Timing Belt vs Timing Chain (What´s The Difference)

Timing Belt vs Timing Chain

Do you know what the difference between timing chains vs. timing belts is? Well, you are at the perfect place to find the answer to such a question.

Depending on your vehicle, you will have a timing belt or a timing chain installed. While they both perform exactly the same job, there are a few differences between them.

These differences dictate which one is likely to be installed in your vehicle. On this page, we are going to go through absolutely everything that you need to know about timing belts and timing chains.

What Do Timing Belts and Timing Chains Do?

As we said, both timing belts and timing chains do exactly the same job. There may be a few differences between how they are installed, but at the end of the day, their work ends up being the same.

The timing belt and timing chain run between the crankshaft and the camshaft of your vehicle. It helps to ensure that these two components run alongside one another in perfect timing.

As they move, the cylinders on the engine open and close, allowing the engine to work properly.

Without a timing belt or a timing chain, an engine simply wouldn’t run. In fact, if the engine’s timing belt or chain broke, the vehicle would just stop running.

This is because there is nothing keeping the timing of the engine working. 

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

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

How They Work

As we said, they both do exactly the same job. However, they are installed in slightly different ways.

A timing belt is very similar to a drive belt on an electrical appliance. It is a rubber band with some grooves on it. It does not need lubrication to work.

A timing chain is literally a chain, very similar to a bicycle chain, although a lot smaller. It does need lubrication, and it will be lubricated by the oil in your engine. However, more on that soon.

Construction Materials

A timing belt is made from rubber. This means that it is far cheaper to produce. It also has a few advantages, which we will discuss soon.

There is a reason why vehicle manufacturers install timing belts instead of timing chains, and it isn’t just because they are cheaper to install.

A timing belt is always made of good-quality metal. They are nigh on indestructible, although they can stretch out over time.

They tend to be expensive to replace, although you likely won’t be replacing them all that often. 


As a timing belt is made from rubber, it doesn’t have great durability. You will likely need to have the timing belt of your vehicle swapped out every year or so, depending on how much strain you are putting your vehicle under.

If you don’t, then the belt will just snap. There is often no indication that your vehicle’s timing belt is about to break, hence why it is so important that you take your vehicle in for a regular service.

On the other hand, it is very rare that you will need to ever swap out a timing chain. They are built to last.  Manufacturers do recommend that you get your vehicle’s timing chain replaced every 80,000 to 100,000 miles but, with a properly serviced vehicle, your timing chain will last a whole lot longer than this.

In fact, as long as that chain is lubricated, there is very little that can go wrong with it.

On the off-chance that there is something wrong with that timing belt, you will often get ample notice that it is about to break.

You may start to hear a rattling from your engine, and the check engine light will come on. It is incredibly rare that a timing chain will just break without warning.

This means that, unlikely with a timing belt, you do not have to worry about getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. 


As we said, there is a reason why vehicle manufacturers opt to install a timing belt instead of a timing chain, and it isn’t just down to the cost. 

You will find that timing belts are installed in quieter engines. This means that your average day-to-day vehicle will have a timing belt installed.

This is because the sound of them working is basically silent. Most cars nowadays will have timing belts installed because they are aiming for a quieter operation.

Timing chains make a lot of noise. It is metal grinding against metal. You may notice that the sound is a little bit louder when you start the vehicle, particularly on a colder day.

Although do bear in mind that if your timing chain is making a lot of noise, then it may have stretched, which means that it will need to be replaced.

Timing chains tend to be used when vehicles are designed to be covering a lot of miles, or when you really need to put a vehicle through its paces e.g. they are used heavily in trucks and serious off-road vehicles. 

Ease of Replacement 

While we would always recommend that you consult an expert to replace a timing belt or a timing chain, you will find that a timing belt is a lot easier to replace for a novice.

This is because the timing belt is not in a sealed unit. You can easily access the timing belt.

On the other hand, a timing chain needs to be lubricated. It is sealed away, and you will often have to tinker about with the engine to access it.

Once you do swap it out, you need to ensure that everything is sealed up properly. This can be tough to do. The last thing you want is to cause an oil leak, so consult an expert. The job should be pretty simple for a decent mechanic. 

How Do You Know Whether Your Vehicle Has a Timing Belt or Timing Chain Installed?

If you open up your vehicle’s manual, then it will probably tell you whether you have a timing belt or a timing chain installed.

It may actually be worth getting familiar with the manual because it will tell you when you need to replace the belt or the chain on your vehicle.

It may even give you some of the warning signs that your vehicle’s timing belt or timing chain may need to be replaced.

Of course, you can also look at your engine. If you open up the hood of your car and look at the engine, the timing belt/chain location should be easy to see.

If you see a bit of plastic around where the component should be, then you know that you have a timing belt. If you notice a metal sealing the area, then you know that you have a timing chain.


Your vehicle will have either a timing belt or a timing chain installed. It will never have both of them installed. While they both do the same job, there are a few differences.

A timing belt is made of rubber. While their durability on them is far lower than a timing chain, they are much quieter.

If you have a timing chain, then it is unlikely that you will ever need to replace it. However, they are louder when in operation. It is unlikely that your average car will have a timing chain installed. 



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.

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