Identify bad timing chain Symptoms & Cost of replacement

The timing chain ensures the intake and exhaust valves in the engine open and close in the correct cycle, i.e., to match the crankshaft. In this article, we will explain how do you identify a bad timing chain symptoms and the cost of timing chain replacement.

Cost of Timing Chain replacement

If it is elongated or even broken, it can no longer perform this task and, in the worst case, can even lead to engine damage. If you suspect a defect, you should not wait too long and take the car to the workshop sooner rather than later.

What does the timing chain do?

Until the 1980s, only timing chains were used to transmit the rotary motion of the crankshaft to the camshaft. Today, space-saving and less expensive timing belts are often used instead of timing chains. Nevertheless, the timing chain is by no means obsolete: Particularly in high-performance vehicles, the timing chain is still used today because it can transmit higher forces than the plastic belt.

Unlike timing belts, timing chains are usually maintenance-free. Nevertheless, they should always be well lubricated (pay attention to the oil level in the engine!) and, if necessary, replaced.

There are two types of timing chains: The simplex timing chain has a single row of chains and a service life of about 100,000 km. The duplex timing chain has a double chain row, is much more resilient, and has a service life of up to 500,000 km. Read our another article, Hydraulic valve lifter: Identify and replace defects.

How to identify bad timing chain Symptoms?

Timing belts can break, but timing chains can become longer over time (they are then “elongated”) and no longer sit tightly. However, material fatigue is also conceivable with the timing chain, and in rare cases, the timing chain can even break, causing engine damage. Therefore, you should check its condition towards the end of its expected service life.

Symptoms of a bad timing chain: A defect in the timing chain is not always clearly noticeable. However, the following symptoms should draw attention.

  • Rattling noises from the engine (possibly only during cold start).
  • Loss of power.
  • The engine control lamp lights up.

It is very rare for timing chains to break. In such a case, you can no longer continue driving but must have the vehicle towed and taken to the workshop.

In the case of a defect, the problem is often not with the timing chain itself but with one of its attachments, often the chain tensioner or the guide rails. You should replace both every 100,000 to 300,000 km, and it makes sense to have the timing chain replaced at the same time since the work is the same. The cost of the chain is not particularly significant.

How much does it cost to replace a timing chain?

First of all, only experienced mechanics and professionals should change the timing chain. For everyone else, the risk of causing engine damage is too great. Usually, the timing chain and a complete timing chain set are installed. This includes not only the timing chain but also the guide bar, chain tensioner, oil seal, and sprockets.

If you take the car to the workshop to have the timing chain replaced, they will do the following:

  • Drain the oil and coolant.
  • Remove attachments (e.g., V-belt).
  • Unscrew the timing cover.
  • Remove the old bad timing chain set and install the new one.
  • Screw cover back on, reinstall attachments, and refill with new(!) oil and coolant. It is best to replace the oil filter at the same time.

The timing chain replacement set costs $100 to $300, depending on the car model and quality. The work in the workshop is considerably more expensive. Depending on how easy it is to reach the timing chain, the change may take 5 hours but can also take several working days(!). Accordingly, the costs at an independent workshop can be between $350 and $1,400 and even higher at an authorized workshop.


FAQ – Bad timing chain Symptoms

When do I have to change the timing chain?

Timing chains have a service life of between 100,000 km (simplex timing chain) and 500,000 km (duplex timing chain). You should replace them by then at the latest. However, if the timing chain is already elongated or even broken, it must be replaced before then.

How long do timing chains last?

Usually between 100,000 km (simplex timing chain) and 500,000 km (duplex timing chain). However, timing chains can get longer over time (when they are “elongated”) and can cause engine damage if not replaced in time.

Are timing chains maintenance free?

Yes, but towards the end of their life, you should have the timing chain checked to be on the safe side. Also, make sure it is always well oiled (check the oil level in the engine!).

How much does it cost to replace a timing chain?

The cost of changing the bad timing chain depends greatly on the car model. The timing chain set itself costs between $100 and $300. In addition, there are the workshop costs. If everything is easily accessible, you can expect to pay $350. If, on the other hand, a lot has to be removed first, the change can even take several working days. The costs are correspondingly higher.

Can I change the bad timing chain myself?

Changing the timing chain yourself is only recommended for very experienced mechanics and professionals. Anyone who is not well versed runs the risk of causing engine damage.

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