Toyota 4Runner Timing Chain



I just had to replace the head gasket on my 1993 4Runner (160,000 miles, 4 cylinder). The shop recommended changing the timing chain as long as they had the cylinder head off, but at a cost of an extra $700 on top of the $1400 we’re already in for. Is it worth it, or do we just wait til it eventually breaks and replace it then? We only drive that car 7-10,000 miles a year.


The only additional cost should be for the chain and the timing gears. The labor to install the new chain in included in the cylinder head removal.

Does a timing chain and gears cost $700?

I suggest you replace these parts now, rather than wait and have to pay for the labor all over again.


They’re trying to get you to pay for the labor twice.

My wifes Accord had a recall on the cam seals. The recall was free. So I called up the dealer and asked what it would cost me if they did a timing belt change at the same time. They came back with the same price it would cost if they didn’t have to replace the seal. Saying that they didn’t have to touch the belt to replace the cam seal. And they were very surprised that I didn’t have them change the belt.


I don’t think a timing chain is included in cylinder head R&R as it is not required to remove the timing chain cover. They make a wedge that fits into the timing chain area to maintain tension. You need only remove the cam gear and distributor drive and let the chain fall down on the wedge.
This being said at 160,000 miles I would seriously consider a new timing chain, gears, oil pressure tensioner, and chain guides. I think the price should be discounted however do to the fact that the head is being removed so part of the job is already done.


In your case they were trying to screw you. You have to remove the belt to changes the cam seals!!!
In a Toyota 22RE you do not need to remove the timing chain cover or chain to remove the cylinder head.


Thanks for your suggestions. Guess I’m going for it, though I too was surprised at the cost. They say that they’ll replace chain, gears, guides etc (apparently Toyota sells all the parts as a package) and that additional labor is required to remove the oil pan and another cover on the engine for access (don’t recall what exactly). Their guestimate for just doing the timing chain from scratch (cylinder head not already removed) was ~$1200. Does that sound high?


The price quoted seems high, and probably includes double-counted labor. I had a Chevy Caprice 305V8 which needed a gear and chain set, and the cost 10 years ago was $250, parts & labor. The mileage at that time was about 155,000 and the car was bought new and maintained by the book. So I would recommend changing the set but try to get the price down.


The Chilton labor guide shows:
1988-95 w/FI
2WD 10.1
4WD 12.7
w/AC add .3
w/P.S. add .5

So a 93 4X4 w/ P.S. & AC = 13.5 hours
Chain Kit $125.00

With a $75 an hour labor rate: 75*13.5 = 1,012.50 + 125 = $1,127.50

I think this is to much but the numbers add up.


I should add that the book time for head R&R is:
4 cyl.
w/FI 10.7
w/AC + .3
w/PS + .5



Removal of the head is part of the recommended procedure for replacing the timing chain, gears, etc. for the 22re engine. It is possible to replace the timing chain without removing the head but it is difficult to properly reseal the top of the timing chain cover where it meets the bottom of the head. It will leak oil over the front of the engine. I’ve done it both ways and removing the head gives the cleanest results.

That said, when I did a head gasket replacement on the 22RE, I decided to replace the timing chain, gears, etc. at the same time because the chain guides were broken and the tensioner was worn.


Just trying to verify something Michael.

'93 4-Runner 3.0L V6(3V-Ze)? Uses a belt.
OR the model you said, (with a chain?)
I got that info from Gates


If the engine is NOT a overhead cam then I’ll agree with you…I don’t know. I’ve replaced MANY a timing chains on GM V8’s in the 70’s…all without removing the head.



Yes the 3.0 V-6 has a timing belt. The OP said his 4runner was a 4 cyl. The only available 4 cyl was a 22RE (2.4 liter). This motor is equiped with a timing chain.



The 22RE (2.4) is an overhead cam engine. I have done many head jobs on these motors and it is not required to remove the front cover or the chain to remove the head. The vehicle is equiped with an oil fed timing chain tensioner, and any tool or parts supply company can sell you a wedge that fits into the timing chain area that locks the lower half of the chain in place. Once the wedge is installed the cam gear and distributor drive can be removed and the chain sits on top of the wedge.


That’s an interesting setup. I don’t tear into engines anymore. I know with my Pathfinder you can’t removed the heads without removing the timing belt. It’s amazing you can disconnect the cam gear so easily without removing the timing chain cover.


If this engine was a V-6 it would have a belt and you would have to remove it (just like your pathfinder). I am unsure about current 4 cyl. Nissans but the earlier ones you could remove the head without pulling the timing chain. We used to wire the cam gear to the hood to maintain tension on the chain until we got the head loose. Then one guy would hold on to it while removing the head. The wedge makes it much easier to do.
The difficult part comes if you need to remove the chain and gears. The timing chain cover is wedged between the oil pan and the head gasket. The only good way to change the timing chain is by pulling the head, dropping the pan, then pull the chain cover. I have done it without removing the head but you need to be careful as the top of the chain cover seals to the bottom of the head gasket. If you mess up that seal it will leak oil like crazy.


The only OHC engine I ever removed the heads from that also had a chain was a 74 Chevy Luv. The chain had to be removed to remove the head. Which meant you had to drop the oil pan because two of the oil pan bolts bolted into the timing chain cover. Not to mention the seal between the cover and the pan. But with this engine all you had to do was remove the TOP chain (there were 2). The bottom chain could stay.


This is all great info. Based on what everyone has said, it sounds like going for replacing the timing chain is worthwhile, though the price seems high. That gives me a way better feel for what needs to happen and the cost.

Thanks for the feedback!




Is there any way for the original poster to cheaply determine the condition of his timing chain, tensioner, and related stuff? Don’t many of these chains last for 250k+ miles.

The original poster does not say how long they would like to keep the vehicle but…

With 160k on the clock, and putting only 7-10k miles per year on, it may be good for another 10 years.

Also, Since it is a chain and not a belt, it is unlikely to just break. Instead, the engine performance would be likely to degrade as the chain showed additional wear.

Just suggesting a different train of thought.


Yes, there is a way to check the condition of the timing chain. Basically you remove the distributor cap, rotate the motor counter clockwise until the rotor begins to turn, mark the crank pulley at that location, then rotate the crank clock wise until the rotor begins to turn, mark that spot on the crank pulley. The difference between the two marks is the amount of slack in the chain.
If the OP did not have the truck partially torn down for the head gasket I would have recommended that he do just that. However, Toyota recommends removal of the head for timing chain replacement and @ 160,000 miles it is likely to have a lot of stretch, the tensioner is likely to be weak, and the guides are probably broken.
It is true that Toyotas as well as all other makes will run 200,000 or much more. In order for these vehicles to run that long maintnance needs to be done. Replacing the timing chain and components is a service that should be down at about 200,000 miles. Since the OP is nearly there I recommend it be done now.
I recently changed a broken (YES BROKEN) timing chain on an 90 Toyota with 60,000 miles. I have seen Toyotas that the chain guides have been broken so long they wore a groce clear through the chain cover causing an oil leak.