How Do I Know if My Timing Chain Needs Replacing?

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Compared to timing belts, timing chains are commonly used in automobiles because of their durability. And so, most of us do not pay much attention to them because we think they last a lifetime. But, although made to give you service for the entire useful life of your vehicle, timing chains wear out, more so in cars that go long miles.

A timing chain is an essential component of your engine that actuates the opening and closing of air intake and exhaust valves, and so in cases where it fails, it leads to serious engine problems. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure proper maintenance of your timing chain and where it needs replacement, it should be done promptly.

But how do you know your timing chain needs to be replaced? This article talks more about maintaining and replacing your timing chain. Read on for more insights.

The Importance of a Proper Functioning Timing Chain

The engine consists of many delicate components that work to ensure the engine is running effectively. Fundamental of these components is the crankshaft and camshaft, whose interaction determines when each combustion cycle will take place. The timing chain connects the camshaft to the crankshaft and is responsible for transmitting rotation from the latter to the former for the opening and closing of the engine valves. And so, failure of the timing chain will impede your engine's combustion cycle, causing it to fail.

Signs of a Failing Timing Chain

You will not see a timing chain when driving, so it is hard to tell when it is failing. The only way to tell is by looking for signs associated with a failing timing chain. So how do you know your timing engine is failing?

Engine misfires

Repeated engine misfires can be an indication of a stretched timing chain. When the timing chain loses its integrity, it occasionally skips a gear, leading to poor synchronization of the camshaft and the crankshaft. The result is poor engine timing which is manifested as engine misfires. Also, the engine is sluggish and lacks acceleration power; in some cases, it refuses to start.

Rattle noise

Under normal conditions, your engine should produce a consistent, smooth sound. Anything unusual from that is an indication of a problem with your machine. A rattling sound is an indication of loose parts in your engine. For example, when the timing chain becomes loose, it causes vibration inside the motor, which manifests as a rattling sound when the machine is idle.

Metal shaving in the oil pan

Another way to know your metal chain is worn out is to check for any metal shavings in your vehicle's oil pan. As the metal chain wears out, it shaves off small metal pieces which find their way to the oil pan.

Engine lights

Engine lights illuminate for various reasons and usually indicate a problem with the engine. So, the engine must be checked for the source of the problem.

When the timing chain becomes stretched, it causes poor engine performance and increases emissions which triggers the check engine lights.

Sudden failure of the engine

Another indication of a worn-out timing chain is when your engine suddenly fails and won't start. If your timing chain breaks while driving, it will damage all other parts in contact with the valve damaging your entire engine. You would have ignored all the above signs for your engine to reach this point. And so, it is essential to contact your mechanic as soon as you notice the above signs of a failing timing chain to avoid severe engine problems.

A complete new timing chain replacement kit lies on a gray tool cart

How Do I Know if My Timing Chain Needs Replacing

Ideally, your timing chain is designed to give you a long-lasting service. And unless there is any fault, you should replace it between 80,000 and 120,000 miles. However, your chain may wear out due to poor maintenance, which necessitates a replacement. It is time to replace your timing chain as soon as you notice signs of a failing chain. This includes rapid engine misfiring, a rattling sound, metal shavings on your oil cap, and poor engine performance associated with increased emissions.

It is essential to ensure that you replace your timing chain before it breaks. Failure will cause damage to your entire engine, eventually leading to expensive engine replacement costs.

What Causes the Timing Engine to Fail?

Poor maintenance

The leading cause of timing chains wearing out is poor maintenance. If you fail to perform periodic oil changes and use the wrong motor oil, the chain plate and pins will wear out, causing the timing chain to stretch. This is because old oil causes particles to accumulate, which then accelerates the wear and tear of the pins and plates. Moreover, using the wrong type of oil leads to poor lubrication, which accelerates the wearing out of the timing chain.

Continuous operation of the vehicle at maximum speed

Another factor that causes timing chains to fail is the continuous operation of the vehicle at maximum speed, which causes the engine to overheat, causing gradual degradation of the timing chain, sprocket, and guides. Eventually, this leads to chain breakage

Overly tight tensioner

An overly tightened tensioner can also cause issues. An excessively tight tensioner overloads the timing chain plus the associated guides and sprockets, accelerating their degradation, which eventually causes the chain to break.

Vehicle age

Another factor that causes the timing chain to fail is the vehicle's age and the miles traveled. The older your car, the more susceptible to timing chain breakage. Over time, the chain, guides, and sprockets degrade, eventually leading to chain breakage. This is also true with the more miles you travel. Ideally, most manufacturers would advise your timing chain between 80,000 and 120,000 miles.

Conclusion

A timing chain is essential to ensure the engine's optimal performance. Although this component is designed to last the entire service life of your vehicle, sometimes it wears out, calling for a replacement. It is essential to look for signs of a failing timing chain and ensure that replacement is done promptly to avoid severe engine problems that result in expensive replacement costs.

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