Toyota Rav4 Timing Chain

Help! I have 2 different opinions on when to change the timing chain on my 2001 Rav4 with 95,000 miles.

A friend suggested that I have it replaced within in the next 5,000 miles. He was told by his mechanic it?s a wise idea to do it at that mileage instead of waiting for it to go bad and causing further damage.

When I asked a Toyota dealership they said to wait and if it gives you trouble, then have it replaced.

The serpentine belt tensioner has gone bad and I must have it replaced. The price will be $350. Should I suggest at this time for them to go ahead and replace the timing chain?

First we have to clarify whether you mean timing chain or timing belt. If it is indeed a chain, there is no reason to replace it at 95,000 miles (or maybe even at 195,000 miles) unless there is a definite indication that it is going bad. Are there any symptoms, such as the noise of the chain hitting the inside of the chain cover?

If it is a belt, everything that you need to know is sitting inside your glove compartment. The manufacturer’s maintenance schedule will list the odometer mileage/elapsed time interval for replacement of the timing belt. Typically, this is something like 90k or 105k, but a check of the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule (NOT one supplied by the dealership!) will give you the correct information. Failure to replace it on schedule could result in major engine damage.

The 01 definitely has a chain.

Are there any symptoms, such as the noise of the chain hitting the inside of the chain cover?


IMHO, a mechanic who suggests replacing the timing chain as a part of preventive maintenance is not to be trusted, and I would be very wary of this character, if I were you.

Even though many people in this forum like to make the general statement that dealerships are all staffed by thieves and that one is “always better-off with an independent mechanic”, I think that your experience is proof that generalizations like that are not be considered gospel. Clearly, the dealership is more honest in this instance than the mechanic who gave this very questionable advice.

Everyone should get their maintenance and repair performed by someone whom they trust. That may be an independent mechanic or it might be a dealership, depending on whom you are dealing with. In your case, it is pretty obvious which one is being honest and which one is a thief in overalls.

It’s not only the timing chain that gets replaced but also the timing chain guides. Some of these guides are made from a plastic material and do wear over time and can break off. Sometimes when these guides begin to wear there is no noise from the timing chain.

I had a customer with a 1995 BMW 325Ti with 123,000 miles on the vehicle where the timing chain guides failed. This caused the timing chain to jump time and this resulted in numerous damaged valves. He told me that at no time did he hear any noise from the timing chain.

On my 1995 Nissan pickup with 143,000 miles the timing chain guides broke apart. There was no noise from the timing chain at all. The chain jumped time and the engine just shut off. Fortunately for me there was no valve damage. But I still got left stranded and had to have the vehicle towed.

So it’s not the timing chain itself that can fail, but the tming chain guides that can fail.


So, back where I started. ? is to replace or not to replace.

The timing chain can be checked for slackness.

Because there’s no distributor on the engine, a valve cover can be removed so the cam shaft can be observed. Use a breaker bar and socket on the crank bolt. Slowly rotate the engine in one direction, and while observing the cam shaft, rotate the engine in the opposite direction. If the engine can be rotated 5 degrees or more before the cam shaft rotates, there’s excess slack in the timing chain. And this could be from worn timing chain guides/tensioner.


Timing chains can be checked (no use checking belts). The dealer was being honest and right. Your friend was trying to be helpful, but he may not know about timing chains or more likely did not know you had a chain.

Quote: (no use checking belts). unquote.

Not so. Inspection of a timing belt may not be specified but it never hurts to take a look-see. Belt tension can be given a cursory check, water pump, if driven by the timing belt, might be leaking, belt tensioner might be failing or in the case of a VW diesel, the rotary seal for the injection pump shaft might be leaking or even the timing belt itself might show signs of eventual failure.

I agree that the chain should be inspected, but only replaced if there are signs of wear. Timing chains do not wear out and break like timing belts. They do stretch over time, but there is a tensioner as part of the system to keep the chain tight. It is when the chain has stretched past a certain point the tensioner runs out of adjustment that the chain needs to be replaced. You can easily see evidence of a stretched chain by looking at the cam sprocket with the valve cover off. If the sprocket cogs look like they are leaning, the chain has stretched, and starting to ride higher on the cog, forcing it to deform where there is thinner metal. You can also look at the condition of the guides. If they are chipped, cracked, or missing bits, then it may be time.

I had my 1990 Toyota pick-up for 12 years, and 250,000 miles before I noticed any reason to consider the timing chain. Of course, I had to remove the valve cover every 12,000 miles to adjust the valves. At 250,000 miles, I noticed the guides were cracked, with a few bits broken off. I decided then to replace it as soon as I could get the parts. And, when I took the chain out, it was stretched to the limits stated in the manual, and the tensioner was cracked. The guides, however, were still mainly intact. But I replaced them all anyways.

Just remember, this was 2.5 times more mileage than your truck.

The timing chain could last a lot longer. It may never cause trouble. I would try for 200,000 miles and then flip a coin to decide to trade it or not. However, if there is a replacement schedule for the chain, you should use it as a guide. I don’t think there is one on your truck, but you are the one with the owner’s manual.

Agree, timing chains last a long time, and may outlast the car. For what it is worth, I had a Chevy small block 305 V8, maintained by the book.The chain got noisy at 160,000 miles and I replaced chain and gears with a heavy duty double sprocket unit. The car was finally disposed of at 280,000 miles without needing another chain.