View Full Version : Another timing chain...

05-01-2000, 05:07 PM
My chain needs to be replaced and my car is sounding like a diesel now. My appointment is next week, so i am crossing my fingers and driving as little as possible. I thought that the chain was an advantage and that if it breaks it won't cause any damage to the engine. I was under the impression that was the whole point of the chain versus the belt. What is the story here? My car has 106K miles on it, so I am not broken hearted about it even though I don't stretch my oil changes at all. And is $400 too much to get it done?

05-02-2000, 02:10 AM
That sounds like a good price. i've heard of 600$ to replace a chain.
Be glad it did'nt break. It would cost a whole lot more then.

05-02-2000, 05:41 AM
The chain's advantage is that it doesn't normally (as you see normally) need replacement unless the engine is being taken apart for other work.

The timing belts, on the other hand, require scheduled replacement at 60K to 90K depending on the make to avoid failure.

If your engine (like Saturn) is an "interference" engine, the failure of the timing chain/belt will cause parts such as pistons and valves to collide with obviously expensive consequences.

Saturn chains are usually durable but are vulnerable to failure if the oil passages get narrowed because of infrequent oil changes.

If you didn't buy your Saturn new, the previous owner could have ignored the 3K change intervals. Also, you could just be one of the unlucky ones whose chains fail early.

Fortunately, yours gave you a warning and you were smart enough to not ignore it. Get it fixed ASAP.


06-28-2000, 10:46 AM
Has anyone here done the job themselves?

06-28-2000, 11:28 PM
No the Saturn is definately NOT an engine that will withstand a timing chain break! My 1999's broke at 30,000 miles. I too thought that the chain was an advantage over a timing belt. I have changed several timing belts on various makes of cars that I have owned and they cost between $10-20 and take an hour or two to change. When I bought my newest car in May I asked the dealer whether the engine was a non-interference engine. He looked at me like I was from another planet, but after explaining why I wanted to know he let me talk to the service manager who basically said "most" engines with belts are non-interference, and "most" with chains are not. My 2000 (not Saturn) is non-interference. The owner's manual states that the belt should be changed at 100,000 miles.

06-29-2000, 05:38 AM
I've heard the opposite - many modern engines with belts are interference, and that's why the belts need to be changed as a scheduled item. Not just will it disable you, it will turn your valves and pistons into mincemeat.

Chains just aren't supposed to break. Understand the Saturn chain was vulnerable to clogging of an oil passage that caused premature wear and failure.

06-29-2000, 11:56 PM
The way the guy explained it to me was that engines with timing chains are generally designed as if the chain will never break, hence they would be interference engines. If the engine is designed to have a timing belt, there is a stronger chance of failure, therefore they make sure no damage will occur, hence non-interference. Of course the guy who told me this works for a japanese car dealer, I can't say that this would hold true for american cars. I have had two timing belts break in over twenty years of driving. One was on a Toyota with just under 200,000 miles on the odometer. The other was a Subaru with just over 100,000 miles. Neither car had any engine damage, although it is inconvenient. I have since then replaced the belts on both of my Mazda's on schedule to avoid the hassle. Changing a timing belt is very easy to do. Changing a timing chain would probably be way beyond the shadetree mechanics aptitude and would cost the owner about $600. So, what's the advantage of a timing chain?

06-30-2000, 04:49 AM
The advantage is that, if things go right, the chain should not need replacement unless the engine's being overhauled.

The belt, on the other hand, is a scheduled maintenance item which, for those who pay to have the work done, can run 200-400 including other parts such as accessory drive belts and hoses usually changed as part of the belt job.

Of course, if the chain fails, its advantage is certainly gone.

Mike Silva-1993 SL2
06-30-2000, 09:08 AM
I've changed the timing chain on my SL2 and a co-workers SW1 and it's not really that hard to do. It's sure not worth $400-$600 to pay to have it done if you can do it yourself. I paid $108 for the timing chain kit which consists of a new chain, guides, cam gears, crank gear, tensioner, and updated oil pump back plate. With the right tools and a manual, it should take the better part of a day if its your first time. Good luck.

-Mike Silva
Vice President & Treasurer - Cronus Motorsports
Owner - 1993 SL2a "Low Saturn"
Owner - 1991 SL2t "Turbo SL2"

07-01-2000, 12:03 AM
I agree with BobL to a degree. Flying is also the safest way to travel unless you happen to be on a plane that crashes! Since I happen to be one who had a timing chain break (very prematurely), I am now biased in my opinion of the advantage of a timing chain.

07-01-2000, 03:36 AM
Considering the number of flights as compared to the number of crashes, Chances are better to hit powe ball or get into a car accident. Had a '74 pinto when I was younger changed the belt every 50k when it broke and left me stranded. Have a customer with over 200k on his car and never any engine work done-original chain. I'll take a timing chain over a belt any day

07-01-2000, 02:12 PM
I'll go with the chain, even though it has been named as one of the culprits in the "noisy" 1.9L Saturn engine. (I personally think the engine is only "noisy" when it is being mistreated, and my '93 has almost 95K on it). My last car had a belt and it was not even mentioned in the owners manual. I had to ASK the dealer when it should be changed and they told me "Uh, about 20K ago", so I had them do it (and then paid another garage to re-do it right when they were off a tooth).

Probably a majority of the people driving cars don't know if their car has a belt or chain - unless they've had a major repair bill on their car (or a previous car). An academic friend of mine (who has been driving about 40 years - and recently learned to pump her own gas) always drives Ford Escorts and had a timing belt failure on her 1981 Escort at around 20K miles, when the car was about 10 years old. The belt probably just dried out. After rebuilding her engine she had a pretty expensive lesson on timing belts.

07-01-2000, 11:33 PM
I guess several of you missed my point. In the future I will be sure to never buy a car unless it has a non-interference engine. I don't care if it has a belt or a chain. A new employee where I work has a Toyota truck with a timing chain that broke at 186,000 miles. His engine was non-interference and his total bill including towing cost him $155. I actually would still prefer a timing chain over a belt due to the increased likelyhood of longevity. I can still hear my Saturn Salesperson singing the advantage of having a "maintenance free" chain that will "never break". Thank God mine broke while still under warranty (just barely). Come to think of it Thank God all the other list of mechanical junk broke early on too. If it hadn't I may not have been able to impress the waiting customers and the two potential customers who were within earshot when I "explained" my problems to the salesperson when I went to pick up the car after the rebuild. Having the waiting room in the showroom is probably not a really smart idea when you run across an irate customer.

07-02-2000, 06:33 AM
I have sold over 700 Saturns and not one customer has had a problem with the timing chain.
We have several customers with over 300,000 miles and the original timing chain. Key point is oil change every 3,000 miles. If done "should last the life of the engine"

07-02-2000, 10:37 AM
"Having the waiting room in the showroom is probably not a really smart idea when you run across an irate customer."

Saturn, Saab, Izuzu of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada solved that problem. They have two waiting rooms...one for customers facing the 'challenges' of the service department, and one for potential new vehicle buyers...that way they don't get scared off until it is too late.

Just kidding of course!!!

07-02-2000, 10:46 AM
What is it with these multiple posts, I click once and it takes forever to submit. Is this the board norm??

Getting back to my previous post, after some thought I realized they DO have two rooms. The customer lounge,sales, reception and play areas are all in one 'open concept' area whereas service is in an entirely glass enclosed room with 2 desks and seating for 2 customers. That was where they 'broke the news' about our 2000LW1 needing a new engine.

07-02-2000, 04:42 PM
<blockquote><hr>In the future I will be sure to never buy a car unless it has a non-interference engine. I don't care if it has a belt or a chain. <hr></blockquote>

While it would make sense to try and get a vehicle with a non-interference engine, I'm not certain if that is as easy as it sounds. I have the impression that with most piston engines nowadays running higher compression ratios, interference is very hard to avoid. However, I might believe that more truck engines might be non-interference than car engines. I should think, however that maybe engines with more valves per cylinder might have a better chance of being non-interference. These are just speculations, however.

At one time I came across the website of some company that produced timing belts (Gates, perhaps?). I _think_ it may have been this one that had a big table that did identify interference and non-interference engines. If I remember correctly, my old truck (Ford Ranger 2.3L) was a non-interference. In contrast, I believe that every engine made by Honda was an interference engine.

I've only personally known two people that had a timing chain or belt break. One had a V-8 Mustang II. The other had an Acura Integra. Both had significant damage.

the HumpMan

07-02-2000, 11:39 PM
Hey HumpMan,

Thanks for the information regarding Gates! I checked their website and they do have an online manual that lists Timing belt replacement recommendations for most cars going back to the '70's. Very interesting and it also lists the cars that have interference engines with an asterisk (*). The address for anyone interested is:


You can download the PDF file at the bottom of the page. It is only 66K.

I checked every car I've owned that is on the list and none had interference engines! I was surprised to find that all Honda's do in fact have interference engines, and I have never had one. I have tried to buy Honda's several times in the past, but the dealers act like they are selling gold and turned me off. I guess I won't bother even looking at them in the future. Of the four cars in my driveway right now, only the Saturn has an interference engine. The three with timing belts will never leave me up the creek like the Saturn did. Now, explain again just exactly what the advantage of that chain was?!