The Truth About Cars » timing chain The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:48:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » timing chain Piston Slap: Running Interference for Timing Belts? Mon, 03 Jun 2013 12:00:50 +0000

Clint writes:

I usually buy vehicles that need the timing belt replaced. (Most people trade in or sell at that point for $ reasons). I do most of the work myself because it’s not overly complicated if you follow a manual. People at my office ask me about general car maintenance. When I ask about timing belt changes they always respond with, “Do I need to change that?” or “I have never changed that.”

At that point I ask for their mileage, it’s always way over the required service date. How many people that own vehicles experience these timing belt disasters? Most vehicles on the road are interference motors so I think the casualty rates are pretty high.

Sajeev answers:

Regarding casualty rates: if this was ten years ago, I’d agree with you. But thanks to events like promoting 100,000 mile tune-up intervals in Detroit Iron during the 1990s, the majority of mainstream machines switched to the chain. This list (grain of salt: it thinks Panthers have timing belts) might help explain the time period when everyone abandoned their belts for a timing chain.

Hell, even Ferrari uses timing chains now!

To your question: we will never know how many people experience timing belt/bent valve disasters, but the numbers are likely dwindling.  Impossible to prove, as car repair databases aren’t the well-organized machines seen in the healthcare insurance industry.  Can you imagine a HIPAA compliant local service station?

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Preventative Maintenance or Over Medication? Tue, 03 Jul 2012 10:15:34 +0000


TTAC Commentator Silent Ricochet writes:

Hello Sajeev,

You’ve helped me greatly in the past, and I once again turn to you for your knowledge of used cars and reliability.

To refresh your memory, I drive a 2002 Chevy Cavalier Z24. It’s a 5-Speed Manual, with the 2.4L Quad 4 motor in it, not the lifeless 2.2. I’m about to hit 145k and I’ve got a few concerns about the car and what I should exactly do with it.

I’m currently in my third year of college, with another 3-4 ahead of me. So far my Cavy has been the most reliable car I’ve ever owned and it’s been with me through thick and thin, never complains, and even enjoys being tossed around a few corners and some light to light action on the weekends. I’ve maintained everything I could afford on this car (for a full list look here)  And that list is old too, since then I’ve replaced even more, Synchromesh in the gearbox and I’ve switched to ACDelco Oil Filters to name a few. And not those crappy ECore designs either). I might be a little crazy with all the maintenance but at the end of the day, I love my car, and it shows. Always starts, engine is smooth and full of life, the gearbox is smooth but firm, and the ride for a 11 year old sport suspension is predictable. I believe this car has the potential to live well passed 200k at the rate it’s going, but 55,000 miles is a long ways away.

Here’s the problem: The paint, is starting to show signs of it’s age, chips in the hood, clearcoat coming off the roof, little things like that. Furthurmore the paint below the gas cap and near my side skirts is starting to bubble a little. So to make it simple, the rust has begun. Combine this with a mysterious leak of some sort under the car (which I’ve identified through reading as the Water Pump weeping a little, they’re known for that) and a thought of maybe selling this car comes to mind. It’s a tough thought for sure. My step father in my hometown operates and owns a Towing Business and Repair Shop, so any repairs that need to be done, are done by him and at a much discounted cost (buy him lunch and it’s a done deal kinda thing).

But the car is starting to get to that point where, if I gotta replace the water pump, then I might as well replace the timing chain while I’m in there. And while I’m in there, might as well change the head gasket too because it’s literally like 8 more bolts. AllData puts a water pump at almost 8 hours labor. Something tells me that’s not going to be a freebie job. My step dad thinks that I should sell my car this spring, before it’s “unsellable” with the amount of mileage on it and what not. I’m kind of torn.

So this places me in a weird position. In one hand, I think my step dad has a point. In the other, I’ve put so much into this car, it runs so well, and I love it, that I believe that I should keep it. My original plan was to hang onto my Cavy until I get out of college 3-4 years from now, and then buy something much newer / nicer. But who knows what could happen in the 3-4 years between now and then. A thought had crossed my mind earlier this year to get an early 2000′s Camaro (V8 of course, can you tell I’m a Chevy guy yet?), but I decided to stick with my Cavy purely because of love and reliability.

So? What do you think? Any insight?

Thanks in advance!

Sajeev answers:

This series is no replacement for deep diving into the appropriate car forum to find the truth.  I occasionally point that out because my half-assed Googling has a hard time justifying your deep engine dive.  Timing chain?  Head Gasket?

Timing chains rarely have problems, and I am not familiar with any chronic chain problem with the QUAD 4.  (puts on flame suit) And you never, ever touch a 100% functional head gasket on a modern motor…the only time I’ve seen this as (necessary) preventative maintenance is on iron block/aluminum head motors from the early 1990s, when the gasket material changed composition from asbestos to whatever stopgap non-cancer causing material was used immediately after.  These days, head gaskets aren’t a big concern.

Obviously you are a stickler for upkeep.  You love to keep your ride in tip-top shape.  But are you over thinking this time ’round?


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.


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Piston Slap: A Saturn Wagon’s Bad Timing (Update) Mon, 19 Dec 2011 12:10:24 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Dave writes:

Hello Sajeev,

Well, better late than never.  I did get my Saturn running again.  Due to weather, parts delays and misdiagnosis I spent a lot more time and money than I planned or had to, but she does seem to be in good shape now.  Although the timing chain was still in place and looked OK, I replaced it.  I actually did the whole timing set replacement, which includes chain, crank sprocket, two cam sprockets, fixed guide, top guide, adjustable guide and chain tensioner.

The timing chain alone costs about 50 bucks and the whole set was 150.  I briefly considered just getting the chain to cut down on costs that I had already put into this high mileage car, but then realized how stupid that would be.  Closer inspection of the old timing set parts also revealed clearly that they were totally worn out and the reason for my jumping chain.  The adjustable timing guide was made out of some kind of hard plastic and had deep grooves in it.  The guide at the top of the timing loop which must control chain jump between the cam sprockets was also damaged.  I thought it was just metal, but when installing the new one I realized there was supposed to be a hard plastic contact service that clipped on.  This had worn so badly on the old one it had broken off.  I had seen a piece of it early on in the job after I had removed the valve cover, but didn’t realize at the time what is was.  Once I realized it had broken apart in the engine, I did as one of the commentators on your blog suggested and removed the oil pan to look for the rest.  I did find some, but not enough to reconstruct the whole piece.   I am hoping most of the rest of it had already left the car during previous oil changes.

I had a brief scare after putting the car mostly back together.  I ran a preliminary compression check with the newly installed timing set and had expected/hoped to see vastly improved compression values.  Although they were better than before and one cylinder was a bit above 100 psi…they were not good.  After calming myself from a brief panic, I decided to put the rest of the car back together in the hopes my compressions were just bad, because the car had been sitting so long.   That proved to be the case as it fired right up.  Checking the compression again after the engine was warmed up gave me values for all four cylinders between 170 and 190 psi.

I am now in Calhoun, GA having driven the car from Maryland with no issues.  I will be traveling onto my end goal of Texas in a few days.  I anticipate no further difficulties on the journey, but if I have any, I’ll be sure to drop you a line.

Thanks for the help!

Sajeev Answers:

This website (and others) occasionally stuff our comments section with the notion that America is full of auto-wieners that wouldn’t know a master cylinder from a smog pump, and never did an oil change in their lives.

Dave and is Saturn L-series Wagon is proof to the contrary.

Too bad neither him nor I knew to ask Google the right keywords about the Saturn’s initial diagnostic failure.  Sorry about that. I had no idea it has the same colossal timing chain failure of the Cadillac Catera. Thanks to the Best and Brightest, we (collectively) nailed it. A question remains: does Dave have any compensation/recourse because this was a recalled item? 

Thanks Dave, your epic roadtrip to Texas gives me a lot of faith in automotive humanity.  If Houston is in your travel plans, dinner is on me.

Send your queries to . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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