The Difference between Timing Belt and Timing Chain in the Car

The timing belt and timing chain are components which do very similar things for the internal combustion engine. In fact, they work together to maintain synchronization between the crankshaft and camshaft as they’re rotating. The timing chain (or belt) is moved by the crankshaft, which causes the camshaft to be moved by the timing belt (or chain). This is what is responsible for opening and closing the engine’s air intake valves. Before the internal combustion process can take place, these valves open to let air flow inside. But there can’t be too much air coming in, so the valves need to close at the right time. For this reason, “timing” belt and “timing” chain cause the valves to open and close at the right time.

Some car manufacturers choose to use a timing chain while others prefer to use a timing belt. Is one component better than the other? Let’s examine them more closely below.

Car Timing Belt

Roughly half a century ago, the car timing belt was invented as an advancement to the original car timing chain. The great thing about a timing belt is that it’s strong, firm, and quiet while in operation. The same cannot be said about a car timing chain because these chains tend to break very easily. Once that happens, the engine ultimately suffers damage because of it. On the other hand, the car timing belt does not break very easily and when it does, your engine will not incur too much damage from it. This gives you time to replace the car timing belt in order to prevent any major engine problems.

On the downside, a car timing belt will need to be replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. They also cost a few thousand dollars whereas a car timing chain is only around one-thousand or less, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. But if you want to protect your engine and ensure that it does not suffer because of a damaged timing component, then you should choose the belt rather than the chain. And also you can find some clear symptoms of a bad timing belt to determine the damage earlier.

Car Timing Chain

So yes, car timing chains do have longer lifespans than timing belts. The average owner may get up to 200,000 miles out of their timing chain before it needs to be replaced. By this point, they’ll probably want to replace their car anyway. So, you may never need to replace your timing chain if it stays intact. There are plastic guides along the chain which may need replacement, but the cost is minimal.

Okay, so why not choose timing chains if they’re so great? Well, for starters, you may not like the annoying sounds they make. And if they do break, it will be more devastating for your engine. The amount of damage that your engine will sustain may result in you having to replace your entire engine. You’re looking at paying close to five-thousand dollars for a new engine if this happens. If you’re willing to take this risk, then perhaps you will like the timing chain. Otherwise, it may be better to go with the timing belt if you want to play it safe.


There really is no right or wrong choice for any vehicle. Timing belts and timing chains can be used in virtually any vehicle that has an internal combustion engine, crankshaft, and camshaft systems. The question is whether you think a belt will work better than a chain. Sometimes the manufacturer of the vehicle will give you their recommendation but usually, people will just leave whatever factory component came with their vehicle. But if you’re looking to switch your belt for a chain or vice versa, consult with your local mechanic first and ask them whether it’s a good idea. They will know best.

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