Timing Cover Buyer’s Guide
- Timing covers protect essential components, such as the timing belt, timing chain and timing gears, from damage caused by exposure to foreign contaminants, debris, and the elements.
- Since the timing belt keeps debris out and holds the engine oil in, failure of this component will lead to sludge buildup, accelerated wear of certain components, and engine damage and eventual engine failure due to low levels of oil.
- Common symptoms of a bad timing cover include: oil leaks and puddles, low oil level, check engine light on, rough or misfiring engine, and hissing or clicking noises.
- The cost of the replacement part itself ranges from $20 to $100 depending on various factors such as the exact make, model, and year of your vehicle and the material of the timing cover (plastic, stainless steel, or aluminum).
What is a Timing Cover?
A timing cover is a component that’s designed to protect essential components of the engine, such as the timing belt, timing chain and timing gears, from damage caused by exposure to foreign contaminants, debris, and the elements. The timing cover is usually found on the front end of the engine block and is quite easy to spot because of its size. Any car that has a timing chain or belt will definitely come with a timing cover. This ensures that integral components can last much longer and perform better.
Timing covers are typically made from a tough plastic material or some kind of metal such as stainless steel and aluminum. Plastic timing covers are more resistant against corrosion, but they are also more prone to cracking or breaking due to the harsh pressure and temperature conditions in the engine bay.
Another essential component that helps the timing cover do its job is the timing cover gasket. The timing cover gasket is the seal between the timing cover and the engine block.
What Happens When the Timing Cover Fails?
A bad timing cover won’t immediately result in a major safety risk or your vehicle stalling. But this doesn’t mean that you should keep a failing timing cover unattended. After all, the timing cover’s main role is to protect essential timing components. Since the timing belt keeps debris out and holds the engine oil in, failure of this component will lead to sludge buildup, accelerated wear of certain components, and engine damage and eventual engine failure due to low levels of oil.
Failing to replace a bad timing cover will lead to rapid deterioration of the parts that it protects which consequently leads to major engine problems. So while failure of the timing cover itself might not be an immediate concern, the consequences of not replacing it quickly are definitely worrying.
Common Symptoms of a Bad Timing Cover
To avoid further damage to essential engine components, it’s important to catch the symptoms of a bad timing cover sooner rather than later. Here are some of the common signs of a failing timing cover:
Puddles of oil beneath and leaks around the timing cover
The most common sign of a timing cover, or timing cover gasket, going bad is oil leaking in the general area where the timing cover is located. Leaking oil can usually be spotted around the timing cover gasket and puddles of oil can accumulate beneath it. A bad timing cover gasket is fine to replace by itself, but if your timing cover is the one that’s damaged, it’s ideal to replace both the cover and the gasket together.
Oil level is constantly low
Checking your vehicle’s oil levels is usually part of routine maintenance. This is because your engine needs sufficient oil to stay in peak condition. It’s normal for your oil to need a top up every now and then, but if the oil level gets constantly low even after you top it up, your timing cover might be leaking oil. If your oil drops to worryingly low levels, get your timing cover, timing cover gasket, and any other component checked and replaced as soon as possible.
Engine running rough or engine misfires
Debris and other contaminants getting past the timing cover and timing cover gasket can result in sludge forming around the timing chain, belt, or gears. This can result in an increase in engine temperature that will inevitably lead to your engine running rough or misfiring.
Check Engine Light (CEL) is lit
Your check engine light will turn on when the oil level is too low or if something has affected the normal operating conditions of your engine.
Poor engine performance
If your vehicle is having trouble accelerating or going uphill, there might be a problem with your timing cover or gasket.
Hissing or clicking noises coming from the engine
A bad timing cover or timing cover gasket can also result in odd hissing or clicking noises coming from the engine.
A bad timing cover is not an urgent issue, in the sense that you can still drive with a damaged timing cover. However, it’s not something that can be left unattended for very long. If you notice any of the symptoms above or if you see any sign of physical damage to your timing cover, go to your mechanic for an expert diagnosis immediately. Remember, oil leaks caused by a bad timing cover or timing cover gasket will lead to more serious engine problems and definitely to more expensive repair and part replacement costs.
What Causes a Timing Cover to Leak?
When the timing cover is leaking, the most common culprit is a bad timing cover gasket. Timing cover gaskets are usually made from typical rubber gasket materials. Over time, the timing cover gasket will harden and lose its elasticity causing it to become ineffective in sealing in the oil and keeping contaminants out.
As for the timing cover itself, the usual causes of leaking are cracks, dents, and rust on the timing cover. Leaks can also be caused by corroded timing cover bolts. Usually, when the timing cover needs replacement, the timing cover gasket will have to be replaced too.
Timing Cover Replacement Cost
How much does it cost to fix a timing cover leak? There’s a wide range of prices for this particular fix. The cost of the replacement part itself ranges from $20 to $100 depending on various factors such as the exact make, model, and year of your vehicle and the material of the timing cover (plastic, stainless steel, or aluminum). Timing cover replacement parts usually include the timing cover itself and a replacement timing cover gasket If the timing cover gasket is the only part that needs replacement, you can purchase that individually too.
What makes the repair costly is the price of professional labor. $500 is the average starting price for replacing a timing cover gasket, and the cost rises if the timing cover itself has to be replaced too. Some experienced do-it-yourselfers can handle the replacement, but if you don’t have much experience with other automotive repairs, it’s best to leave the replacement to a professional.
How to Install a Timing Cover
Acting as your front engine cover, the timing cover is an extremely important component that protects your timing chains and timing gear from getting contaminated by dirt and debris. However, just like any other component in your vehicle, it will eventually get worn out after years of continued use. When left unchecked, it can cause leaks and other problems that will bring you nothing but hassles on the road. To bring back your ride's original performance, address the problem of your assembly right away.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Things to prepare:
- Impact wrench
- Drain pan
- RTV silicone
- Harmonic balancer puller
- Pry bar or flathead screwdriver
- Replacement timing cover
- Replacement timing cover gasket
Step 1: Before you start, make sure you are parked on flat level ground. If you are going to move your car, wait for the engine to cool down for about 30 minutes before you proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Open your hood and use a wrench to remove your negative battery terminal.
Step 3: Place your drain pan underneath the radiator pan. To start draining coolant, unscrew your radiator's main bolt and allow the fluid to flow into your drain pan.
Step 4: Once you are done draining, get the impact wrench and loosen the nut at the center of your harmonic balancer. Doing this step will prevent your crankshaft from spinning while you are doing your repairs.
Step 5: After that, slide your harmonic balancer to take it out of your assembly using the harmonic balancer puller. Next, locate your water pump and remove its bolts.
Step 6: To take out the timing cover, start by removing the bolts underneath the oil pan. Once the bolts are out, use a pry bar or flathead screwdriver to detach the timing cover.
Step 7: Before attaching your new cover, clean the mounting point by scraping off the remnants of your old timing cover gasket with a gasket scraper.
Step 8: Install a new timing cover gasket that's painted with gasket sealant in your assembly. Before attaching your new cover, coat its mounting surface with RTV silicone sealant.
Step 9: Install your new timing cover by positioning it on your engine, making sure the dowel pins are aligned. To secure the connection, bolt in and torque its fasteners using a wrench. Tighten the bolts according to your vehicle's specs.
Step 10: Reinstall all the components that you removed earlier by reversing the order in which they were taken out.
Step 11: Close the main bolt and replenish your radiator's coolant. Don't forget to reconnect your negative battery cables before you start your engine and allow it to reach its proper operating temperatures. Keep on refilling your radiator with coolant as needed.
Removing and replacing your timing cover may take from one to two hours to be completed.