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Chevy Cavalier Timing Chain

This discussion was created from comments split from: Timing chains vs belts.

Ok how about this I had a Chevy Cavalier 2003 with a chain at 150,000 miles the chain broke and bent my valves. Was that not one of the “life of the vehicle” types or did I miss something on routine maintance?
p.s. now that I’m older I am of the opinion that I missed something in the maintance department. But still pissed about the situation it left me in.

Failed chains are usually due to lack of regular oil changes and many people are under the impression that their very irregular oil change intervals are actually very regular. Not.

Agreed, oil changes as specified by the mfr and the correct oil specified are vital. A roller type timing chain as used in an OHC engine can last the life of a vehicle if you do not repeatedly take the engine up to the red line on the tach. For that a belt may be more durable with the usual change schedule of course.

It is possible that there is a movement toward timing chains for those mfrs that previously chose to use timing belts, mostly oriental brands and VW because some people have belatedly learned of the periodic need for a $500 to $900 timing belt change.

Sometimes “Stuff” Happens ! For Example, Some Folks Have Transmissions Blow Up, But Mine Have Lasted The Life Of My Vehicles.

A failed tensioner, guides, or sprockets, as well as poor maintenance (oil that’s allowed to get too low or get too dirty), etcetera, could cause a chain to go south. Some engines depend on the proper oil to operate a hydraulic tensioner. An engine autopsy would have to be done to try and determine the cause.

Chains usually give a telltale audible warning if badly worn. I’d suspect something just broke in your car unless you didn’t know what you were hearing. Stuff happens !


Yeah I put it up as a lesson learned! A hard one because I loved that car it had “soul” as so many of you say haha. I bought the car as a youngster and never had it at the red on tach but I will freely admit that though I loved it I neglected it. Thanks for the clarification though.

“Chains usually give a telltale audible warning if badly worn. I’d suspect something just broke in your car unless you didn’t know what you were hearing. Stuff happens !”

The problem with chain wear is that it is gradual and you get used to the noise. The exception is a tensioner failure or the chain stretching to the point where the tensioner is at its travel limit, then a slapping noise can suddenly crop up.

Also, a brand new roller chain will run very noisy on worn sprockets. If the roller chain is significantly worn, the spockets are worn also and they need to be replaced together.

It might be worth mentioning that one of our cars with an OHC engine has a cam position sensor that along with the engine management computer will light the “Check Engine Now” indicator when the camchain wear exceeds the prescribed limit. That will help those who may not hear strange engine noises.


I’m thinking 150K just might be within the definition of “Life of the car!”, so to have a timing chain fail at that point is … well … just one of the many things that could go wrong.

DOH! image

What’s with the flags, I just realized this thread was 6 years old, so I gave myself a face palm. Flag day is in June people.