TEST 2: Check That The Camshaft Turns

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

Over the years I've diagnosed Hondas whose camshaft had broken in 2 pieces, yet the timing belt was intact. This broken camshaft caused the distributor rotor to NOT turn (when cranking the engine) and caused a ‘cranks but does not start’ condition.

Although this is a very rare condition to happen, it does happen. So it's a good idea to check for it since it can easily be confirmed (or disconfirmed) by removing the valve cover and the upper plastic timing cover.

Once these parts are off we can visually verify that the timing belt is turning and that the camshaft is not broken (in 2 pieces across its entire length) as the engine is cranked.

IMPORTANT Be careful, be alert, take all necessary safety precautions when doing any test that involves a cranking engine on your 1.5L Civic (Civic del Sol).

  1. 1

    Make sure the battery is fully charged so that you can easily crank the Honda’s engine.

  2. 2

    Now, using the appropriate tools, remove the valve cover and then the top plastic timing belt cover.

    The timing belt cover is a two piece cover. No need to remove the bottom part, just the top one.

  3. 3

    Once the top plastic timing belt cover is removed and the camshaft gear is exposed, have your helper crank the Honda.

  4. 4

    As the engine is cranking, observe the camshaft gear (from a safe distance).

  5. 5

    You'll see one of two things:

    1.) The camshaft gear will turn as the engine cranks or

    2.) The camshaft gear will NOT turn as the engine turns over.

OK, now that the testing part is done... let's take a look at what your results mean:

CASE 1: The camshaft gear turned as the engine was cranking and the camshaft is not broken in 2 pieces: This let's you know that the timing belt is not broken. No further testing is required.

CASE 2: The camshaft gear DID NOT turn as the engine was cranking: This result tells you that the timing belt is broken and needs to be replaced.

CASE 3: The camshaft gear DID turn as the engine was cranked and the camshaft is broken in 2 pieces: When this happens, the entire cylinder head will probably need to be replaced.

When a camshaft breaks in 2 pieces, it's usually because of a lack of lubrication (usually because the engine ran out of oil). This lack of lubrication caused part of the cam to seize in its bearings. The end-result of this is a cylinder head that can not be re-used. If this has happened to you, you'll need to get expert advice from a engine rebuilding machine shop to decide your next step.

More 1.5L Honda Tutorials

I've written quite a few Honda ‘How to Test’ Articles that may be of interest to you. You can find here: Honda 1.5L Index of Articles.

Here's a sample of the tutorials you'll find in the index:

  1. How To Test The MAP Sensor (Honda 1.5L).
  2. How To Test Engine Compression (Honda 1.5L).
  3. How To Test The Throttle Position Sensor (1992-1995 1.5L Honda Civic).
  4. How To Test The Igniter, Ignition Coil Accord, Civic, CRV, and Odyssey (at: easyautodiagnostics.com).