What is a timing belt?

A timing belt is made up of rubber and reinforced steel wire. There is no metal on metal contact, therefore lubrication is not necessary. The timing belt is more commonly found in more recent manufactured vehicles. The timing belt is a rubber belt that synchronizes the actions of the camshaft and crankshaft to keep your car’s valves safely moving and your engine running.

The camshaft operates the valves in the engine to let gas in and out. The crankshaft operates the pistons to move up and down. These two systems have to operate in precise synchronization, otherwise, damage can happen to the valves, pistons, engine, or parts nearby. The timing belt is there to ensure the two systems are synchronized and turning at the correct rate and timing. 

Replacing a timing belt?

If you have a newer vehicle the timing belt usually goes for 100,000kms before it needs replacing. However, if your vehicle is an older car it may need to be replaced after 60,000kms.

If your water pump fails and needs repairing or replacing, your timing belt will usually get replaced at the same time. This is because most timing belts need to be removed to be able to replace the water pump. It is also best to replace camshaft oil seals and crankshaft oil seals at the same time. 


What is a timing chain?

A timing chain has the same purpose as the timing belt. Its job is to keep the actions of the camshaft and crankshaft synchronized. However the timing chain is made out of a chain, it is similar to a bike chain and is lubricated with engine oil. 

Older cars are likely to have timing chains because many cars have now moved to timing belts instead.

Replacing a timing chain

Timing chains are long-lasting and can often outlast the lifetime of the vehicle. Most timing chains will last the car for 450,000kms. 


Difference between a timing belt and timing chain


Timing belts are made out of rubber and reinforced steel. Due to timing belts being made of rubber they will stretch over time and need replacing. Compared to the timing chain that is made of steel and chain, therefore they won’t stretch or wear as quickly. 


Time frame

A timing chain will last longer than a timing belt. A timing belt will only last 60,000kms to 100,00kms before it needs replacing. However, a timing chain can sometimes last the lifespan of the car, on average they will last 450,000kms.



The timing chain is located within the engine and receives lubrication from engine oil. The timing belt is located outside of the engine which can cause it to dry out and crack.


Damages if it breaks

The location and materials play a huge part in the damage timing belts or timing chains cause when they break. If a timing belt brakes or stretches it can cause major damage to the engine due to the valves hitting the pistons. Also with a timing chain if it breaks it will cause serious damage to the engine. It is located in the engine and is made of metal chain, so when it breaks it throws small bits of metal all through the engine. This can do a lot of damage and become extremely costly. If a timing belt or timing chains breaks both can cause significant damage to the engine, often meaning an engine replacement is the best and most cost effective option.


What is better, a timing chain or timing belt?

There are disadvantages and advantages for both the timing belt and timing chain. The timing belt is cheaper to manufacture and runs quieter than the timing chain. 

The main advantage of a timing chain is its longevity, but your car is more likely to have a timing belt. As long as you get your timing belt changed within the life expectancy then your car will run smoothly. 

Timing belts have the advantage that they have less friction and do not need to be lubricated, unlike the timing chain. 

With your car more likely to have a timing belt just keep an eye on when it needs replacing. However, if you do happen to have a timing chain make sure it is lubricated.


Timing chain and Timing belt replacement in Hamilton

If you need your timing belt or timing chain replaced come see us at Grimmer Motors. Grimmer Motors have experienced and reliable mechanics that will be able to replace your timing belt / timing chain on your car. Don’t wait until it breaks or snaps, get your timing belt / timing chain replaced before its lifespan is up. Being proactive with replacing your timing belt / timing chain can save you money and time in the long run. If you are unsure about when it needs replacing bring it in so one of our mechanics can have a look and advise you on when is best to replace it.


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