Timing Chain vs Timing Belt: What’s the Difference?

Timing Belt Differences dailycarblog

Your car misfired last week, but you ignored it. Now, every day your engine pops. The reason your car is making that noise is that the piston timing inside the engine is wrong. These days, almost every American family has a car. In a 2016 vehicle ownership survey, 91.3% of households owned at least 1 vehicle! So, almost every family has a responsibility to know about their engine. What kind of timing drive you have, a belt or a chain? Is one better than the other?

Below is a guide to comparing the timing chain vs timing belt. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know and more!


What Is Engine Timing and Why Is It Important?

The engine timing system is what keeps the pistons and valves inside the engine cylinders synchronized. The movement of these parts is what gives the car the ability to move when you press the gas pedal.

The pistons and valves connect to the crankshaft and camshaft. The timing belt (or chain) is what makes these pieces move when you turn on the engine.

For your engine to work the right way, the pistons and valves need to operate with the proper timing. If the timing is off, the engine might not work the way it’s supposed to (if at all).

Timing Chains

A timing chain looks a lot like a bicycle chain, but much bigger. Factories make timing chains out of thick, strong metal and that makes them very heavy.

The timing chain connects to the engine with tensioners. The timing chain tensioners only work well when the engine oil pressure is correct. So, make sure your oil levels don’t drop below the recommended volume.

The metal chain moving against other metal engine parts causes some noise, even if you use high-grade engine oils and lubricants. Most people don’t notice these noises while they are inside the cab and driving. Timing chain noise is most obvious when the hood is open.

Timing Belts

Timing belts do the same job as a timing chain, but they do it in a different way. The timing belt tensioners have nothing to do with your engine oil, but they’re related to the water pump. So, you’ll need to replace all the belt tensioners and the water pump when you go to replace your timing belt.

While manufacturers make timing chains with metal, timing belts are a very strong rubber. This rubber does wear down over time, so it’s important to watch out for warning signs that your timing belt is about to fail.

If you have super sensitive hearing, the timing belt is your best option. The rubber belt means there is little to no noise as the belt drives the engine timing system.

Maintenance of a Timing Chain vs Timing Belt

Engine maintenance is part of the responsibilities of being a car owner, and, like the rest of your car, moving parts need replacing from time to time. It is important to know when to replace your car’s timing belt or chain because you can’t see it, but it can cause devastating damage to your engine if it breaks.

Timing chains last a long time and some car manufacturers even claim the timing chain will last the entire life of your car. But, that doesn’t mean you can skip out on maintenance. Failure to keep the engine oil topped up and the chain tensioners adjusted well will result in catastrophic failure of the timing chain.

If your timing chain breaks, the metal chain causes engine damage that will need to have repairs. If you were moving at a high rate of speed, the timing chain can destroy your entire engine. If you aren’t going fast, all you’ll need to do is replace the cylinder heads replaced.

As for timing belts, manufacturers recommend replacing timing belts at specific mileage intervals. The rubber belts will wear down and stretch out over time, but modern timing belts have a pretty long lifespan. Most cars with timing belts will need them replaced between 60,000 and 100,000 miles.

For timing belts, the moment of greatest tension is when you are turning the car on or off. This is the most common time for timing belts to fail.

As with the timing chain, not keeping up with routine maintenance is risky. If the belt or chain fails while you’re driving, the engine could need expensive repairs (if repairs are even possible).

So, there are pros and cons to both timing belts and timing chains. Either way, you need to know which one you have.

Special Caution About Interference Engines

There are special engines called interference engines where the pistons and valves are in the same location in the cylinder, but not at the same time. As you might guess, timing failure in these engines is almost always detrimental. During timing system failure, interference engines have a bad habit of shredding into pieces.

The Engine is the Heart of the Car, But the Driver is Its Soul

Be aware of any early warning signs for a failing timing chain or timing belt to make sure your car doesn’t get damaged. Don’t shrug off a few misfires and keep on driving.

Make sure you know which kind of engine timing system you have. Remember there are differences between the timing chain vs timing belt and the way they begin to fail, so you need to know what to watch out for in your vehicle.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and that you learned a thing or two about timing belts and timing chains. If you need more car advice, reviews, and more, check out the rest of our blogs today!

Timing Chain vs Timing Belt: What’s the Difference? (2020)

Your car misfired last week, but you ignored it. Now, every day your engine pops. The reason your car is making that noise is that the piston timing inside the engine is wrong.

These days, almost every American family has a car. In a 2016 vehicle ownership survey, 91.3% of households owned at least 1 vehicle! So, almost every family has a responsibility to know about their engine.

What kind of timing drive you have, a belt or a chain? Is one better than the other?

Below is a guide to comparing the timing chain vs timing belt. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know and more!

What Is Engine Timing and Why Is It Important?

The engine timing system is what keeps the pistons and valves inside the engine cylinders synchronized. The movement of these parts is what gives the car the ability to move when you press the gas pedal.

The pistons and valves connect to the crankshaft and camshaft. The timing belt (or chain) is what makes these pieces move when you turn on the engine.

For your engine to work the right way, the pistons and valves need to operate with the proper timing. If the timing is off, the engine might not work the way it’s supposed to (if at all).

Timing Chains

A timing chain looks a lot like a bicycle chain, but much bigger. Factories make timing chains out of thick, strong metal and that makes them very heavy.

The timing chain connects to the engine with tensioners. The timing chain tensioners only work well when the engine oil pressure is correct. So, make sure your oil levels don’t drop below the recommended volume.

The metal chain moving against other metal engine parts causes some noise, even if you use high-grade engine oils and lubricants. Most people don’t notice these noises while they are inside the cab and driving. Timing chain noise is most obvious when the hood is open.

Timing Belts

Timing belts do the same job as a timing chain, but they do it in a different way. The timing belt tensioners have nothing to do with your engine oil, but they’re related to the water pump. So, you’ll need to replace all the belt tensioners and the water pump when you go to replace your timing belt.

While manufacturers make timing chains with metal, timing belts are a very strong rubber. This rubber does wear down over time, so it’s important to watch out for warning signs that your timing belt is about to fail.

If you have super sensitive hearing, the timing belt is your best option. The rubber belt means there is little to no noise as the belt drives the engine timing system.

Maintenance of a Timing Chain vs Timing Belt

Engine maintenance is part of the responsibilities of being a car owner, and, like the rest of your car, moving parts need replacing from time to time. It is important to know when to replace your car’s timing belt or chain because you can’t see it, but it can cause devastating damage to your engine if it breaks.

Timing chains last a long time and some car manufacturers even claim the timing chain will last the entire life of your car. But, that doesn’t mean you can skip out on maintenance. Failure to keep the engine oil topped up and the chain tensioners adjusted well will result in catastrophic failure of the timing chain.

If your timing chain breaks, the metal chain causes engine damage that will need to have repairs. If you were moving at a high rate of speed, the timing chain can destroy your entire engine. If you aren’t going fast, all you’ll need to do is replace the cylinder heads replaced.

As for timing belts, manufacturers recommend replacing timing belts at specific mileage intervals. The rubber belts will wear down and stretch out over time, but modern timing belts have a pretty long lifespan. Most cars with timing belts will need them replaced between 60,000 and 100,000 miles.

For timing belts, the moment of greatest tension is when you are turning the car on or off. This is the most common time for timing belts to fail.

As with the timing chain, not keeping up with routine maintenance is risky. If the belt or chain fails while you’re driving, the engine could need expensive repairs (if repairs are even possible).

So, there are pros and cons to both timing belts and timing chains. Either way, you need to know which one you have.

Special Caution About Interference Engines

There are special engines called interference engines where the pistons and valves are in the same location in the cylinder, but not at the same time. As you might guess, timing failure in these engines is almost always detrimental. During timing system failure, interference engines have a bad habit of shredding into pieces.

The Engine is the Heart of the Car, But the Driver is Its Soul

Be aware of any early warning signs for a failing timing chain or timing belt to make sure your car doesn’t get damaged. Don’t shrug off a few misfires and keep on driving.

Make sure you know which kind of engine timing system you have. Remember there are differences between the timing chain vs timing belt and the way they begin to fail, so you need to know what to watch out for in your vehicle.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and that you learned a thing or two about timing belts and timing chains. If you need more car advice, reviews, and more, check out the rest of our blogs today!


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