How To Check For A Broken Timing Belt (Honda 1.5L)

A broken timing belt will keep your 1.5L Honda Civic from starting. It'll crank but not start. If you suspect that you've got a broken timing belt on your hands, there are 2 simple tests you can do to find out and in this tutorial I'll show you how.

Contents of this tutorial at a quick glance:

  1. Symptoms Of A Broken Timing Belt.
  2. TEST 1: Check Rotation Of Distributor Rotor.
  3. TEST 2: Check That The Camshaft Turns.
  4. More 1.5L Honda Tutorials.

En Español You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Verificar la Correa de Distribución (1.5L Honda Civic) (at: autotecnico-online.com).

Symptoms Of A Broken Timing Belt

As mentioned at the beginning of this tutorial, when the timing belt breaks, your 1.5L Honda Civic isn't gonna' start. It'll crank, but no start. Here are some more specific things you'll see:

  1. A spark test reveals that none of the 4 spark plug wires are delivering spark. This is because the Ignition System won't create spark with a distributor rotor that does not turn.
  2. A Noid light test reveals that the fuel injection computer is not pulsing the 4 fuel injectors. Again, this is because the computer won't pulse the injectors with a distributor rotor that does not turn..
  3. If you were to do and engine compression test, none of the engine cylinders would produce a compression reading on the compression tester.

Let's jump into the first test in the next subheading:

TEST 1: Check Rotation Of Distributor Rotor

How To Check For A Broken Timing Belt (Honda 1.5L)

The very first test we'll do is to make sure that the distributor rotor turns when a helper cranks then engine in your 1.5L Honda Civic.

If the distributor rotor does NOT turn, as the engine is cranked, then you've confirmed that the timing belt is busted or that the camshaft is broken in 2 (a very common problem on Honda engines).

IMPORTANT: Before you begin this test you must disconnect all of the distributor's electrical connectors. This will prevent the ignition coil from sparking in case the timing belt is not broken and the cause of the no start is something else. Also, think safety and be alert... since you'll be working around a cranking engine.

OK, this is what you need to do:

  1. 1

    Remove the distributor cap but do not remove the distributor's rotor.

    NOTE: Do not remove the distributor from it's place on the cylinder head.

  2. 2

    Disconnect the distributor's electrical connectors.

    NOTE: This will disable the ignition coil and keep it from sparking during the next step.

  3. 3

    Now, when you're ready, have a helper crank the car while you observe the distributor's rotor.

  4. 4

    What will happen is one of two things:

    1.) The distributor rotor will turn as the engine cranks in steady circular motion or...

    2.) The distributor rotor will NOT turn as your helper cranks the engine.

Let's take a look at what your test results mean:


CASE 1: If the distributor rotor turned. This is a clear indication that the timing belt on your 1.5L Honda is not broken.

CASE 2: If the distributor rotor DID NOT turn: This usually tells you that the timing belt is broken and not turning the cam gear, which in turn is not turning the distributor rotor. Just to make sure that the camshaft is not broken in 2 pieces, I suggest performing TEST 2 in the next page.