Top 5 Symptoms of Bad Timing Chain (Replacement Cost)

There are affiliate links on this article. If you make a purchase through any of the links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The timing chain ensures that the crankshaft and camshaft rotate accordingly to open and close the engine’s cylinder valve(s); it is a crucial component that makes up every motor vehicle’s engine system.

When your car’s timing chain starts failing, it makes a loud noise while you’re driving, contributes to overheating the engine, and may cause the engine not to start and run (if the situation is severe).

Now, these are the common symptoms of bad timing chain in any vehicle, and it’s important to act quickly when you see these unusual signs.

The good thing is that replacing a bad timing chain isn’t so expensive, and there are quite different types to choose from. In this article, we will be looking at the various signs of a bad timing chain, what makes a timing chain to fail, and timing chain replacement cost.

What is a Timing Chain and How Does It Work?

The timing chain is part of the most important parts of any engine. It is a flexible chain (or belt) that drives two of the most important components of an engine – the camshaft and crankshaft. How effective or efficient an engine runs depends heavily on how the timing chain performs.

The crankshaft and camshaft of every engine connect to other important components needed to be actuated before the engine can run efficiently.

Timing chains connect the crankshaft and camshaft to ensure that both rotors move in sync – timely – to open and close the engine’s intake and exhaust valves periodically – in precise timing.

When the timing chain fails, the camshaft and crankshaft won’t be able to calculate the time to open or close the engine’s valves, which may lead to a lot of anomalies, and components like the fuel pump, oil pump, and balance shaft(s), may get affected too. Some engines operate with more than one timing belt for specific reasons.

Symptoms of Bad Timing Chain

A failing timing chain would most likely exhibit these common signs regardless of the vehicle type you drive.

1. Hard Starting or No Start

One of the commonest things that depict a failing timing chain is when your car is unable to start. A dead car battery can also cause this scenario, but if you’re sure the battery in your car isn’t dead and yet the engine won’t start, then there are higher chances the timing chain is bad.

This usually occurs if the chain is very loose or physically broken.

2. Rattling or Grinding Noise While Driving

If you constantly hear a grinding noise while driving, it is also a sign that your engine’s timing belt may be in bad condition.

The rattling or grinding noise may be due to a loose chain causing the camshaft and crankshaft sprockets to grind against each other with much friction. So, when the noise keeps coming as you drive, check the timing chain.

3. Poor Engine Performance

The camshaft and crankshaft control quite a lot of engine components, which are designed to work in precision.

When the timing chain fails, it affects the precise timing in which the camshaft and crankshaft open up or close the engine’s pistons and valves; thus, the engine would run poorly as it’s not getting enough fuel, air, or oil to run smoothly as designed.

Another common thing that may happen in this scenario is “misfiring.”

4. Check Engine Light Turns On

If the timing chain has failed completely – physically broken or overstretched – the ECU would turn on the check engine light, which indicates that a crucial component of your vehicle’s engine requires attention.

Of course, there are many reasons why the check engine light may come on, of which a failing or already failed timing chain is one of them.

5. Metal Shavings In Oil

If your engine runs poorly and you need to do an oil change in an attempt to fix the situation, only to discover that there are metal shavings in the oil you just drained out of your car’s engine, that’s a crucial mechanical component of your car is wearing off fastly, and that could be the timing chain.

A severely worn-out timing chain would most likely leave shavings inside the oil pan.

What Causes The Timing Chain To Fail?

There could be many reasons why your car’s timing belt failed, which include excessive wear due to aging or high pressure, engine overheating, collisions or hard impact, excessive friction due to low oil levels, and improper installation.

Yeah, when the chain is not installed properly – maybe you’re replacing the old one or did some fixes that required losing up the chain to access what you wanted to fix – it’d fail quickly; timing chains must be installed in the right manner to deliver optimal performance.

If you’re less experienced in handling automobile mechanical components, it is best to leave such jobs – changing or repositioning the timing chain – for professional mechanics to handle instead of DIYing.

Timing Chain Replacement Cost

The final cost you’d pay to have your car’s timing chain fixed or replaced varies greatly based on many factors.

However, the average cost of replacing failed or broken timing chains is $1,400 for parts and labor. If you decide to do it yourself, you would be spending about $700 on average. If the belt is worn or broken, it is best to replace it than try to patch or repair the broken part(s).

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a Broken Timing Chain Destroy My Engine?

A broken timing chain won’t let the engine start at all, but if it does and you continue driving with the broken chain – after it has shown you all the possible signs – over time, it could cause a fatal engine damage, which may warrant you’d need to replace the engine completely.

How Often Do Timing Chains Fail?

Well, there’s no specific mileage when the timing chain fails; there are several conditions that could force the chain to fail prematurely. However, you should check on the timing chain after every 80,000 for wear, looseness, or cracks.

How Long Does It Take A Mechanic To Change A Timing Chain?

It would take roughly four to eight hours, or even more, for a mechanic to disassemble the timing chain assemble, and install a new chain – if the parts are readily available. If the parts are to be important, it could take up to 24 hours before you’d get your car back.


This article explains the commonest symptoms of a bad timing chain, which include metal shavings in the oil pan, rattling or grinding noise while driving, the engine not starting, and poor engine performance.

Replacing the timing chain is quite a costly service, and it requires great expertise because the chain plays a vital role in determining the engine’s performance. Have a mechanic do it for you if you’re not so advanced in handling the mechanical components of a car.

Related Posts:

Scroll to Top