When Your Ride Has a Timing Chain

Don't think you have a timing belt to begin with? You might be correct. Your car may have a timing chain instead.

Timing chains work just like timing belts in keeping time between the crankshaft and camshaft. Belts and chains dual it out for popularity, though -- changing places leading the pack for auto manufacturers. Currently, timing chains seem to be winning, most likely because they usually don't require maintenance and last the life of an engine [source: Trottier].

However, timing chains can stretch with age and are noisier, heavier and more expensive to repair -- if automotive maintenance ends up being necessary [source: Carley].

Removing Old Timing Belts

Now, right when you're ready to jump into your car maintenance project, you might become wary of your ability to accomplish this task. However, if you have a moderate knowledge of engines, you will most likely be able to tackle a timing belt replacement [source: Trottier].

In general, a car enthusiast who is not a trained professional should allocate about eight hours to complete this vehicle maintenance procedure [source: Trottier]. The first thing you'll need to do is to remove the old timing belt. Although the procedure will vary based upon the technical manual you're using, in general you should:

  1. Refer to your manual for all proper safety procedures.
  2. Engage the emergency brake.
  3. Jack up the car and support it on jack stands.
  4. Disconnect the negative terminal of the battery for your safety.
  5. Make sure the transmission is in neutral.
  6. Remove all spark plugs.
  7. Remove any plastic shields from underneath the engine.
  8. Drain coolant.
  9. Remove cooling fan and any plastic fan coverings from the front of the engine (usually reverse-threaded, so turn right to loosen).
  10. Disconnect all cooling hoses from engine and label for easy reassembly.
  11. Remove the radiator from the car.
  12. Remove the engine drive belts.
  13. Remove the cap and rotor.
  14. Remove the water pump pulley.
  15. Remove the bolts holding the upper timing belt cover.
  16. Place a socket on the center of the crankshaft pulley. Rotate engine to top dead center (TDC), which means that the first piston in an inline engine is at the top. There's a mark showing TDC on the pulley and the engine.
  17. Loosen the crankshaft pulley bolts. Remove the crankshaft pulley and vibration damper.
  18. Remove the lower timing belt cover.
  19. Mark the location of the main tensioner bolt.
  20. Remove the bolt that holds the tensioner and timing belt cover.
  21. Remove the main adjustment bolt for the tensioner.
  22. Remove the freed tensioner and tensioner spring.
  23. Once the tensioner is off, the belt comes off.

Once you reach this point, you're halfway there. Next up is installing that new timing belt. Continue to the next section to learn what steps to take, as well as the significance of setting tension and lining up your timing marks.