The Difference Between a Timing Belt and Timing Chain

As an integral component of your car’s engine, timing belts and timing chains to the same thing – connect the crankshaft to the camshaft. This connection ensures engine valves open and close at the appropriate times, allowing fuel and air to enter and be expressed throughout the engine. The entire system operates much like bike pedals, with tensioners and pulleys keeping accessories in place.

So, What’s the Difference?

Much of the variation in these two parts comes from the material used to make them. As you might have guessed, a timing belt is just that–a closed belt usually composed of rubber. A timing chain, then, involves an actual metal chain. Before the advent of rubber, timing chains were used, and Pontiac first introduced the timing belt to American vehicles in the mid-1960s.

Another difference between the chain and belt involves their location. While a timing belt sits outside the engine, the timing chain needs lubrication from engine oil and goes inside. In addition, timing belts are less expensive and quieter than their steely counterpart, making them most automakers’ first choice up until the 1990s. More recently, however, manufacturers have improved chain technology–with noise and vibration reduction a priority–and modern vehicles can expect their timing chains to last as long as the car itself.

Note: To find out whether your car uses a timing belt or timing chain, consult the owner’s manual.

Replacing Your Timing Belt or Timing Chain

This part may seem simple, but a broken timing belt or chain can handily obliterate an engine. The vulnerability comes from the fact that many of today’s vehicles have interference engines. To be more specific, as the valves open and close, they operate in the same cylinder space as the piston. With such interrelated elements, timing becomes crucial; all valves must be out of the way so the piston can move up. Since the timing belt or chain controls valve movement, a malfunction can cause the piston head and valves to smash into each other. Depending on the movement inside the engine when this happens, the damage could be catastrophic.

Although replacing a timing belt or chain is one of the more expensive ways to maintain your engine (costing around $1,000), it’s a must if you want to avoid the added cost of repairing or replacing the damage caused by a broken chain or belt.

The best resource for scheduling a timing belt or timing chain replacement is your owner’s manual since the recommendation might vary based on vehicle make and model.

For all your vehicle’s maintenance and repair needs, call the experts at Heath’s Auto Service in Flagstaff at 928-214-8150 and schedule an appointment today!

Call Heath’s Auto Service at 928-214-8150 for an appointment today!

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