How to Tell If Your Car’s Timing Chain Needs Replacing
Since the internal combustion engine for cars was first invented, the one constant has been that all engines will have either a timing belt or a timing chain. These days, most higher displacement engines will have a timing chain rather than a rubber timing belt. The timing chain is located at the front of the engine and is attached to a set of pulleys and gears that provide power to various mechanical components including the camshaft and crankshaft. For your engine to start and fire correctly, the timing chain should be smoothly rotating around the gears with no hesitation. While the timing chain is made from durable metal and is designed to last a long time, it is still subject to wear and tear and will eventually break down and need replacing.
Do Timing Chains Need to Be Replaced?
A timing chain is made up of a series of links in the chain, quite similar to a bicycle chain. As you drive, the links move on toothed sprockets that can be found at the ends of the camshaft and crankshaft. These are responsible for opening and closing valves in the head of the cylinder, along with moving pistons and connecting the rods in the combustion chamber. Over time, the timing chain will start to wear and stretch, which can produce some warning signs and lead to inaccurate engine timing. Keep reading to find out more about the main symptoms of a damaged or worn timing chain to look out for. If you have noticed any of these warning signs coming from your car, then it’s a good idea to get in touch with a mechanic as soon as possible to determine the issue and make the necessary repairs.
Engine Rattling While Idling
Any unusual sounds that are coming from your engine while it is idling can be a main sign that there is a problem with the timing chain. When everything is working correctly, the engine should sound smooth and consistent, which indicates that everything is running well. However, if the timing chain has become loose, this can lead to more vibrations inside the engine that will produce a rattling sound when idling. If you hear a rattle when you are driving or the engine is idling, this is a clear sign that something has become loose and should be repaired as soon as possible before it completely breaks down.
Check Engine Light On
The check engine light on your dashboard might be illuminated for several different reasons, including a potentially failing timing chain. The computer inside the car will display a range of warning lights which you should never ignore; especially the check engine light as this can often indicate a serious issue or an issue that needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible to prevent further damage. If the car’s onboard computer has detected that there is something wrong with the engine’s performance, or that emissions have increased, the check engine light may be turned on. These problems can be caused by a stretched or worn timing chain. You should take your car to a mechanic who can inspect the code and carry out the necessary work.
Engine Failing or Not Starting
If the timing chain is broken, then this will cause the engine to fail while driving, or not start at all. When the timing chain is broken, the engine is not going to have enough compression to start successfully. A worn timing chain may break or jump when driving, which can cause damage to the pistons when they come into contact with the valves as a result. The valves may bend, which could cause serious damage to the engine. If the belt is not broken but is jumping due to being loose, then it may flail around under the hood and cause damage to various other parts of the engine. If you have noticed that your car is driving rough or you cannot start the engine, then this can be a sure indication that your timing belt has failed or is going to fail soon.
Metal Shavings in the Oil
Every car manufacturer recommends that you should perform an oil and oil filter change of your car every three thousand to five thousand miles. Over time, the oil will begin to separate as its temperature rises. When your timing chain is wearing out over time, this can cause small pieces of metal to break off the chain, where they may end up in the oil pan. If you are changing your oil yourself or your mechanic tells you that they found small pieces or shavings of metal in the oil during an oil change, then this is a clear sign that your timing chain is probably going to need replacing soon. Metal shavings are also often found whenever there is extensive wear of the cylinder head hardware such as the head valve, retainers, and keepers. If you are dealing with this issue, then it is important to have a mechanic inspect it and repair it as soon as possible.
Engine Running Poorly or Misfiring
Over time, wear and tear on the timing chain can cause it to stretch, which may ultimately result in the chain skipping a gear on the camshaft or crankshaft. As a result of this, the timing of the engine will fall out of calibration, which may sometimes result in misfiring. Other signs can include the engine running poorly and a lack of accelerating power. If this occurs, it is very likely that there has been damage to the timing chain which will need to be replaced as soon as possible. Continuing to drive or letting the issue go on for longer could cause the timing chain to break, leading to loose metal rolling around that can ultimately cause serious engine damage.
How Often Should You Replace a Timing Chain
Unlike a rubber timing belt, a timing chain is designed to be more durable and last for longer. Timing chains are different from timing belts in that they do not need to be changed for maintenance every few years, so there is not a recommended specific interval for getting it replaced. However, it is important to make sure that over time, you are regularly inspecting your timing chain and looking out for any issues that could indicate it has become worn, which can happen over time as you drive your car. The average cost of replacing a timing chain is around $900 to over $1500 depending on the type of car that you drive.
When Should I Replace Timing Chain?
Since timing chains are designed to be durable and last a long time, most drivers do not have to worry about replacing this part. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the timing chain is not designed to last forever and if you have an old car or have had your car for quite some time, then there is a chance that you’ll need to have it replaced with a new one. In general, a timing chain will start to wear out once your car hits eighty thousand to one hundred and twenty thousand miles. At this point, you will need to start considering the cost of getting your timing chain replaced, especially if you have started to experience any of the above issues.
Timing Chain Replacement
A timing chain replacement is a job that should be carried out by a qualified mechanic. To do it, the engine accessories will be removed before the engine oil is drained and the front cover of the engine is removed. Then, the tension on the timing chain tensioner will be released, and the crankshaft and camshaft are removed along with the old timing chain. The mechanic will make a note of the position that they were in. The mechanic will now install a new timing chain on the gears, before installing the gears and chain in the same position. They will then re-install the front engine cover, mount the accessories, and top up the engine oil. The engine will be run, and a road test performed to ensure that the repair has been successful.
How Important is it to Replace Timing Chain?
If there is an issue with your timing chain such as wear and tear or if the chain is broken in places, then this could lead to further running issues with your car at any time, or even cause a full breakdown. Rough running, stalling, or hesitation can be difficult to predict and can lead to dangerous situations when you are driving on the road. Along with this, if the timing chain breaks, then the damage that this can cause may be much more expensive compared to simply replacing the timing chain before the damage gets any worse.
Timing chains are unlike timing belts in that they do not need regular replacement. However, they do not last forever so it’s good to know what signs you need to look out for when your timing chain has reached the end of its lifespan.