Car Issues and Fixes

Timing Chain Replacement: Symptoms and Costs

Avatar Adie Tinkle -

As a car owner, you are going to run into different engine issues over time. While some problems can be complicated and rare, you might also come across common engine issues like overheating and oil leaks. Having more knowledge about different engine-related issues can help you handle complex scenarios such as the replacement of a timing chain. 

The timing chain is a critical component of the internal combustion engine. If it fails, it must be replaced as soon as possible. However, replacing the timing chain can cost up to thousands of dollars. Keep reading to get a better understanding of how the timing chain works, signs indicating the need to replace it, and how much it will cost. 

What is a Timing Chain?

The timing chain is a component of the car engine that helps coordinate the movement of the camshaft and crankshaft, ensuring that the exhaust pipes open and close at the right time. Modern vehicles have timing belts instead of timing chains. The belt offers the same function but is quieter, stronger, and does less damage if it snaps. 

Warning Signs Indicating the Need for Timing Chain Replacement

If your vehicle is getting older, there are some signs that you should look into to have a better idea if your timing chain needs replacement.
If the timing chain snaps while you are driving, the engine might fail. This can also damage other components, and you may need to replace your engine. As a result, it is crucial for you to stay on top of the warning signs of your chain failing. 

Some of the primary signs include:

  • Difficulty in Starting the Vehicle 

If your vehicle’s timing chain is broken, the engine will not start. 

  • Sluggish Engine or Misfire 

If the timing chain is wearing out, it may skip a gear on the camshaft or crankshaft. It can cause the engine to accelerate poorly or even misfire. 

  • Check that the Engine Light is On 

The check engine light turns on when there is an engine or timing chain issue. The light cannot tell what is wrong with the engine, but it can let the owner know that it is time to have the car checked out by a mechanic. 

  • Engine Vibrates and Shakes When Idling

One prominent sign of a failing timing chain is a shaking and vibrating engine. This is because the components may not be lining up properly. It can be easier to feel these vibrations while the engine is idling than when you are driving the vehicle. You can also hear rattling sounds as a result of a loose timing chain. 

What Happens if You Do Not Replace the Timing Chain 

Over time, the chain guide can wear out, and the tensioner springs can also lose their strength. Any of these situations can cause the chain to come off. It makes a metallic clanking sound inside the engine. It can also throw off the timing of your camshaft and cause your engine light to turn on. If the chain has been worn out enough, it can break, causing more damage to the engine. 

In the worst scenario, the chain can become so loose that it will start skipping over the gears on the camshaft, which can greatly change the timing. If you are driving, your engine may fail, which can be highly dangerous, especially if you are on a highway. 

In some engines, the piston can smash into valves that are open when they shouldn’t be, requiring the whole engine to be replaced or fixed. 

How Much Does Timing Chain Replacement Cost?

The cost to replace a timing chain varies between $1,600 and $1,800. You can manage a DIY between $600 and $800 if you follow it. The cost is high because of the difficulty involved in replacing the part. The cost of parts is low, but since it’s a labor-intensive job, the cost of labor is high. 

What Impacts the Cost of Replacing a Timing Chain?

Many factors play a role in defining the timing chain replacement cost including:

  • The Model of Your Car 

Most old cars have a timing chain. For them, you can get a generic timing chain made to fit as many cars as possible. These chains are also affordable. However, it is preferable to get a high-quality chain, which costs more. The type of timing chain you might require depends upon the make and model of your car. 

  • Parts that Require Replacement 

You might need to replace other parts along with the timing chain. For example, you will have to replace tensioners and guides that hold the chain in place, as well as the crankshaft and camshaft. The cost of these parts can impact your bill overall. 

  • Cost of the Labor 

Replacing the timing chain can be time-consuming and hectic, requiring about eight hours of a mechanic. Therefore, the compensation for the labor cost of the mechanic is also high. 

Takeaway 

Your timing chain is a crucial component of your engine. As your vehicle ages, it is also important to examine the warning signs to prevent the engine from failing and damaging other nearby parts. Replacing the whole thing at once can be a cheaper option than having to replace separate parts repeatedly when things go wrong. 

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