Timing Chain Vs Timing Belt: What are the differences?

A lot of people are not sure if there’s a difference between timing chain vs timing belt, and since they both have the same function in an engine system. They take them to be the same, but that’s a misconception.

Timing belts and chains are vital parts of an engine that contribute to an engine’s smooth operation, and every car is designed with either a timing belt or timing chain. No car has both.

Despite their similar responsibility; there are slight differences between these two. That leaves you wondering what could be the difference between a timing belt and a timing chain.

Timing Chain

The timing chain is part of a system internal combustion engine that helps to synchronize the camshaft and crankshaft so that your vehicle’s engine valves can easily open and close appropriately during each exhaust strokes and cylinder’s intake.

timing chain lifespan

Timing chains have a longer lifespan, and from timing chain vs timing belt cost analysis, chains are more expensive, but they don’t need frequent replacement. They also help drive the cams and support to operate valves that deliver fuel to the extracts and combustion chambers.

In other words, the timing chain plays the role of a connection link, connecting both the upper part of your vehicle’s engine (valves and cylinder heads) and also the lower part which includes the (crankcase and piston).

It looks like the chain found in a bicycle and it makes more noise than a timing belt. Proper synchronization between strokes occurring and the valve timing in the car’s cylinders is necessary for the provision of good engine performance, adequate power supply, and good fuel management.

The crankshaft’s four-stroke engines rotate twice faster than that of the camshaft, and the timing belt is needed to synchronize them.

One of the disadvantages of the timing belt is that it tends to stretch after a certain period of use, which makes banging and scratching noises when driving.

Damage to your vehicle’s timing chain tensioner can cause it to decline during an engine operation.

 Timing Belt

Timing belts make less noise when compared to timing chains and direct transmission.

They also possess less friction, which helps achieve less contact with the piston and valves, preventing the valves from striking the piston. The timing belt has a tooth-like shape or a round belt with teeth on the surface.

timing belt replacement cost

A timing belt has the same functions as the timing chain and even in the same manner, but instead of chains, they are made of rubber and fiberglass. The belt is used to control the camshaft’s operation and it’s mounted on the ribbed gears close to the ends of the camshafts and crank.

Timing belts have a lesser lifespan than the timing chain. They are lighter, less expensive, and operate more quietly.

A timing belt also connects the engine camshaft to the crankshaft or the other way around so that the valves open and closes rhythmically in link to the piston’s position.

Timing Chain Vs Timing belt: What are the differences?

Well! The primary difference is that one is a chain; the other is a belt. But that’s not so much of a distinguishing factor, to know the actual difference between these two, you have to be acquainted with what ‘engine timing’ is all about, it’s why you need a belt or chain in your vehicle.

A lot of modern vehicles are designed with four-stroke engines. Reasons because a combustion process involves a compression stroke, intake stroke, exhaust stroke, and a power stroke. During the four-stroke cycle, the crankshaft rotates twice, while the camshaft just once.

The connection between your crankshaft and camshaft is what defines the term ‘engine timing’. This regulates the motion of your valves and pistons fixed in your cylinders.

The valves are meant to open up at a specific time along with your pistons. If these parts cannot function, you might not run your engine, or your engine won’t work correctly.

In as much as timing belts works the same way a timing chain works, they have some distinguishing difference as well which we’ll be discussing in the next lines.

Because of the material used in manufacturing timing belts, they are quiet and less expensive while timing chains are more expensive and make more noise than the belt.

Timing chains are housed inside the engine where they receive oil for lubrication while timing belts are housed outside the engine without oil lubrication which can cause them to wear out and crack over time.

Recently, many car manufacturers have started integrating timing chains that have noise reduction. As well, many manufacturers have integrated timing belts that can be replaced without replacing the water pump unlike how it used to be years back.

Read Also: SOHC vs. DOHC: Which Engine Is the Best?

Timing belt Vs Timing chain pros and cons

Timing chains are most times preferred than chains, mostly for modern cars. This is because of the durability of timing chains.

However, both have their pros and cons. The manufacturing of affordable vehicles prompted the use of a timing belt, which is a less quiet and costly material.

Before you conclude which is better, you should know the timing belt vs timing chain pros and cons, so you make the right decision.

Pros of Timing belt

  • Has little vibration and chordal effect
  • Precise timing and registration without any loss of the carrying ability of high torque.
  • The timing belt has good slip-proof engagement.
  • Belts have an efficiency of close to 100% when appropriately serviced.
  • Low noise.
  • Long, reliable, and problem-free service.
  • Resistant to rust.
  • Saves weight.
  • High drive design options.
  • Good abrasion resistance.
  • Wide range of speed, mostly when the speed range is from one source.
  • A lot economical (No required lubrication, costly drive enclosures, sprocket change, tensioning devices, and adjustments).
  • Saves energy.

Cons of Timing belt

  • You need to change your belt often.
  • It relies on the water pump for some engines.
  • Needs a lot of attention from the driver.

Pros of Timing chain

Timing chains are highly durable:

Its high durability property comes from the metal used in production.

Most manufacturers say you might not replace your timing chain, which is true if you can maintain your engine, mainly when you use the right oil.

However, you won’t have to be changing your chain regularly.

You don’t need to change your water pump while replacing a lousy timing belt:

This is one advantage timing chains hold over belts. For most vehicles that use timing belts, you have to service the water pump when replacing your belt.

But since the timing chain is not directly linked to the water pump, you don’t have to replace your pump while changing your chain.

Does not elongate:

Apart from the fact that timings chains are made of metal, it doesn’t change length or work based on temperature.

This reflects that a smaller tensioner for the chain is needed, and the chances of the chain breaking are meager.

No slippage:

As opposed to the belts, the timing chain does not slip.

Cons of Timing chain

costly to purchase:

Although a timing chain is more durable than a timing belt, a chain kit is more expensive than a belt kit.

It includes the chain and the labor cost to fix in the chain. Labor cost is high because timing chains are more difficult to replace.

Needs Lubrication:

Timing chain lifespan depends on lubrication, driving your car with low oil or low-pressure oil pump may affect your engine. The higher the engine oil quality, the longer the timing chain lifespan, your engine included.

Chains rely on hydraulic pressure to function:

The timing chains operate based on hydraulic pressure, which is sometimes a problem.

Why Some Cars Have a Timing Chain Instead of a Timing Belt YouTube

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Which is a better timing chain or timing belt?

Timing belts makes less noise than the timing chain because of the material used in production, which is also less expensive.

Timing chains are found inside your engine where oil passes through. It receives lubrication from the engine oil.

Also, chains last for a longer time; on the other hand, timing belts are found in your engine as well, but not directly where oil passes through. It tends to crack and dry out quickly.

Timing chains are more complex and heavier than a timing belt, and they are expensive to replace, but timing belts are cheaper.

Q: When should a timing belt be replaced?

The timing belts usually need replacement after every 80,000-120,000 miles, except your car has a specific problem. Timing belt issues are common in vehicles that have higher mileage.

Other studies have shown that the timing belt needs to be replaced after every 40,000 to 1,00,000 miles, determined by the make and model of your car.

The timing chain is subjected to wear, because of poor oil quality or low oil level. The timing chain does not need replacement, except it has an issue.

When you feel that your vehicle’s engine is suddenly sluggish, having trouble starting, or low on power, it can be due to a worn timing chain, which may cause your engine light to come on. Your timing chain may also start making whining, whirring, or buzzing noises.

Q: Is the timing belt and timing chain the same thing?

Though these two functions are very similar and are said to have the same role, they are quite different.

Timing chains last longer, receive lubrication directly from the engine oil, and are found within the engine. In contrast, the timing belt is not found where oil passes through and is subjected to wearing out and drying.

To determine whether your engine uses a timing belt or timing chain, look at the timing cover – if it has a plastic cover, it shows that your engine has a timing belt. But if it has a cast or iron cover, it implies that your engine uses a timing chain.

Q: What vehicles have timing chains instead of belts?

Most BMWs have timing chains instead of timing belts, some other cars like Honda Jazz. Most Mercedes produced cars, all Cadillacs, Chevrolet Corvette, Dacia Duster, Alfa Romeo 159, Sandero Stepway, Mazda produced with a Skyactive-G engine, and also Sandero products are all built with timing chains.

Other cars like SAABs that are manufactured with turbocharged engines also use timing chains.

Q: Do timing chains last forever?

You can also check timing chain vs timing belt Reddit reviews just for more certainty. Usually, timing chains are supposed to last as long as your vehicle.

But due to poor production in making some timing chains, this might not be the case for every car model.

A timing chain will last up to or longer than 300,000 miles in a high- maintenance car engine.

Final Words

So this article has settled any misconception you might have about timing chain vs timing belt. You now know the differences that separate them, and though there are preferences on these engine parts, they both have good qualities that make them unique.

If you still have some questions on this subject, you can always get back to us for more info.

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Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a seasoned automotive technician for the past 9 years, and a technical writer. He loves writing about auto professional repair guides, DIY repair guides, and buyer’s guide. After spending six years in the automotive workshop, he decided to impact his knowledge to people aside his domain, and he has achieved this by centering his Automotive writing skills on REPAIRS.

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