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Replacing an engine to get the car inspected?

I have a 2003 Honda CRV. It’s due for inspection but the check engine light was on. After three tries, it was determined by one dealer as the timing chain needing to be replaced. My local (trusted) mechanic suggested a 2nd opinion as the car didn’t show any symptom of timing chain. 2nd dealer said timing chain, but it was possibly caused by a clunk he heard in the engine. If it’s from a ‘clunk’ in the engine, he said, it would be a waste to replace the timing chain when the car needs a new engine. To determine if it does will of course cost the price of taking the engine apart. The car still drives fine but it can’t get inspected because of check engine light. Choices: replace timing chain ($$$) but risk having it go out again because of POSSIBLE engine problem; Replace engine ($$$$$$). Buy new car. None of the options I can actually afford!! But what is the most prudent thing to do? Liz

Under normal circumstances a timing chain should last the life of the engine. You didn’t tell us how many miles your CRV has, so we can’t tell if it should need anything.

Your local trusted mechanic suggested a 2nd opinion, but what does HE think is the problem? He should have the same diagnostic tools the dealer has. What does he recommend?

The CEL means there are trouble codes stored in your cars computer. Please post those codes (they will be in the format P0123) and maybe we can help you. There is no trouble code for a timing chain, so the dealer is just guessing what the problem is and he wants you to finance their explorations inside your engine…If you don’t know the codes they pulled, most auto-parts stores will read the codes for free for you…

I’m with Caddyman. Get the codes read and post them here.

I seriously doubt of it’s the timing chain. Timing chains generally last the life of the engine, and when they do wear the first sign is a clacking noise that’s in synch with the engine speed. For the valve timing to get so far off from timing chain wear that it affects the engine operation enough to cause a CEL it’d have to be causing operating problems.

Do not let anyone begin to tear the engine down to go looking for the source of the problem. Anything that can cause a check engine light can be diagnosed without a teardown. Actually, with all the testing and inspection options available even the internal condition of the engine can be pretty accurately ascertained.

Before you spend a dime on parts, get a dry and wet compression test done, and have your mechanic put a stethescope on this baby, and have him show you the plugs when he does the compression test. These are old simple cheap and effective ways to diagnose an engine. Do get the codes, you can get them free from autozone or another parts store. With the results of these tests, you can tell if the engine is worn out or not.

How about stopping outside the inspection place and removing the negative battery cable? Sometime it takes a bit of time for it to come back on, worth trying it’s free.