Broken timing chain

i was driving at 60mph when I lost power and coasted to a stop. I had my 2002 Saturn L200 86,000 miles towed. The mechanic said my timing chain broke and I had two choices: Replace the timing chain for $1,700 or replace the half block for $3,500.

The cheap choice would be a gamble he said because 30% of the time a rod becomes bent and I would only get a very short life from the repair.

I plan on buying a new car this spring but wanted to give this car to my daughter. It is too good to junk. Good condition, new tires etc.

The mechanic asked if I had any strange noises in the days or weeks prior to the break. I didn’t.

Should I go the cheap route or will I be giving my daughter and myself grief. Should I go for the half block solution? Thanks, Cheryl

I don’t have the knowledge or experience to directly advise you about which way to go.

I will only say that by the time you get to the $1700 for the chain only you’re getting close to the cost of having a whole used motor form a salvage yard put in.

And by the time you’re up to $3500 you’re getting close to the cost a quality rebuild with a warranty (e.g. from Jasper or similar).

So, IMHO, those prices look really high. I’d suggest another opinion/estimate.

The V6 shows as an interference engine but the 4 cylinder is not. Which engine do you have?

The V6 also uses a BELT not a chain. When inteference engines lose mechanical timing, they most often bend a VALVE not a ROD. In those cases the top end of the engine needs work, not the bottom half. Replacing the SHORT block would not address the primary damage which is usually in the HEAD(s). If it’s not an interference engine, then no additional damage would have resulted from the chain/belt breaking. Belts do have limited life and usually replaced at 60k mile intervals. If it was a chain that broke, then I would want to know more about the maintenance history since that’s early for a chain to go.

I don’t know if this is a case of you misunderstanding the mechanic or him fishing for some additional revenue…

If Twin is correct (he usually is), then FIND ANOTHER MECHANIC FAST. There are two possibilities.

  1. You have the V6 which is an interference AND has a timing belt. If the belt broke then you’re looking at the possibility of a bent valve(s)…NOT A BROKEN ROD. If he just replaces the belt and there’s a one or more bent valves the car may not even start…and if it did it won’t run very well at all. If it does run fine. But the cost should be closer to $300 NOT $1700. If there are bent valves then the heads will have to be removed and sent to a machine shop. This could be costly…but no where near the $3500 that’s been quoted by this crook.

  2. You have the 4 cylinder. Not a interference engine. Not sure if it’s a belt or chain??? Either case just replace and drive away. No internal damage could possibly occur if it’s not a interference engine. A chain is more complicated (thus more costly) to replace then a belt. But no where near the $1700 quoted. It should still be well under $1000.

I suggest you RUN away from this crook. He’s trying to rip you off big-time.

Get a second opinion…The 4-cyl timing chains breaking is a VERY rare event. That almost NEVER happens. But if it is broken, replacing it will be expensive because of the inherent difficulties of FWD engine access. The engine probably must be removed from the car in order to do it. That being the case, installing a salvage-yard engine with similar or less mileage might be a better bet than repairing YOUR engine.

You might want to read this :

It doesn’t really answer your question but it is relevant.

I agree if this is a timing chain. Typically a FWD vehicle is not designed to have a timing chain easily changed out.

Case in point a friends VW van has a failure under the timing chain cover. The labor alone is 16hrs+ to simply get in assess and reassemble. They have to remove the entire automatic transmission to get at cover.

With several million of these engines on the road, the failure rate will form something like a bell curve. Some chains will fail early, some at a middle time, some near never. Still, I wonder where (what country) were these timing chains made? It’s widely known that the steels made in China have been of low quality. If these timing chains were made in China, it was a very bad mistake, or an indifferent act by exporters and importers. By contrast, U.S. companies would have to special order such low quality steels from U.S. steel mills, if it were even available.