These are the common eight signs of a bad timing chain:
- Sign #1: timing chain stretches
- Sign #2: worn out sprockets
- Sign #3: worn out chain guides
- Sign #4: misplaced timing chain
- Sign #5: broken timing chain
- Sign #6: check engine light
- Sign #7: reduced fuel economy
- Sign #8: reduced performance
In any vehicle equipped with a combustion system, you'll see either a timing chain or a timing belt. These components are critical, and when they fail, they can lead to many negative consequences that could impact their vehicle’s drivability.
As a driver, it's critical for you to be proactive about the problem and familiarize yourself with the difference in symptoms that could indicate a failing timing chain. Once you detect these symptoms, you'll be able to consult your mechanic and have him fix the problem before it gets more complicated and before it requires significant repair costs.
This article provides all you need to know about the 8 signs your timing chain is failing. It highlights some basic information about the main causes of a failing timing chain and additional information about the expected repair costs for timing chain replacements.
What is the timing chain, and what does it do?
Before we dive into the details about the main signs that your timing chain is failing, it is important that you understand the purpose of this timing chain. This way, you'll understand what could go wrong and how critical it is to fix this timing chain before things get more complicated.
There are different timing chains for any vehicle, and each type has a special role. Typically, you'll see either a link chain or a roller chain.
The purpose of the timing chain is to operate your engine’s important valves, including the intake and exhaust. The timing chain is responsible for opening these valves when they are needed. In other words, it decides the perfect timing for when to open the exhaust valves for the gases to leave the combustion process. Similarly, the timing chain is responsible for opening the intake valves to allow fuel and air inside the engine to prepare for combustion.
Obviously, the timing chain is the heart of your engine, and if it's not working properly, the whole combustion process will not be done the right way, and therefore you'll see tons of negative consequences in your vehicle.
How often should you replace your timing chain?
Typically, replacing the timing chain is something other than what you need to do now and then. According to experts, you must replace the timing chain once between 80,000 and 120,000 miles.
Remember that this is just a general range, and you should go back to your vehicle owner’s manual to get detailed instructions about when to replace the timing chain. Sometimes your manual might require replacing the timing chain before hitting the 80,000 miles.
However, experts recommend you never wait for more than 120,000 miles, even if your timing chain looks good. When the timing chain breaks, it will break suddenly and can lead to many negative consequences that could impact their safety.
Therefore, always consider inspecting and replacing the timing chain before hitting the 120,000 miles to stay on the safe side.
8 signs your timing chain is failing
While it's typically between 80,000 and 120,000 miles when you have to replace the timing chain, sometimes your vehicle might deal with certain consequences that require replacing it before.
Therefore, we drivers must always keep an eye out for any symptoms that could help you determine whether your timing chain is failing or about to fail. This way, you can consult your mechanic and have him inspect the timing chain to confirm whether you need to replace it before the 80,000 miles.
As a rule of thumb in the automotive industry, if you were able to detect the problem early, you'll most likely get a safe on repair costs, and you'll most likely not need to replace big components.
Let's take a closer look at some of the most common science your timing chain is failing:
1. Sign #1: timing chain stretches
The easiest thing you can start with is by performing a visual inspection. If you feel that the timing chain has some stretch marks, it could indicate that it's about time to replace the chain before it breaks and causes additional issues you never want to deal with.
You will know whether these stretch marks are OK if you compare them with another timing chain. Therefore, you should look online and see what the original good one looks like so you can compare.
You can also talk to the mechanic and explain what you've seen on the timing chain. A mechanic can look closer and let you know whether you still have time to continue driving your vehicle with the existing timing chain.
2. Sign #2: worn out sprockets
You can also look at the sprockets connected to the timing chain. These also can wear out and might get damaged. When they get damaged, they don't only damage themselves, but also they might impact the overall timing chain and cause significant issues.
If you've seen that these pockets align in good condition, explain this to your mechanic and have him determine whether you have to replace the whole thing or fix these minor issues.
3. Sign #3: worn out chain guides
The timing chain also contains several chain guides that could go wrong. If they're not in good condition, they might impact how the timing chain operates and might even lead to problems in the timing chain itself.
Failing or worn-out chain guides can easily damage the timing chain prematurely. If you don't want to pay for replacing the timing chain and dealing with the guides, conversing with your mechanic can help you save a ton.
4. Sign #4: misplaced timing chain
If you look at the timing chain and realize that it's misplaced or jumping off its place, there could be a problem with the surrounding components connected to the timing chain, or it could be a problem with the timing chain itself.
Therefore, always pay attention to a misplaced or moving timing chain in a weird way. Your mechanic can help you determine what is wrong and fix the problem before it impacts other components that could cost you thousands of dollars.
5. Sign #5: broken timing chain
If you find that the timing chain is broken, you want to stop driving this vehicle because all you're doing is causing more complications that could cost you a lot of money.
Immediately if you feel that the timing chain is broken from a certain location, have a mechanic look at it and check with the mechanic if you can even drive the vehicle to the nearest repair shop or tow it instead.
6. Sign #6: check engine light
In certain situations, if the timing chain is broken or it's leading to clear problems, you might notice that the check engine light is illuminating. The check engine light allows your vehicle to communicate with you and inform you about internal problems.
Sometimes the check engine light illuminates because of a minor issue like a loose fuel cap, but that's not always the case. Therefore, whenever you see a check engine light illuminating, you have to take the problem seriously because if you ignore it, it could be something you can't fix without major replacements and repairs.
7. Sign #7: reduced fuel economy
You can't like it since the timing chain is the heart of your engine; when it's not working properly, it can lead to significant issues and impact your fuel economy. You'll notice this when you reach the gas station to fill your car.
Obviously, a reduction in fuel economy can happen for various reasons. However, a feeling or about-to-fail timing chain can be the culprit.
8. Sign #8: reduced performance
Finally, when the vehicle cannot operate properly and is challenged to perform that normal tasks, you'll notice that the overall drivability of your car is not normal. In other words, you feel that your vehicle’s performance is reduced significantly, especially if the timing chain is about to break down or about to fail.
How much does it cost to replace the timing chain?
Unfortunately, timing chain replacement is not cheap. It should cost you somewhere between $1600 and $1800. This depends heavily on your vehicle type and the location where you get the job done.
Since timing chain replacement is not easy, you will likely need to go to a professional service to perform the job. This adds to the total repair cost, especially if you're going to a dealership versus a small independent shop.
It's important that you evaluate the situation carefully before you perform the required repairs. In other words, if tool repair costs are going to approach your vehicle value, it might make more sense for you to sell your vehicle and buy a better one.
As you perform this evaluation, you should consider all potential repair costs that you were looking for. For example, if you have a failing timing chain, a damaged engine, or probably a faulty transmission, you should consider all those at once.
Can you drive with a bad timing chain?
If you notice any of the mentioned signs of a failing timing chain, it is critical that you never ignore them, and automotive experts recommend continuing to drive your car in this condition.
You're risking your engine by continuing to drive your vehicle with a failing timing chain. If you think about the potential consequences of engine cost replacements, you'll think twice before driving with a bad timing chain.
That's why it's critical that you consult your mechanic as soon as possible and describe the situation carefully. Suppose your mechanic recommends towing your vehicle to the nearest repair shop. In that case, you should do so, and you should not risk your vehicle because it not only impacts the vehicle’s performance but also it might get you involved in some car accidents and impact the safety of you and other people driving with you.
Signs your timing chain is failing: Final thoughts
The timing chain is an important core element in your engine. When it fails, it can lead to many negative consequences that could impact your vehicle’s drivability. Therefore, it is critical for you as a driver to familiarize yourself with different signs your timing chain is failing.
This article summarized aids common science your timing chain is failing. Whenever you notice any of these signs, you must take your vehicle to the mechanic and replace the timing change if it fails. Any waiting on these problems can lead to other consequences that could cost you thousands of dollars on repair.
If you find that repair costs are getting beyond what you can afford or if they approach the value of your vehicle, then it's better to sell this vehicle rather than waste your time and effort trying to fix it.
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