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

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


rev up your engines, today I’m gonna talk
about timing belts versus timing chains inside your car’s engine, now for most
internal combustion engines the crankshaft which the Pistons are
connected to spins around and that’s connected to the camshaft which opens
and closes the valves, and there’s various ways you can connect it, now a
long time ago in my grandfather’s day the early engines they didn’t even use
timing belts or timing chains, they had timing gears, the bottom crank had a gear
and then gears went to the camshaft which spun the camshaft and then push
rods open and closed the valves, now that was a solid reliable system, you had
gears connecting them, but that two main disadvantages, one it costs a lot of
money to make good gears to put that together and the gears themselves had a
tendency of making whiny noises that people didn’t like, so then instead of
having gear on gear to spin it they decided to use a timing chain and
these engine designs the crankshaft sprocket teeth on it, then a timing chain,
then another sprocket with teeth that ran the camshaft all the old American v8
engines were made that way and some of them are still that way, you can see
these are thick hardy change this one came off a 350 Chevrolet they’re really
strong they lasted off a long time but of course it costs money to make hard
steel sprockets and expensive chains so they gave the idea of the timing belt
instead of a timing chain, the pulley on the bottom of the crank and the pulley
on a camshaft was connected using a rubber base timing belt and contrary to
what people might try to tell you, the only reason they went to tiny belts it’s
cuz it’s cheaper to make them when you have a sprocket that uses a timing chain
it has to be really strong steel, but the sprockets that run these rubber base
timing belts they can be a lot softer because they’re just pulling rubber
they’re not steel, so most of the manufacturers switched over the timing
belt, now with a car like this Toyota that’s well designed a 94 Celica, those rubber timing belt sometimes could last hundreds of thousands of miles they’d tell
you to change them every one thousand or 90 or so, they were pretty
reliable in the Toyota engine and there’s one big advantage of this design
almost every Toyota engine ever made is a non-interference engine, so off the
timing belt breaks the Pistons don’t hit the valve and do any damage, but when you
take cars like many of the Nissans, they were a faster engine racing design, so
the Pistons went higher and the valves came lower, so if those rubber belts ever
broke when you’re driving on the highway the Pistons hit the valves
they break the engine and destroy the engine, I’ve seen many people in the past few
decades with these timing belt Nissan’s have the belt brake ruined the engine
and they said, you’re telling me that this $30.00 belt broke made out of rubber and
it destroyed my engine, I’ll never buy another Nissan, well then respond to this
Nissan was one of the early companies to go from timing chains on their cars, to
timing belts and then back to timing chains, so that they wouldn’t have this
problem and unfortunately for Nissan and the people who bought them, a lot of
those early switchover that went from timing belts to timing chains had
problems with the timing chains cuz Nissan made them kind of poorly, but the
idea was correct and now many manufacturers have switched back to timing
chains and the main reason for that is the higher design capacity of smaller
engines, they’re making smaller engines put out more horsepower, putting variable
valve timing and other things inside and that strains the timing belt so much
that the rubber timing belts would have a tendency of breaking too often and to
get added horsepower to these smaller engines, a lot of the manufacturers had
used to make non-interference engines are now making an interference engine
but since they have a sturdy steel chain that’s driving it, they don’t have the
problems of a rubber belt snapping, take this matrix it’s twelve years old, it’s
got a timing chain inside the engine never had a problem, as quiet as can be,
and runs just as good as it did when it was brand new,
because really steel chains, they beat the heck out of a rubber base timing
belt any day of the week if the chains are
made correctly, and I know some guys maybe motorcycle guys are gonna say, but Scotty
chains need lubrication well guess what timing chain is inside the engine, it’s
coated with the engine motor oil it is inside the engine, so as long as you
change your engine oil regularly this chain is lubricated with nice clean engine oil and it can last a really long time, rubber hey it falls apart it’s over time, it’s going to stretch over time and yeah a chain
stretches a little over time but it takes a lot more time and mileage to
stretch solid steel than it does rubber and sure costs a lot more money to
manufacture a chain and build an engine that way but hey, they’re not giving away
modern car so you’re paying enough money you really want one that’s got a solid
timing chain in it, because I doubt they’ll ever go back to making gear
driven cams, that just costs way too much money and as I said earlier it does
make a reasonable amount of whining noise and people want quieter cars, they
don’t want louder ones, now of course the rubber base timing belts were really
quiet, but in a modern engine they just wouldn’t hold up, with all those extra
cams and variable valve timing and GDI direct injection, there’s a lot more
pressure, a rubber belt can’t take it but a chain can, so if you’re shopping
around for a new car hey, I’d make sure it had an engine with a timing
chain and not one of these flimsy rubber base timing belts, so if you never want
to miss another one of my new car repair videos, remember to ring that Bell!

About the Author: Michael Flood

100 Comments

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  2. Timing chains are super reliable unless you're talking BMW about 20 years ago.
    And they were interference engines so you were lucky if you didn't bend a valve stem or 2.
    Somebody told me they used an odd design of chain – more like a mesh – not sure whether that's true.

  3. I have a 1999 B14 Nissan Sentra 1.3 liters that has 360k kms on it. Original aircon compressor, original carburetor, not burning oil, engine never been opened and yes, it is equipped with a timing belt.

  4. Timing belt is lighter and Quiter too
    But cheap is the reason manfcturers use them.
    or at least till you need one changing then theyre not so cheap.
    My car has a chain!

  5. my toyota land cruiser 2011 has timing belt ….. WTF !!! i sold it before i change it and i got GMC Yukon now with a timing chain <3

  6. Why can't I modify the rubber timing chain to a steel timing chain? Change the sperocket that the timing chain fastens to?

  7. Our 2010 Dodge Caliber with a 2.0 4 cylinder I thought it had a timing belt but I found out that it has a timing chain and that is good news for us.Saving money is great

  8. If you want to sqeeze the "connecting rod length" to stroke ratio to max and need the aerodynamics to be fair you need some way of reducing the hight of the cylinderhead.
    You want 4 valves in there and a shallow combustion chamber and the intake area can't be reduced so lift need be increased – you even want a spark plug in there too, taking up space for the valves !!!?.

    Just a little question to all here, lets see if you can guess this right – you are allowed to join Scotty 😉
    which camshaft will put the most load on the camshaft drive system ?
    15 mm core shaft diameter or 30 mm core shaft diameter – both with 15 mm lift !

    Let get to the solution for the initial design constrains:
    Increase the lift from 12 to 17 mm,
    decrease the camshaft core diameter from 30 to 15 mm to be able to reduce the angle between the valves/camshafts,
    shorten the valve stems 10 mm – you need shorter valve springs with higher spring rates – but who cares 🙂
    the above two allows you to lower your camshafts 25 mm, one inch !! – nice
    But it comes with a cost, a huge cost –
    near 100% increase of cam rise-rate (steeper cams) and very likely the same increase spring rate = more than 100% increase of strain on the cam-drive-train – assuming we are not doubling the number of valves.

    Belts are actually very reliable – my own little "oil-burner" (diesel) has a belt service life of 240 000 km or 10 years whichever comes first.
    My belt was changed at 237 000 km and 10 years, was curiously tested and was found to be well within 90% of the strength of a new belt – its a 20 mm wide belt and 16 valves DOHC.

    Do you want reliability ? – keep the service intervals and use the right quality of spare parts. If you are not qualified to select the right quality – USE original spare parts and DO NOT Chip-tune.

  9. My 392 Hemi uses a timing gear. I occasionally get people that ask if it's supercharged because of thar gear whine. It's not even that loud, you bearly hear it.

  10. If you want to buy a new car, and you ask and find out that this car you want have a timing belt instead of a timing chain, could it be a fact that make you look for an other car?

  11. I had a ‘99 Ford escort with a 2.0 SPI and a 5-speed that blew the timing belt as I had the clutch disengaged downshifting around a right turn. I lucked out about the timing. Engine was still okay! Cost me $499 to fix (mechanic did the water pump while they were in there), but hey! Sold that car to a friend who eventually had to get rid of it because of unsafe rust.

  12. i am planning to buy a used kia sportage 2008 lx with 192000 mileage please any advice on the reliability and durability level

  13. Draw back to a chain solution is the need for a tensioner that may need to be replaced. But the chain is far superior to a rubber belt.

  14. You’d think that as long as these companies have been in business they’d know how to avoid running into design issues with things like timing components. Just look at GMs 3.6 liter with their horribly designed timing setup. You’ll be lucky to get 60,000 miles out of it before having to rebuild it. You’re looking at almost 15 hours labor to change the timing components in some of the vehicles that engine is in like the traverse. That’s just ridiculous!

  15. Volkswagen got back to timing chains with their TSI engines. But they were so small that they realy made problems. They were loosen. So Volkswagen decided to go back to timing belts. They (Audi an VW) want to be premium but can't even handle a timing chain. I used to sell them and I'm sorry for all of my customers that had issues.

  16. Scotty you are not telling the truth. The main reason to use timing belt is not only that it's cheaper. Belt is quieter than the chain and it's not prone to stretching. So with a belt design, the engine timing is always accurate as long as the belt doesn't break. So all you need to do is the replace the belt following the schedule and your engine will always have an accurate timing. However, with a chain design, although the chain doesn't break, it will stretch gradually as mileage goes up. That leads to gradually increasing engine timing inaccuracy, therefore decreasing gas mileage and increasing noise. Changing a timing belt is hell lot easier than changing a timing chain. Today a lot of manufacturers are switching to timing chain simply because they want a lower maintenance cost plan to sell their maintenance plan and attract more customers, especially fleet customers.
    Honda has been using timing belt on interference engines for a long time and they don't face complaints against the belts they use. I've seen Odysseys running on original timing belt for more than 200k miles. The fiber reinforced timing belts are very strong.

  17. We in Europe, change timing belts on every 60 000 kilometers. Those who dont, are basically pushing they luck. And now you say in US people change it on way way more kilometers, either you are mad or u have much much better timing belts haha

  18. Sure the belt streches and gets worn out but its ment to be replaced like alot of other parts. Some of the strongest and most famous engines use belts… Also seen quite a few engines with chains blow. Not the chains but parts they run on like bolts that hold the sprockets snap or come loose.

  19. As a tech, I miss timing belts, so easy to do and great money. Now all I do is replace prematurely broken plastic parts that should have been made from metal in the first place. Customers ask why I drive a 1970 chevy truck, and I tell them all the same thing; it's cheap to fix, extremely reliable, and the big one, I haven't had any plastic parts fail!! Wait… What plastic parts?!

  20. He's terrific… but hey I do wish he'd take it easy …. he sounds as if he'd be more at home doing tv commercials..!

  21. This video is 100% fact but makes timing belts out to be far worse than they are, never had a timing belt fail on my engine at 27 years old, lack of maintenance is probably why timing belts have a bad name for the most part.

  22. the good thing about belts, is that if its recently changed its not gonna brake/fail. Chain will often stretch after time and cause problems. So if your buying a 10 yr+ car, belt can be your friend.

  23. heres a good question. is it possible to change from timing belt to chain – and how hard is it

  24. Change your timing belt every 70000 miles and you'll be perfectly fine. They have kits so you replace the water pump at the same time. 300 bucks will save your engine. I learned the hard way and had a Kia Rio engine destroyed at 60000 miles with these rubber band belts.

  25. Really enjoy your informative and no nonsense approach to the car industry. You are an asset to your viewers. Rest assured, you have saved decent folk alot of money and un necessary hassle who've watch your content. This is from an ex Mercedes Technician. Keep up the great service Scotty. 👍

  26. I can tell you now the diesel Mk2 Toyota Rav4 were interference engines – I think most diesels are actually – my cam belt snapped going 70mph down a motorway and fucked my engine. Wrote it off (unless I put a whole new engine in). Next one I got was the Mk3 where they switched to a timing chain.

  27. I just put in my search “Why some cars has timing belt and not chain. First thing come up was scotty face… I smile 😎

  28. 2:06 that image right there tells that Scotty is just epic accurate with ur reaction 😂😂😂🙈👍🏼

  29. Adding this detail for those wondering what their car have on.
    Timing belt will have a plastic cover attached to the side of engine, timing chain will not have that plastic cover, you have no easy access to the chain.

  30. Scotty, I just watched your video on Suburu. The only car i'd buy is one with the 2010+ gen Toyota V-6 or 2007 Lexus V-8. Life's too shirt to deal with timing belts, oil dilution, head gasket failure, and carbon buildup! Buy a modern Toyota!

  31. Thanks for your amazing and honest videos Scotty! The only thing worse than a timing belt, is a defective timing chain system. In this regard, what is your opinion dear Scotty on the timing chain system in EA888 engines? In my humble opinion they warrant special attention.

  32. I had pontiacs in the 60s with a timing chain and fiber gears high failure rate. Then replacements were always steel.

  33. Scotty, I have a Hyundai and the dealer told me I have 31,000 miles on the car and it needs a new timing belt. Cost over 1,000 dollars.Bought the extra 100,000 mile insurance and they tell me it’s a wear item and it’s not covered. Not only cheap made but they don’t last and charge you a small fortune to replace. I will never buy a Hyundai again. Thanks for letting people know.

  34. hey scotty, I have a question about warming up your engine when idling. some technicians say that warming up your engine when idling is bad. I don't understand why, can you explain?

    Greets from Holland

  35. I did some minor research before I bought a Mazda 3 w/2.3L DOHC. Timing chain! Non-interference! But it turns out it has solid lifters. Sigh……..

  36. Had this exact problem on my 2005 Honda Civic! The timing belt snapped and it damaged the pistons. Had to scrap the car since I didn’t want to swap the Engine. So much better now with my civic that has a timing chain! Wish I watched this video beforehand ☹️

  37. Give me a timing belt any day, yes sure you have change them at certain intervals but they are a lot easier to replace and silent operation, chains get clattery after a while and sound like tractor engines I did one once a few years ago and cost me a flipping fortune in parts as it's not just the chain you have go buy it's new sprockets and chain guilds and hydraulic tensioner as well which is pretty hearty price for oem and oem is usually the only ones that will work right as aftermarket never tension right or don't last long, timing belt on the Other hand, cheap as chips and that's all you have go replace along with water pump providing it's timming belt driven.

  38. Cummins still uses timing gears for the 4 and 6 cylinder inline engines to this day. Timing geared engines still exist in modern society even though it's not common.

  39. My buddy's 2008 Jeep Compass is scap metal now because of the cheap timing chain. Thanks Scotty. Your videos rock

  40. Every bmw owner disagrees with your timing chain haha because they broke all the time and destroyed the engine completely. But that is only in 2.0 l bmw and such. Didn't hear about that kind of problems in other engines or manufacturers

  41. My 92 nissan 240 sx had double row timing chain, it also had 460 000km on it , it would rattle a little at idle but only because of a worne temsioner , problem was that the floor rotted out but the kid who bought it put the engine in his 240 body

  42. Cool vids I subscribed. I've heard about timing belt horror stories from the 90's. No thanks on that timing belt crap. Our two cars have chains. Hey! You didn't mention that crappy Buick 3.8 engine with the plastic/nylon timing gears! I bet you saw quite alot of those GM penny pinching lemons in the 80's!

  43. You just gave me a little confirmation bias. I always look into any vehicles before buying… and never get one with a belt either!

  44. 2:45 thats why there is a service interval on the Nissans but people are stupid and don’t service the belt. I drive a Diesel engine with a timing belt and has never snapped and guess why? BECAUSE I REPLACE IT WITH THE RECOMMENDED INTERVALS.

  45. Scotty’s channel is so much better than all those other car review YT channels that only talk about power and performance while not focusing on long term dependability and reliability which is much more important to consumers!

  46. When I had a 2005 Nissan Maxima, I had to repair the timing chain…Maxima was fast and fun to drive but gave me too many problems.

  47. I think they also made the belts rubber just to keep people from buying used cars down the road plus making you have to buy another except it backfired on them and they didn't get what they wanted (Nissan)

  48. An excellent history of timing chains/belts along with samples. That was a super face, when old Toyotas were mentioned. ( in the England we still use the word super meaning better than very good )

    Now I own an XC70 Volvo, with a rubber belt , and have just bought a 2011 Toyota iQ , for fun, with a timing chain.

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