching in a clever “timed” manner. If the Cambelt breaks, the clever timing fails, and the valves (8 to 16 of them) could impact the top of your pistons, which could result in a lot of very expensive damage.

Tip 1 – Replacement Time vs. Replacement Mileage

Question: When should I change my Cambelt?

You will need to do some research on your vehicle, or speak to your trusted mechanical repairer, as not all engines have a Cambelt, some have a Camchain. A Camchain is usually good for the lifetime of the engine. If you do have a Cambelt, check your service book, the trigger for change is usually “time” or “mileage”, most Motorhomes and Campervans are low mileage, so the “time” period becomes the trigger for change. Example: Fiat Ducato is every 5 years.

The rubber within the Cambelt (sometimes called a Timing Belt) breaks down over time, this type of damage is called oxidation, and it can be caused by oxygen and ozone. So it doesn’t matter if you are using your vehicle or not, the Cambelt will be deteriorating, and will need replacing.

Top Tip – record the next replacement date in your service book and add a reminder sticker to the dash or just inside the driver’s door.

Tip 2 – Genuine Parts vs Pattern Parts

Question: should I buy/use genuine parts when changing my Cambelt?

Like many things in life, not all parts are the same, price is one element of the buying decision, quality is another.

Genuine parts are supplied by the vehicle manufacturer, these are sometimes called OEM or Original Equipment Manufacturer parts. A genuine/OEM part is a safe bet, and when you consider the time (cost) in labour to replace the part, you do not want to have an issue and replace it again.

That said there are some high quality “non-genuine” or ”pattern parts” on the market some parts made for the vehicle manufacture are sold under a different name/brand via independent part suppliers. Ask your mechanical repairer about their thoughts/experience with Cambelts for your vehicle.

Tip 3 – Water pump replacement

Question: Should I replace my Water Pump when replacing my Cambelt?

The Cambelt and Water Pump are often part of the same “sub-assembly” which means, when you need to access one, you will need to remove the other.

Top tip – replace both at the same time. You do not want the cost of replacing a water pump (because it is leaking coolant fluid, and has been listed as an MOT fail) one year after you replaced your Cambelt.

Tip 4 – Workshop type

Question: What type of repairer should I use to replace my Cambelt?

Ideally, find a repairer that can complete all repairs under one roof, this means whatever your issue, you have built one relationship with one organisation. They know you and more importantly, they know your motorhome or campervan.

Ask questions like:

  • How much space do you have for parking?
  • Can you get my Motorhome/Campervan on a ramp?
  • Are your staff mechanically qualified?
  • What experience do you have completing this type of repair?

Tip 5 – Maintenance plan

Build a maintenance plan, so you are aware of costs over a 10 year period. The good news is the Cambelt is not a yearly cost, so by planning you can budget for costs that are known but are infrequent. Here are some typical maintenance actions for a Motorhome or Campervan:

Habitation Service – annual cost
Engine/Chassis service – annual cost
MOT – after year 3 – annual cost
Tyres – every 5 years
Cambelt – every 5 years (subject to manufacturer)
Brake Fluid Change – every 2 years (subject to test)

Bonus Tip – Tyres

As mentioned above, another example of a known, but infrequent cost tyres. Tips to be aware of:

Only fit “C” (camper) rated tyres to Motorhomes and Campervans, they have extra “plies” to manage the constant heavy loads.
The year and week of “tyre manufacture” is stamped on the sidewall of the tyre, tyre manufacturers recommend replacement at 5 years, it’s also an MOT failure on front tyres if over 10 years and the vehicle is 7.5 Tonne and above.

A prudent approach is to plan for new tyres every 5 years.

If you have any questions or feedback, please drop us an email at service@bristolcaravans.com

This is what the AA say about Cambelt Replacement.

For more information and to book, visit our Cambelt Replacement page.