Timing chains vs belts

@firekingb, timing chains do last longer, but there are advantages to a timing belt too. One is that if you keep up with maintenance, and change the water pump when change the timing belt, you should never have a water pump failure. When you price a timing belt job, you might get sticker shock, but spread out over the lifetime of a timing belt (60.000 miles on most cars), it really doesn’t cost that much.

Personally, I would prefer a timing chain on an interference engine. Interference engines are more efficient.

Like MikeInNH, this issue is not a deal breaker for me. There are more important issues than a timing belt, like fuel efficiency and comfort, and whether a car is able to suit my needs. With high gas prices, I don’t mind paying for a timing belt job every once in a while to get good fuel economy with an interference engine.

Ah, I long for the good old days when all cars had timing chains and changing a water pump was a simple job.

The timing belt has two advantages:
(1) lower manufacturing cost
(2) less mass (lower crank loads both laterally and rotationally).

IMHO it has one major disadvantage: every time it get replaced, it’s an opportunity for a serious error to be made that might manifest itself as engine damage. This happens too often for my liking.

Chains last the life of the engine, or warn of impending failure.

Personallly, I’d like to see helix gearsets on everything. They’re forever, quiet, and provide absolutely stable cam timing. And yes, they could incorporate variable cam timing as well. They are, however, substantially more expensive to produce than chains or belts.

LOL…They use Timing Belts because they can gather MUCHO DINERO…from the masses when they need their cars serviced. I always heard that Belts are quieter than Chains…BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? I NEVER EVER heard a noisy chain…while it was in its prime operating range/age/perameters. Ive heard them clacking away when the tensioner cant fulfill its job any longer…BUT THANK GOD for that…It is a massive clue that the timing chain or tensioner needs ATTENTION… You WILL NEVER EVER get that from a belt…if the same issue exists between a T-chain engine and a T-belt engine…the T-chain user has a FAR FAR greater chance to remedy the situation and continue motoring…the T-Belt user…Just Smashes valves and breaks pistons… LOVELY !!!

The reason we even know the terms Interference and Non-interference is because of how far the Internal combustion engine has come along. You will be hard pressed to find many non-interference engines in late model vehicles…the reason is EFFICIENCY…How else do you think we can get over 300 HP from small Nat Aspirated V6 engines? Or over 250Hp from 1.8liters and 4cylinders? Tighter tolerances…higher compression/MORE power etc ALL equal INTERFERENCE.

I will take a chain ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. Preferrably in a 4 cyl, but in modern times it actually doesnt matter…the engineers know whats up and aided by computers pretty much can build bulletproof engineswith chains…

The Belt is just a ticking time bomb…almost literally. I dont like belts…and I am fully able to handle ALL the maintenance of ANY belt driven valvetrain. SO price doesnt affect me I do the work meself… But my God people are out there getting RAPED regularly bec of the T-belt…when for a $30 Ivestment by Govt. Motors or others you can get a T-chain that lasts as long as you will prob have interest in your vehicle.

It actually boils down to GREED if you really think about it Grasshopper

“Rape” is a pretty strong word for something that so far, has cost me about $0.004 per mile, and I pay professionals for my timing belt jobs.

Whether you are driving a hybrid, and you get sticker shock when it comes time to replace the battery pack, or you drive a car with a timing belt, and get sticker shock when it comes time to replace the timing belt, I have the same advice: Budget for proper maintenance of your car, and these will be non-issues. It’s only when you don’t properly budget for maintenance that you feel raped.

If you maintain your car, your timing belt is not “a ticking time bomb.” It only becomes a ticking time bomb if you neglect your car.

Whitey makes a good point… Maybe not “Rape” …OK… One too many Ales last night possibly. I just get angry when people relay stories of their repair shop Blues to me… Some of the prices I am hearing that they pay for T-belts is very upsetting. I agree that you need to budget for your Auto upkeep…I just dont like to hear what some places Do and or charge people. If they had a T-chain…many of these stories would’nt even get off the ground

As far as vehicle neglect? Yes I agree it is Neglect. Back in the day a 65’ Dodge Coronet wouldnt let you drive down the road without warming the engine up a while…Today we can turn the key and immediately start driving…which is BAD for your engine. It is almost as though modern cars run so well for so long that they actually “shoot themselves in the foot” as far as maintenance… Am I making sense? It almost like the car that breaks down a lot…but gets worked on a lot…or receives a lot of attention… Its owner then becomes familiar with the cars systems, sounds and smells…and thus takes better care…or something… I think I made sense there…No?

I think the reliability of todays vehicles almost invites neglect from people who arent “Car Guys” if you will. I dont think people have the mind set about vehicle maintenance…They just Gas and Go…until they Gas and DONT… It shocks me everytime I hear a guy say I have 180K on my Toyota Camry and it runs great…T-belt? What T-belt?..“I’ve never changed the T-belt” …Well guess what?.. Timebomb… But that is the fault of the owner…Not the T-belt… No? Of course it is. However my story is more than common as most people dont have the proper mindset… Which car companies SHOULD KNOW…so why not remove the whole scenario from the public and use a T-chain? I dont know…I guess this debate could go on and on… I am always for proper maintenance AND the robustness of engine design… The T-belt is a glaring Achilles heel in an otherwise sound engine design… I think the valvetrain is far too precious to lend it to a rubber belt…that needs periodic replacement…When people barely even know they exist…let alone need replacement. Maybe I am just asking for MORE Idiot Proofing in vehicles…but I think even if we idiot proofed further…it would open another door to neglect somehow… I’m sorry I think I am confusing myself now… BUt do you know what I mean?

Today we can turn the key and immediately start driving…which is BAD for your engine.

No it isn’t…If it were then the engines of old would be lasting longer then newer engines…I start driving within seconds after I start it. I’m not racing…usually taking it slow until I get to the highway 3 miles away. But my engines are still strong and running fine after 300k+ miles…

True, but you know what I mean Mike… Its not bad if you take it easy for a little bit before going ballistic. You do allow your engine to warm up by being “easy” on it for a few minutes/miles until it reaches operating temp. We all know that if you started a cold engine and then Jammed the gas pedal to the floor that your engine would not appreciate it much. Its common sense

Its not bad if you take it easy for a little bit before going ballistic.

Agree 100% with that. If I lived right next to the highway…then I’d probably let it idle for a minute before I began my commute.

Just remember, every time someone idiot proofs something, someone else makes a better idiot.

“The T-belt is a glaring Achilles heel in an otherwise sound engine design… I think the valvetrain is far too precious to lend it to a rubber belt…that needs periodic replacement…”

I’m inclined to agree with this statement. One other aspect that’s always bothered me is that the process of replacing the timing belt seems to me to be far too subject to error. Stories of problems after replacement are just too common for my taste.

I would be inclined to agree with that too, MB, if timing belts were really made of just rubber. They are made of composite materials, often interwoven with steel, like on steel belted tires. They are often quite strong and durable.

I guess I’m just nitpicking here since I agree chains make more sense. I just don’t see timing belts as the bane of all existence like some seem to.

I’ve inspected my timing belts after they were replaced, and frankly, they appeared to be in good shape after 90,000 miles of use.

True Mtn Bike…I think the problem there lies with lax “mechanics” You would be surprised or Frightened maybe to know just how many guys dont even consider replacing the idler bearings that the T-belt rides on… They dont seem to understand that all of the items that the T-belt touches…NEVER EVER get a break when the engine is running…Those bearings are under constant load and constantly spinning when the engine is running and they get “tired” They should never be subjected to serve another long service interval that occurs by replacing only the T-belt and not the idler/tensioner bearings…but that is exactly what some guys do…ITS WRONG…STUPIT…with a T…and just a bad move. When you are in there to do the T-belt job do it right for Christs sake…its most often quite hard enough just to get to these components why you would leave them to pull another 60-80K without failure…because if any of these bearings gives up the Ghost…well you know what quickly happens next.

Guys are just taking shortcuts and not telling the customers what is going on…Why they are doing the replacement…or the principals involved behind each part replacement. T-belts are CHEAP…I guess if they just slip a new belt on with nothing else it Maximizes profits for sure…but its SOOO WRONG MAN!

 I truly educate each and every person (usually family, friends and friends of friends)....and they are immeasurably grateful for this.  I honestly feel that the more people I educate....the more likely that they are to return to me for some side work AND miraculously the more they begin TO CARE about their own vehicles (It works).....They know I truly care about cars ( I even feel bad for them sometimes...lol) and they know that I want them to care and understand what is happening within their vehicles.....But thats just me I guess....  I only do this on the side ... A bit more than a hobby and a bit shy of a Professional.....Thats where I enjoy being at the moment.....  I am seriously considering going into business as my primary source of making a living...  Its a dream of mine....  I may make it happen very soon actually.  Do what you love and you will never "work" a day in your life.....I've said it so many times.....Time to put it into play

Thats also correct Whitey…The belts are durable as hell… I guess what we are all getting at is that people either DO NOT CARE, Dont want to care or what? I dont know but people are TERRIBLE to cars. MOST people dont even grasp the concept or PREVENTIVE maintenance.

I also agree that a T-belt with 100K does look just fine in most cases…it is just that to have the entire EXPENSIVE valve train at the mercy of a composite belt…WITH the public being as LAX as they are about service it basically gives the T-belt a lesser reputation than they deserve. Most belt failures I see is often from Oil contamination of the belt and or the belt “teeth” sheering off. The belt does a great job for a long time and you really cant ask much more from the service they yeild…But why teeter the engines health on that type of a connection though ?..

Rubber composite BELT ? C’mon… It like tying up the door to a safe full of Gold with your Shoe laces…NO?

No, I wouldn’t compare a timing belt to shoe laces. Perhaps an apt comparison would be to say a timing chain is to a timing belt, as a bicycle U lock is to a bicycle cable lock.

My qualm isn’t with the durability of the belts, it’s with the necessity to periodically have an expensive job done that presents the opportunity for problems in a perfectly operating vehicle. The real reason the manufacturers use belts is cost: they’re cheaper. But the $10 they save in the manufacturing cost manifests itself as hundreds of dollars and sometimes problems for the vehicle owner.

Regarding the oil damage referenced by Honda, it’s not uncommon in old cars for the front seal to begin to seep. Or the water pump seal to leak. Why design in the potential for that to manifest itself as a much more serious problem?

Thanks for the word association education Whitey, however my comparison is obviously silly but it is basically saying that you are leaving the job of protecting a VERY expensive item (valvetrain) to something relatively WEAK…(the Rubber belt) The health of the valvetrain should be insured by using a nice strong reliable chain… Thats all… Of course my statement is an exaggeration and I really dont have any issues with “This is to that” word association/philosophy… LOL. Thanks though… But why are we nitpicking? I think we can all agree that the T-belt is risky business that does NOT need to be there…really. It is THE very definition of an Achilles Heel… Can we agree on this? prob not… But I and Mtnbike are on the same page.

Oh, sure. The next time I buy a car, it would be nice if it came with a timing chain instead of a timing belt, and if that were the only difference between the two cars, I would go for the one with the chain. With all other things being equal, the chain is the way to go.

I’ll take a chain any day of the week over a timing belt. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the belt set up but it would be nice if all engines were designed to be free-wheelers instead of a percentage of them ending up with damage due to a broken belt.

The main reason for a belt is economics, pure and simple. It’s much cheaper to produce and every car maker carries this thinking over to every single part on the car.
Consider the use of rivets instead of screw or screw/nut. Not only is the rivet much cheaper in comparison to the screw but they also shave a few seconds of labor operation off during installation.

Guys, is this true? Is it all because of money? We are probably talking like $50 bucks or less here for the mfg. I honestly was under the impression that it was dictated by the engines design…and or for being Quiet or what have you. IF this is true then I am getting mad again… I dont like to think that “they” would do that to us…the public. But I suppose I can sure believe it. Really guys?

Oh yes and I do agree with you OK4450…that if there wasnt so much damage to be risked…I would’nt care about the T-belt really much at all… But JEEZUZ…the things that happen when they snap… This is how I have come to be driving my 03’ 20th Anniversary VW GTi…the prev owner snapped his T-belt after the water pump seized up (he had straight water in Rad…RUSTY water) and that caused the pump to seize… I found the car sitting forlornly behind a bar with weeds growing up thru the wheels… To this day I am looking for an Artsy-Fartsy project to put ALL of my 20 BENT Valves into some sort of free standing Objet D’Art…but have’nt come up with anything yet… You guys should see these poor valves… I have a 20 Valve head with 5 per cylinder so they are delicate valve stems to say the least… Sad but true.