Do Timing Chains Need To Be Replaced? (Here Is Why)

do timing chains need to be replaced

As you may know, it is important to replace a timing belt regularly. However, if you flick through the manual for your vehicle, you may not notice much information on timing chains.

Is this something that needs to be replaced? If so, when should you replace that timing chain? Well, on this page, we are going to tell you absolutely everything that you need to know.

What Is a Timing Chain?

The timing chain runs between the crankshaft and the camshaft. It basically ensures that the crankshaft and the camshaft run in sync.

The clue is in the name here. It is a ‘timing chain’, and thus makes sure that the timing between the two of these is perfect. It ensures that the engine cylinders are opening up at the same time.

Most vehicles will not have a timing chain. Instead, they will have a timing belt. A timing belt will do exactly the same job as a timing chain. However, while a timing chain is made from metal, a timing belt is made from rubber.

This means that it doesn’t last anywhere near as long as the timing chain does.

Read also >> What Causes the Timing Chain to Break? (Symptoms + Costs)

Do Timing Chains Need To Be Replaced?

As we mentioned before, a timing belt will need to be replaced fairly frequently. These belts are going to be almost constantly moving when your vehicle is running, which means that the rubber of the timing belt is going to wear down very quickly.

However, if your vehicle has a timing chain instead of a timing belt, then things may be a little bit different.

A timing chain, generally speaking, doesn’t need to be changed all that often. In fact, unless there is a serious issue with the timing chain, chances are that you will never have to replace it for the life of your vehicle.

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t replace it. Manufacturers of vehicles with timing chains installed will recommend that you get the timing chain replaced every 80,000 to 100,000 miles. 

You may need to replace the timing chain more frequently than this if you have a vehicle that is really put through its paces.

However, it is rare. In the next section, we are going to look at some of the times when a timing chain may need to be replaced earlier than normal.

When Do You Know a Timing Chain Needs Replacing?

Well, in modern vehicles, there will likely be a check engine light generated if your vehicle needs the timing chain replaced.

Obviously, the check engine light won’t specifically say that the timing chain needs replacing, but an error code will be generated, and a mechanic will be able to read this error code to determine the best way to proceed. 

You will likely notice that the timing chain needs replacing if you are starting to hear a rattling sound in your engine, then you will probably need to head to a mechanic. Once again, the issue does not always indicate that there is an issue with the timing chain. So, don’t head into a mechanic and tell them that is what the issue is.

There are a lot of things that can cause a rattling sound in an engine, and proper diagnostics need to be carried out. Most of the time, the problem isn’t with the timing chain at all. 

If the timing chain is the issue, then you may notice that the sound of the rattling (or perhaps clanking) sound is worse when you start the vehicle up in the cold. As the vehicle warms up, the sounds may stop.

What Happens If a Timing Chain Breaks?

If a timing chain breaks, then your engine cannot function. If you are trying to start the vehicle, then you won’t be able to do so. The engine just won’t fire. If you are driving the car, then the car will just stop working.

Obviously, you are going to really need to be on the ball here. You will need to make an emergency stop in a safe area because a vehicle with a broken timing chain is going to slow down incredibly quickly.

If your vehicle’s timing chain does break, then you will either need to call a mechanic out, or you will need to hire a tow truck to get you to where you need to be.

Luckily, it is incredibly rare that a timing chain is just going to break. In most cases, you are going to get ample warning that the timing chain is on its last legs, which means that you should have more than enough time to get to a garage to get it fixed.

It is worth noting that it is incredibly unlikely that a broken timing chain is going to break your engine. While we are sure that the risk is there, it is just more likely that the vehicle won’t work without the timing chain there. It won’t chug along at all.

As soon as that timing chain has been replaced, and a mechanic gives the area a proper inspection, then you should be back on the road pretty quickly. 

How Can You Stop a Timing Chain From Breaking?

Proper maintenance of the vehicle will help to reduce the chances of your timing chain breaking. However, the most important thing that you can do is replace the oil on a regular basis.

One of the biggest causes of a broken or stretched timing chain will be a poor oil change schedule. So, make sure that oil is changed every 6 months, and you probably will never have to change that timing chain.

Can You Replace a Timing Chain Yourself?

You could, but it is going to require a bit of mechanical knowledge, and since this is a job that you probably won’t be carrying out all that often, it makes sense to have the timing chain dealt with by a professional.

The thing with a timing chain is that it is a vital component in your engine. If the timing chain breaks or is poorly fitted, the engine just won’t work.

So, if you have absolutely no experience in changing a timing chain out, then don’t do it.

Another benefit of heading to a mechanic is that you may not need to have the whole timing chain replaced. In some cases, some of the sprockets on the chain can be replaced instead. This may save you a lot of money.

This is not something that you would be able to do yourself unless you had access to specialized tools.


In most cases, a timing chain will not need to be replaced. You will need to replace a timing belt on a regular basis, but if you have a timing chain, it could last for the lifespan of your vehicle.

However, most manufacturers recommend that you get it changed out after 100,000 miles anyway.

If your timing chain breaks or becomes stretched, then your engine will just stop working. Thankfully, there will often be warning signs that this is going to happen in the future e.g. your check engine light will come on, or there will be rattling sounds in the engine. 


Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

Recent Posts

error: Content is protected !!