Timing Chain Kit Buyer's Guide
- A timing chain kit is a selection of parts that link the movement between the engine crankshaft and camshaft.
- A basic timing chain kit will include the timing chains (metal links), camshaft and crankshaft sprockets, tensioners, guide rails, and necessary gaskets and seals.
- This chain also controls the movement of the intake and exhaust valves in relation to the position of the crankshaft. The synchronized movement of these shafts completes the combustion cycle, producing the energy needed to propel the vehicle.
- The most common issue with timing chains is that they ‘stretch’ over time. What causes the chain to gain some slack are worn out pivot pins, sprockets, and guides that can cause the links to move apart. This is likely a result of waiting too long between oil changes or contamination due to a faulty oil filter.
- Common symptoms of a bad timing chain include rattling engine noises, Check Engine Light is illuminated, and metal shavings in the oil pan.
- Your vehicle’s timing chain should last anywhere between 80,000 to 100,000 miles. However, poor maintenance and oil contamination can cause the chain to stretch and wear out faster.
- Have your vehicle checked by a trusted mechanic as soon as you notice any of the symptoms above to prevent damaging the pistons and valves which can result in serious engine failure.
- The cost to replace a faulty timing chain may vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. In general, an OE replacement timing chain kit will cost you around $200.
- With the right tools and know-how, you can rinstall your new timing chain kit on your own.
What is a timing chain kit?
A timing chain kit is a selection of parts that link the movement between the engine crankshaft and camshaft. The synchronized movement of this set of gears and pulleys ensures that the intake and exhaust valves open and close at the right time, with each stroke cycle of the piston.
What’s included in a timing chain kit?
A basic timing chain kit will include the timing chains (metal links), camshaft and crankshaft sprockets, tensioners, guide rails, and necessary gaskets and seals. You may also find timing chain kits which include other parts such an oil pump and a variable timing (VVT) solenoid.
How does an engine timing chain work?
The timing chain wraps around the gears at the end of the crankshaft and camshaft, transferring energy from the former to the latter. The gears reduce the rotational speed, allowing the camshaft to rotate at half the speed of the crankshaft.
This chain also controls the movement of the intake and exhaust valves in relation to the position of the crankshaft. This ensures that fuel and air are sucked into the cylinders when needed, and exhaust gases are released at the right time. The synchronized movement of these shafts completes the combustion cycle, producing the energy needed to propel the vehicle.
What’s the difference between a timing belt and timing chain?
Timing belts and timing chains essentially perform the same function. The main difference between the two is that timing belts were made of rubber while timing chains were made of metal links. Most modern vehicles today carry the latter.
Timing belts became a popular choice in the 80s through the early 00s because they are light and quiet. However, they are known to have a short lifespan. Like other parts made from rubber, these belts are likely to degrade and require replacement over time. Exposure to oil and coolant leaks may also speed up its deterioration.
On the other hand, timing chains are heftier and more durable. Unlike their rubber counterparts, they don’t need to be replaced regularly, unless the vehicle owner fails to keep up with maintenance such as getting regular oil changes. They are heavier and noisier than timing belts, but most drivers are willing to compromise those things in exchange for longevity and increased efficiency.
What are the symptoms of a bad timing chain?
The most common issue with timing chains is that they ‘stretch’ over time. When we say that a timing chain is stretched, this doesn’t really mean that the links increase in length. On the contrary, a worn chain link will measure the same as a new replacement.
What causes the chain to gain some slack are worn out pivot pins, sprockets, and guides that can cause the links to move apart. This is likely a result of waiting too long between oil changes or contamination due to a faulty oil filter.
Here are some other signs that suggest you may need to get a new timing chain set for your vehicle.
Rattling noises during a cold start
Excess slack in the timing chain can cause it to produce clanking or rattling noises as it makes contact with the timing chain cover. You may notice that as the engine warms up, the noise may become faint or stop due to the tensioner compensating for the slack.
Check Engine Light is on
Some vehicle models will log an engine code and cause the check engine light to switch on when engine rattling is detected. Increased emissions due to poor engine timing may also trigger a diagnostic trouble code. You’ll need the expertise of a licensed mechanic to inspect your engine to determine if the code was logged due to a faulty timing chain.
Metal shavings in the oil pan
If you observe metal shavings in the oil pan, chances are your timing chain or sprocket has begun to erode. Always check for any metal or plastic particles during an oil change so that you can replace the broken components as soon as possible.
Can you drive a car with a bad engine timing chain?
Your vehicle’s timing chain should last anywhere between 80,000 to 100,000 miles. However, poor maintenance and oil contamination can cause the chain to stretch and wear out faster. It’s important to have your vehicle checked by a trusted mechanic as soon as you notice any of the symptoms above to prevent damaging the pistons and valves which can result in serious engine failure.
Choosing the right timing chain kit
Although the chain is far more durable than the rubber belt found on a lot of automobiles, it is still one of the vulnerable points in the engine. This guide will help you to pick out the right kit for your ride.
What's in the kit?
We could cop out and say: "everything you need for a complete installation", but it always pays to know what you are getting when you buy one-after all, you could opt to buy these parts separately. Here is the basic rundown of what you normally get in the kits on-sale in the market:
- Camshaft Sprocket. The camshaft controls the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves specifically. This sprocket attaches to one end of the shaft and is the anchoring point of one end of the timing chain.
- Crankshaft Sprocket. The crankshaft controls the upward and downward movement of the pistons within the cylinders in your engine. This is the larger of the two sprockets and is the anchoring point for the other end of the timing chain.
The key thing to look out for when picking out sprockets is the diameter of the sprockets themselves. Always use your own existing sprockets as a reference and measure out the diameters with a tape measure to be sure. It's always safest to check the diameter you measured against the sprocket you want to get.
- Timing Chain. The chain is the most critical component in the whole kit because it is responsible for making sure that camshaft and the crankshaft moves in perfect tandem-that, in turn, keeps your engine running efficiently.
Proper length and tension are the two important things to look for in a timing chain. Do not use your old chain as a reference point as it might have experienced some distortion or lengthening in its lifetime-even the slightest slackening of tension can be trouble. The best points of reference are your owner's manual or the result of a year-, make-, and model-specific search for a chain on an online retailer's site.
How much will it cost to replace a timing chain?
The cost to replace a faulty timing chain may vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. In general, an OE timing chain replacement kit will cost you around $200. Purchasing a kit is the most cost-efficient option because every time the timing chain is replaced, sprockets You may purchase replacement timing components as a set or as part of a kit.
Four Steps of Proper Timing Chain Kit Installation
Are you having engine problems like rough runs and starting issues? Perhaps your timing chain is already worn out. You should check your engine immediately. If this is the case, you should purchase your new timing chain kit as soon as possible. However, mounting these new engine components can be tedious. Following are the simplified steps on how you can replace your worn out timing chain.
Required skill level: Expert
Needed tools and materials:
- Antifreeze mixture
- Car owner's manual
- Drain pan
- Gasket scraper
- Harmonic balancer puller
- Jack stands
- Screwdriver set
- Silicone sealer
- Socket set
- Three-jaw gear puller
- Timing chain kit
- Torque wrench
- Wrench set
Step 1: Preparing for the actual replacement
The timing chain is located in the engine. Since this is an inner part of the underhood, you would need to remove different components to access the timing chain. This includes disconnecting the battery through the negative cable. You would also need to drain the radiator coolant into a drain pan. After that, you can remove the radiator hoses, fan cutch assembly, water pump brackets, and heater hoses if any.
Step 2: Disassembling the engine block
To gain complete access to the timing chain, you would also need to remove other engine components. Take out the harmonic balancer with the use of the harmonic balancer puller. After removing the fuel pump, take out the front timing cover. Lastly, rotate the engine using a ratchet and socket until the gears are aligned perpendicularly.
Step 3: Removing the old timing chain
Once you have complete access to the timing chain and its gears are completely aligned, you can now proceed to taking it out. Remove the bolts on the crankshaft. Pull the timing chain forward and have it removed with the camshaft sprocket. Using the three-jaw gear puller, remove the crankshaft sprocket.
Step 4: Placing the timing chain kit
The timing chain kit should include new sprockets as these, too, wear out with the chain. With the dots on the gears facing out, slide in the new crankshaft sprocket. Consult the owner's manual and install the new chain and cam sprocket as per the indicated alignment.
- Be safe! Always wear the minimum in safety gear: goggles, gloves, and closed-toed shoes.
- Always refer to the owner's manual. The steps are general and may require the manual for specifics.