If you drive your vehicle more than the average Australian, you may need to pay additional attention to your maintenance. As you rack up those kilometres, you'll eventually need to closely examine your engine's timing chain, which is a critical component and must be in good condition at all times. What does this chain do, and most importantly, what can happen if it fails?
The timing chain helps ensure that your pistons move up and down when they should in order to generate power. It links the crankshaft and the camshaft and ensures that fuel and air enter the combustion chamber at precisely the right moment to get everything moving.
In the old days, manufacturers would connect these parts using a reinforced rubber belt, but these days, it's far more common to find a chain instead.
The chain is attached to a sprocket on the end of each shaft and is tightened using special tensioners. A technician will carefully adjust the chain using special tools and experience to ensure that it always functions as it should and your engine can operate precisely. This is very important work, as catastrophic damage could ensue if the chain were to break or jump when the car was moving at full speed. You might end up with bent valves, scored pistons and major damage to the inside of the engine block.
It's very unusual for a timing change to fail without any warning. It's more likely that it would begin to stretch or work loose as time goes by, and as this happens, the engine will begin to misfire. The timing will be slightly "off", and everything will be out of sync. Even though the motor will still run, you will certainly hear that something is amiss. Also, you may have trouble starting the engine in the morning and should get ready to pay more for your fuel at the pump.
Early Warning Signs
Sometimes, tiny shards of metal can break away from a timing chain when it begins to wear out. In this case, those shavings will find their way into the oil sump. An experienced mechanic will note their presence when they carry out routine service and will immediately pay close attention to the chain itself.
Better to Be Safe Than Sorry
Remember, if your car's timing chain fails, you could face a very expensive engine repair bill. It's far better for you to change it at the first signs of an issue instead.
Reach out to a car repair shop near you for more information.