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Replacing a timing chain will typically cost anywhere between $1,000 to $2,500 (parts and labor included.) The actual amount will vary on your vehicle’s make and model, and your unique location.
The timing chain itself costs around $100-$250, though some timing chain kits can go up to $500! A good timing chain kit will include all the gears, tensioners, and sometimes even the water pump.
Labor costs can fall around $400-$1500. Replacing the timing chain is a complicated, time-consuming task that involves taking apart sections of your engine.
Also, any mistakes in the timing setting can cause severe damage to the engine, where you might have to rebuild or replace the engine. This explains the high labor cost, and why getting a professional mechanic to handle the repair is the best option.
If you suspect your timing chain of a problem, get it fixed ASAP.
Timing chains generally don’t break, but they can wear out or become loose, causing your engine timing to fall out of sync. At this point, your engine can shut down without warning while driving, putting you in a very dangerous situation.
If your timing chain does break, it can destroy your engine.
Engines with timing chains are always “interference” engines. This means the engine’s pistons and valves move in and out in the same cylinder space. When the timing chain breaks, the valves won’t move out of the way, and the pistons will smash into them, possibly resulting in catastrophic engine failure.
A faulty timing chain will cause your vehicle to exhibit one or more symptoms.
These can include:
An illuminated check engine light: If your timing isn’t running right, your engine computer will detect this problem at some point. It’ll trigger your dashboard check engine light and likely store a timing-related trouble code, like P0011 or P0012 — depending on which timing component prompted the warning.
Engine noises: A loose or damaged timing chain often makes a rattling or whirring sound. Damage to related components like chain guides or a chain tensioner will also produce noises like whining or buzzing.
Poor engine performance: A stretched timing chain will cause the camshaft and crankshaft to be out of sync. Valves don’t open and close at the correct time, resulting in incomplete combustion. Your engine may stutter, feel sluggish, experience misfires, and hesitate on acceleration.
Engine won’t run: If your timing chain is very far gone, your engine may not run as the timing is completely off. You’ll have trouble starting your car.
Metal shavings in your oil: Tiny metal bits can shear off a worn timing chain. Small metal pieces in your engine oil when drained, or found in the oil filter, could mean your timing chain needs a replacement.
Here are answers to some timing chain questions:
The timing chain synchronizes your vehicle’s crankshaft and camshaft(s). This allows your intake and exhaust valves (operated by the camshaft) to be timed correctly with the pistons (operated by the crankshaft) — resulting in proper engine combustion.
The timing chain may also drive components like the water pump and balance shaft in certain engines. And it’s important to note that some cars use a timing belt instead of a timing chain.
Timing chains and timing belts have the same function — they connect the engine’s camshaft and crankshafts. However, here’s how they differ:
It’s rare for a timing chain to break. However, accelerated wear can happen when the vehicle doesn’t stick to scheduled oil changes. The timing chain is lubricated by engine oil, so regular oil changes promote its longevity.
A defective chain tensioner or chain guide can also damage the timing chain. If these parts don’t work correctly, your timing chain can come loose and free to slap against other engine components.
Timing chains are highly durable and are designed to last your vehicle’s lifetime. That said, wear and tear will happen — faster in cars with high mileage. As such, it’s a good idea to have a timing chain replaced between 80,000-120,000 miles.
Assuming you want to keep driving your vehicle, then yes.
While replacing a worn timing chain isn’t easy nor cheap, it’s still less expensive than replacing an engine due to a broken timing chain.
This is also something to keep in mind if you’re shopping for pre-owned vehicles. Note the mileage and consider if the timing chain needs to be changed.
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