It's all about timing…
Timing belts and chains do the same job:
It's all about timing…
If you've been reading up about cars or looking to buy a second-hand car, you might have seen the words, 'timing belt' or 'timing chain' bandied about. If those references confused you, read on…
Timing belts and chains do the same job: they control the timing of your engine, which means that they affect when each intake and exhaust valve opens and closes. If your engine didn't have a timing belt/chain, it simply wouldn't be able to operate.
Timing belts are made of rubber and are similar in construction to the fanbelt on your engine. They often have a strong fibre woven into them for extra strength, like fibreglass or Kevlar. Timing chains, on the other hand, are made out of metal and look like thick bicycle chains.
Timing belts and chains are vital to the operation of an engine, but what is scary is that in the event that one fails, it can lead to catastrophic failure of the engine and a very expensive repair bill. There are pros and cons to each, some of which can be seen below:
- Long-lasting. Some manufacturers recommend replacement at specific intervals. Others should last for the life of the vehicle.
- Cheaper with regards to maintenance.
- Can be noisy (although modern timing chains are far quieter than those in older engines).
- Rely on engine oil for lubrication, so oil maintenance is doubly important.
- If it does need to be replaced, it is an expensive job.
- Cheaper to manufacture and replace.
- Have a limited lifespan as they wear out. Manufacturers will stipulate at what mileage they need to be replaced.
- Sometimes they fail with no warning.
- More expensive to maintain, as they need to be replaced periodically.
Don't do over the manufacturer's recommended timing belt interval! This is one excellent reason why you should have your vehicle serviced at a dealer or an RMI-approved workshop, as they will know when the belt needs to be replaced.
Many car manufacturers recommend changing the entire system when replacing a timing belt, which means new pulleys and tensioners, as well as a new water pump (which is driven by the belt). Likewise, the sprockets should be replaced at the same time as a timing chain.