Olds Cutlass making a sound like sand is in the engine

My wife’s car is making a odd sound. I think it may be the timing belt. Her car is a 1999 Olds Cutlass v6 and I don’t know if it has ever had its timing belt replaced. I can’t tell from her records. So what kind of a timing belt does this vehicle have? How many miles before it should be replaced? The last question is, if she keeps on driving it, what it the worst thing that can happen?

That car’s engine does not have a timing belt, and instead it relies on a timing chain.
In fact, I don’t recall any GM engines that use timing belts, but I could be wrong on that point.

Aren’t you glad that it doesn’t have a timing belt?
After all, if it did, it would now be about 5 years overdue for replacement!

As to the sound that is coming from the engine, I am having a hard time understanding exactly what this noise sounds like. Could you record it and post a sound file?

Or try and pinpoint where the sound is coming from. A length of heater hose makes a good stethoscope.

Well that is good to know. Ok I will put a sound file on. I’m busy today so I won’t do it until later or tomorrow and I have never done this before so.

The noise you hear might be a stretched timing chain rubbing against the timing chain cover. How many miles on the engine?


Maybe the noise is a worn bearing in a belt tensioner pulley, idler pulley, water pump bushing, A/C compressor clutch bearing, etc, etc. This can come across as a growl, rumble, or grinding noise all depending.

Why not remove the serpentine belt, start the engine up, and note if the noise goes away. If it does then it should be a simple matter to rotate various things by hand until the worn component, or plural of that, is determined.

With this being a V6 car making a sound presumed to be from the engine described as it is (what does an engine full of sand sound like, anyway?), I suggest removing the oil fill cap and peering inside there. If you see a bunch of disgusting, slimy, milky junk in there, the lower intake gaskets have failed and are leaking into the lifter valley. Replace them immediately and pray that the engine does not kick the bucket. You may get lucky. I replaced a set of these for a friend on a Lumina about a year ago. He had them done two years prior, but the shop botched the job by using WAY too much RTV for the end seals, causing an internal leak. I replaced them and gave him the same warning that the engine may not last too long, but it’s still going strong and sounds a whole lot better than it did.

Tester beat me to it again… EXACTLY what I was going to say… The chain may have stretched beyond the ability of the tensioner to take up the slack…after that it will be very noisy indeed.

I had the same thought Tester and Honda had.

How many miles does your wife’s '99 have on it? What type of driving?