How Much Does a Timing Chain Replacement Cost?

Sometimes timing belt and timing chain are used interchangeably, but there’s an actual difference between them. Both are used in a car engine to rotate the camshaft and crankshaft together at the same time. But timing belts are made of flexible polymer with fabric reinforcement, while timing chains are roller chains.

It should be remembered, though, that while a timing chain is expensive, it can last even as much as the car itself; unlike a timing belt that should be replaced when your car has reached about 60,000 to 100,000 miles of use.

We’re here today to discuss timing chain cost and give you some ideas about factors that can influence the pricing. Additionally, we’ll be addressing some common questions about how the part works and where to buy one or get it replaced!

Chain illustration

What’s the Price of a New Timing Chain?

A timing chain replacement cost ranges from about $370 to $1,500, with the cost of labor being anywhere from $95 to $125 per hour. The price will fluctuate based on a couple of different factors, so here are some of them.

Aftermarket parts can be either standard-quality or high-quality. Cheaper parts aren’t as durable as performance parts and may not have a guaranteed lifespan.

The stores that sell the parts, whether online or physical, usually set their own prices, so the location will make a difference. A few well-known manufacturers of timing chains are Beck Arnley, ACDelco, Crown, Corteco, and Febi.

Garage chain, Your Mechanic, has a price amounting to about $783 for a timing chain replacement. Another popular shop, Pep Boys, has costs that go up to as much as $1,040.

Since some parts are made differently, the year, make, and model of your car may contribute to the rise or fall in the price. For example, a Melling timing chain for a 2016 Cadillac Escalade will cost $16.29 at certain online retailers but a TSU timing chain for a 1973 Nissan 240Z will cost $42.01.

To give you a couple of additional ideas, we’ve worked with several online retailers to determine a total price for timing chain replacement estimate. See below for a list of cars and the total cost of replacement, including labor fees.

2006 Jeep Liberty$1,324
2003 Volvo V70$541
2007 Dodge Charger$611
2005 Lexus GX470$790
2012 Acura TL$615
2003 Audi S8$981

Water pump, which is the primary component responsible for maintaining the flow of coolant supplied from the radiator to the engine, may also need to be replaced. When this happens, expect to pay extra for the pump.

You may also need to oil your engine after the timing chain had been replaced. This could cost you anywhere from $20 to $140.

If you plan to replace the timing chain on your own, a timing chain kit costs anywhere around $40 to $180. Some kits would even cost you more. In order to replace a timing chain, however, you would need to read through the service manual of your vehicle, just to be sure.

Where to Have A Timing Chain Replaced?

Independent auto centers such as Pep Boys, Merchant’s Tire & Auto, Firestone, AAMCO, and Midas are some of the best options at your disposal. It’s recommended to check your local directories or do a Google search in order to determine if there’s a branch near to your location. If not, you can always visit a dealership store; although their prices may prove to be higher.

According to researchers on market trends in the United States, only about 25% of all repairs and replacements take place at dealerships while 75% are performed by independent automotive repair shops. Surveys show that consumers rated these independent shops higher in customer service and pricing compared to brand dealerships.

Based on prices gathered from industry experts, the estimated cost of labor in the majority of these shops ranges from about $498 to $669.

If you’d like to save some cash by replacing the timing chain on your own, we’ve included a handy guide at the end for you to follow.

car timing chain in cutaway engine

What is a Timing Chain Used For?

A timing chain in an engine is a simple roller chain like the ones used on bicycles which is used to connect the crankshaft on the lower end to the camshaft on the upper part. It works to keep both components perfectly timed and synchronized and moving at the same speed.

The camshaft is a gear that spins and opens numerous lobes which close the valves in the cylinder head in order to allow fuel and air to enter the combustion chamber at precise moments.

The valves which the camshaft controls also serve to release exhaust gases once the fuel and air combine and ignite. The crankshaft is responsible for pumping the pistons at the right time in order to compress fuel and air.

These two gears were originally controlled by a gear-driven timing system. But eventually, manufacturers began to use timing chains because they were lighter and worked better.

Although timing chains have been largely replaced by timing belts which do not require any lubrication, they have made a resurgence in the past two decades because of their durability and ability to last longer.

Another benefit of timing chains over timing belts is their ability to give ample warning prior to failure. A worn timing belt may break any time after the car has reached a certain number of miles. But a worn-out timing chain has a few obvious symptoms that will make it much easier to identify if it’s time for a replacement. Higher-displacement engines tend to use timing chains more often as opposed to timing belts.

The timing chain is held tight by a timing chain tensioner to make sure that the chain doesn’t skip over one or more of the teeth. The chain itself is constructed using durable metallic elements, usually either plain carbon or alloy steel, although some are made out of stainless steel.

Although they are very strong, timing chains can break from under-tensioning, over-tensioning or engine seizure. Knowing more about the warning signs of a failing timing chain will help you to keep your car well-maintained.

What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Timing Chain?

car engine timing chain set isolated

A timing chain is made of a series of metal links. The toothed sprockets which are on the camshaft and crankshaft are what hooks into the links and keep the whole thing turning.

The entire system is responsible for opening and closing valves in the combustion chamber and moving pistons and connecting rods. Therefore, a problem that causes the timing gears to stop turning will cause engine failure.

Listed below are several warning signs that can alert you to a worn-out timing chain. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s recommended that you bring the car to a mechanic as soon as possible to diagnose and make any necessary repairs.

  • Engine Misfires

One of the most common problems with timing chains is their tendency to skip a gear on the crankshaft or camshaft; although admittedly, this only happens after a long period of time when the chain has already become worn down and stretched out. The result of such a “time skip” causes the engine to lose calibration and misfire.

If you notice this symptom, it’s most likely that the timing chain has suffered some damage over time and is due for replacement. Besides the fact that the engine will not run properly, the chain might break and cause small pieces of metal to fall into the motor which can lead to some serious damage.

  • Metal Shavings in The Oil

Engine oil and filter changes are usually done when a vehicle reaches 3,000 to 5,000 miles. While doing the change, ask the mechanic to report if there were any small pieces of metal found in the oil pan. If there are, this is an indication that the timing chain is experiencing problems and probably needs to be replaced. The metal pieces broke off the chain due to erosion and degradation.

Small pieces of metal or metal shavings found in the oil pan can actually indicate extensive wear with a variety of other parts such as cylinders head valves, retainers, and keepers. For this reason, you’ll need to have the engine and timing chain inspected as soon as possible if you experience this symptom.

  • Engine Rattles While Idling

A rattling sound emanating from the engine chamber could be indicative of any number of problems; including a loose timing chain. If everything is running normally, an engine should emit a steady and smoothly consistent sound.

If you hear a rattling noise while the engine is on idle, it’s an indication that the motor is vibrating due to a loose timing chain. If this is really the case, it needs to be fixed immediately before it breaks.

If the timing chain does break while you’re driving, it creates a very dangerous situation for you as the vehicle’s engine will probably sustain serious damage. It goes without saying that the best way to prevent this from happening is to keep an ear out for any of the symptoms and have the vehicle bought in for maintenance if it does.

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