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Belt or chain

I am assuming that all car engines have either a timing belt or chain. What is the difference in the two and which is better to have?

For the average person, a chain is by far the best. In normal driving they will last the life of most cars and require no care. If they do need replacement, they will be noisy to provide lots of warning.

A belt, as we all know, needs replacement very 60,000-90,000 miles or so, and with it the water pump and belt tensioner. That’s normally $800 every 5-7 years.

Most owners forget about this and the engine crashes when the belt snaps. or it happens to then next unsuspecting owner.

I usually shop for cars with timing chains; there are lots available.

I wish I had known before I made my recent purchase, but how can you find out which cars come with chains over belts?

If talking about your 02 Sedona it has a belt.

If you look in the owners manual, i’m pretty sure you will find that it needs changing every 60K miles. It’s VERY important that this is done to prevent engine damage.

It should have been changed at 60K & again at 120K miles.

Can you check with the previous owner & see if it was changed at 120K??

A chain is better, but your car is equipped with either a chain or a belt. You don’t get to choose when you replace the part. In most cases, your car has a belt, which is a rubber part with rubber treads that are turned by your timing gear. A timing chain is a lot like a bicycle chain, an all steel part that meshes with the timing gear.
Either part is eventually going to fail. The timing belt will likely fail within 160,000 in most cars, causing severe valve damage if the car happens to be running when the part fails (but it does often happen that the timing belt fails during start-up). For this reason, the belt is scheduled in most cars to be changed at most at half this mileage, or 80,000 miles. Timing chains have a longer life expectancy, but it depends on the car. For that matter, everything depends on the car. Some cars recommend timing belt changes at 60,000 miles of use, while others recommend the change at 90,000 miles. That’s a pretty big difference. The downside of timing chains is that the timing gear wears along with the chain, and should be replaced along with the chain.
In many cases it is prudent to replace the water pump while replacing either a timing belt or chain. This is at most an eighty dollar part that will cost just that to replace new while replacing the timing belt, chain, chain and gear, etc.
Follow the recommendations in your user manual, which will also tell you whether your part is a chain or a belt.

Well it depends on what you want.

Chains generally have long life and are generally non-interference (do not damage the engine if they fail.

Belts are generally quieter, and lighter weight.

Since they are not interchangeable, you get what the car has and can’t change it from one to the other.

When it comes to making a choice, I would not make a decision on a car based on which system it had. Both have their good points and bad.

Good Luck

As consumers shy away from cars equipped with interference engines and timing belts, manufactures have been switching back to timing chains…Honda is a classic example…

If it’s an 02, then it should have been changed twice already due to age, regardless of miles.
In reply to Docnick above; most owners don’t forget, they just balk at having to spend all that money for something like that, then drive it until it breaks, then get angry when they have to make the “new engine or new car” decision

Go to and type in interference engine. You can download a manual that will show you all the gates belts for your car. If it doesn’t show a camshaft ( timing ) belt for your car then you have a chain. It will also tell you if you have an interference engine (that is will the valves hit the pistons if the belt breaks).

I have no idea the condition of the timing belt. The previous owner seemed to take good care of the van overall, and since i have been told that if the belt would snap it would have voided the 10 year, 100,000 mile warrenty, so i gotta think at some point they had it changed. At what point I have no clue. I am saving up to have it changed here soon, had the starter go out and take monies away from the belt change to get it fixed ($255) so I am driving it as little as possible and hope maybe the change was done around the 70-80 thousand mile and that i have some wiggle room left before I get it changed.

I am assuming that all car engines have either a timing belt or chain.

Some have gear-driven timing, but there aren’t many of these on the market.

Personally, I think there are benefits to both chains and belts, but I am in the minority. Belts are generally quieter and lighter. In addition, having a belt means you are more likely to prophylactically change the water pump before it fails.

I wouldn’t base my car buying decisions on this one feature. In my opinion, there is a long list of features that are more important.


Being a person who very much enjoys simply looking at something mechanical that is well done I think BMW’s chain drive for both their 6’s and espically the V-8’s are works of art. That being said they are unforgiving when an error is made in their installation. Chain drive with interference, you don’t get close to 500 hp in a 5.0 running no darn belt (unless it is turning a supercharger).

Chain is definetly better to have. Unless you have a non-interference engine. Even so a chain is probably better.

Indy; don’t EVER ASSUME an American driver does all the required maintenance just to keep the warranty in place! Most just do oil changes and consider that good mainteance. SEEMED is not good enough when it comes to maintenance; you have to be SURE!

So, changing it as soon as you can, and keep good records of all work done!

A friend of mine bought a mint condition Honda but could not verify if the belt had been changed . He changed it right away, just to be sure.

P.S. I don’t understand why you can’t afford $700 or so for a timimg belt but are lookiking at a money pit like a 1973 Chevy!

Really all I can do is look at the condition of the van and how well it was taken care of and figure that at some point he had the belt changed at least once especially given that failure to do so would void the warrenty. Now with that sad I am limiting my driving and planning on having the belt checked/changed hopefully in the next month or so.

IMHO chains have two distinct advantages.

  1. changing a timing belt is a significant job and an opportunity for error. We’ve had a number of posts on this forum from OPs who’ve experienced errors due to improper timing belt installations, and I personally have anxiety attacks whenever someone wrks on my car.
  2. on engines with a timing chain replacement of the water pump will not in any way require intereference with the timing system of the camshafts (the chain). IMHO being able to change a failed water pump as an individual component is an asset.

Having said that, I agree that whether the engine has a timing belt or a timing chain is low on my list of important criteria. A reputation for overall reliability is the top criterion on my list.

A cam belt setup is quieter running, cheaper to produce, easier to assemble, is easier and therefore cheaper to design as it requires no engine oil lubrication and as a minor consideration makes it easier to remove and replace a cylinder head if that is needed A belt will easily withstand repeated excursions to high engine RPMs approaching and even over red line as indicated by the vehicle’s tachometer. A belt has a somewhat predictable lifespan regardless of how the car is driven, needing renewal at mileages ranging from 60,000 to 105,000 miles.

A cam chain, on the other hand, will last indefinitely if the vehicle is driven in a moderate manner as most of us who have paid for cars tend to do.

I keep seeing people saying the lifespan of a belt is anywhere between 60-100 miles. why such a huge difference? Also do you have to remove the belt completely to know it’s condiation? I mean can the person doing the work get to say point X and say, hey this is still a good belt. I mean in my case the belt could have been replaced say at around 100,000 miles and still ahve another 30,000 miles on it and not need to be changed and I would rather avoid that cost right now if not needed.

That is correct to a point. Some engines (like the Ford 300-6) had timing gears that were either a fiber composite (which was found to be quieter) or steel. Some companies have come up with a product that replaces the timing chain with gears. (I think I saw one such set up on a 350 Chevy engine.)