I’m sure we all know that a timing belt in a car engine needs to be replaced at recommended service intervals, but what about the timing chain? You might ask, “when does the timing chain need to be replaced? And what is the difference between a timing belt and a chain?”
Running outside of the engine is the timing belt which is a toothed belt made of high-quality rubber covered by a protective cover. On the other hand, a timing chain is made of metal, something similar to a bicycle chain. Unlike the timing belt, a timing chain runs inside the engine. It’s because it needs to be lubricated by the engine oil.
Usually, a timing belt needs to be replaced between 40,000 and 100,000 miles depending on the type of vehicle. For the cost, it’s around a few hundred dollars for repair. Unless there’s a problem with a timing chain, it doesn’t need to be replaced.
Is the timing chain immune to mechanical failures?
The short answer is no, it’s not. To elaborate, timing chain problems are not uncommon, especially if you have a high-mileage vehicle. Just like any other moving mechanical component that is inside any engine, a timing chain is bound to wear. Since timing chain is lubricated by the engine oil, it will wear faster if your car lacks oil changes, has low oil level or inferior oil quality.
Keeping the timing chain under proper tension is done with the help of a chain tensioner. A chain tensioner is operated by either a spring-loaded mechanism or oil pressure. Other factors like chain guides and silencers can also be used to keep the timing chain from vibrating. And yes, all these components are susceptible to wear too.
How do you know if the timing chain is worn?
Usually if the timing chain is worn, the engine may feel slow, have trouble starting, or low in power. The Check Engine light might turn on too. As the chain wears out, it stretches causing the ignition and valve timing to become slower.
A worn timing chain, chain guides or chain tensioner can also cause a lot of different noises originating from the timing chain cover area of the engine. These noises can range from rattling to whirring, whining or buzzing.
When the timing chain is actually worn, it will be typically replaced with a new tensioner, guides, and other parts needed for the chain drive mechanism. A lot of cars have two, or maybe even three, chains in their motors. Auto repair shops may often recommend to replace the chains in one go.
How much does it cost to have a timing chain replacement?
If you plan to have a timing chain replacement, the cost may vary depending on the vehicle model. However, if you plant to replace the timing chain by yourself, you need to find the proper procedure to set the timing when you’ve installed the new chain. This type of information can be found in the service manual for your vehicle.
For you to avoid timing chain problems, make sure you maintain your engine properly and change the engine oil at recommended intervals. By keeping the proper oil level, you are assured that the timing chain is always lubricated. It will also help if you use premium quality engine oils and oil filters.