Your Car's Timing Chain: Advantages, Disadvantages and Care

If your car has a timing chain, then you may have been told that it is maintenance free compared to timing belts. Generally, this is true when it comes to sudden breakage, but the timing chain is not necessarily something that you can totally ignore, especially if you have an older car. If you have a car with a timing chain, here is more information on how it works and how to keep it lasting as long as possible.

What do timing chains do?

Timing chains, like timing belts, work to keep the engine's valves and pistons correctly timed so that fuel is burned efficiently and so that the valves and pistons don't hit each other on the piston's upstroke. In some engines, the timing has such a small margin of error that if a chain or belt breaks, it can cause the valves to bend or even the entire engine to disintegrate depending on how fast the engine was going.

What are the differences between timing belts and chains?

Timing belts are usually made of a composite of rubber and other materials while chains are similar to a bicycle chain and made of metal. Timing chains usually require oil lubrication, while timing belts do not. Because timing belts are made of rubber, they are prone to early breakage if they are not kept to a regular replacement schedule. Chains are more likely to stretch and become inefficient as they get older, but are less likely to flat-out break.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a timing chain?

Longevity is the main advantage to a timing chain. This longevity is great for cars with tight engine spaces where it would be difficult to change a belt at frequent intervals. The disadvantage is that they tend to be heavier and noisier than belts and have more frictional interference because they need constant oil lubrication.

How often should a timing chain be changed?

Replacement times vary on the make and model as well as how you drive your car. Some timing chains will last the life of your car, while others may need to be replaced earlier. Signs that your timing chain is ready to be changed are excessive noise in the engine compartment and rough idling. Your mechanic may be able to check the chain for stretching or damage if you are having performance problems.

You will probably have little to worry about if your car has a timing chain as it should last for years without problems. However, if you have an older car that is running rough or hesitating, having it checked out may be a good idea so you can change it before it begins to seriously affect your car's performance. Check out for more information and for auto repair services.