5 Timing Chain FAQs
Here are answers to some timing chain questions:
1. What Is A Timing Chain?
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.
2. Is A Timing Chain The Same As A Timing Belt?
Timing chains and timing belts have the same function — they connect the engine’s camshaft and crankshafts. However, here’s how they differ:
- Timing chains are metal, located inside the engine (so they can be lubricated with engine oil), and generally last longer, saving cost in the long run.
- Timing belts are rubber, located outside the engine, are quieter and cheaper to manufacture but require more frequent replacement than a timing chain.
3. Why Does A Timing Chain Break?
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.
4. When Should I Replace A Timing Chain?
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.
5. Is It Worth Fixing A Timing Chain?
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.