I’m starting to get more and more questions about “when to replace the timing kit ?” or “Do penguins have knees ??”. Questions that come mainly from me, for me. Plus I haven’t written anything in the Almost Mechanics section for a long time.
“When to replace the timing kit and why do I have to change it anyway?” This should be a question to which each of us, even if we are men, women, children or Bjork, to know the answer. Plus the timing kit is one of the components that is recommended to change when buying a used car. I know, I know, we live in civilised Europe, we do not buy used cars. But maybe you have a poor cousin, who lives in Germany. Maybe this article will be useful to him.
So what does the timing kit do anyway?
Well, atleast according to Wikipedia, ” A timing belt, timing chain, or cambelt is a part of an internal combustion engine that synchronizes the rotation of the crankshaft and the camshaft(s) so that the engine’s valves open and close at the proper times during each cylinder’s intake and exhaust strokes. In an interference engine the timing belt or chain is also critical to preventing the piston from striking the valves. A timing belt is usually a toothed belt—a drive belt with teeth on the inside surface. A timing chain is a roller chain. ”
That’s all good and flowery in the sane world of Wikipedia, where everything is moderated by a team of gentlemen which sip on cappucinos and tea whilst reading the articles. But this is not Wikipedia and I’m not sipping tea, I’m chugging down Fosters. So we’re doing it the Almost Car Reviews way. The timing kit makes sure that your engine is synchronized with the crankshaft and the on to the wheels. Without the timing kit, the engine and the crankshaft wouldn’t be talking and your car wouldn’t be moving.
So how many types of timing kits are out there on the streets?
- First you have the timing belt, which is the most common of the bunch. It works exactly how it sounds – a belt driven by a few rollers. The timing belt is usually used for cars where the stress is not too high, like engines up to 2 liters. Plus it’s even cheaper to replace and produce than a timing chain and it’s alot quieter than the gear driven one and that keeps the general price of the car lower and the car quieter. I know, there are freaks among us that appreciate quiet cars.
- Timing chain – If we talk about engines larger than a beer bottle, we will usually find a timing chain spinning things around. This is because the stress is much higher but also because it is assumed that those engines will do higher mileage, usually on the motorway. From 3 liters upwards we will find only chain driven engines, which is much more resistant and can cope with the muscles. By the way, it doesn’t matter if you have bad luck in life, if you have 3 liters of Dick’s Last Resort with you!
- Gear driven timing – An older type of timing, which we will not see too soon to return. The idea is that instead of a belt or chain you have some gear that synchronize everything, in the same way that Vinnie Jones greets his poor souls from the opposing team: with a lot of noise. Present on only a few engines, the most famous being the 2.5 TDI l-5 on the Transporter T5 and Touareg.
So when does one replace the timing kit?
- If you have a timing belt – Every 60,000 km or 5 years. Or every time you buy a used car and you don’t know when it was last changed. As for the manufacturer, it really doesn’t matter what you buy because each manufacturer guarantees at least 60,000 km or 5 years. The further you go in the premium area, the longer the belt and rollers will last, but as a general rule respect this interval, otherwise the engine will punch you in the gut worse than the Brain Damage cocktail will. The recipe you ask? 2 parts Jagermeister, 1 part Absolut Vodka and 1/2 part dry gin.
- If you have a timing chain – Here you have to know that it is the core of the article, I wrote it rather for car owners with timing chains more than others, because there is more confusion than the love triangles in Temptation Island, or what exactly Jack Maynard does for a living. The basic idea is that you do not have an exact interval for when to replace the timing kit, but from 150,000 km the condition of the chain tensioners has to be inspected at each oil change. Usually the chain lasts longer than the car and wears very slowly, and as such the only components that have a limited life span are the tensioners. As a general rule, the timing chain needs replacement somewhere at 200-250,000 km, depending on the wear and tear of the chain and the tensioners. Or every 500 km, if you have a TSI from VW in the pre-2012 period.
- Last but not least, if you have gear driven timing you’re in luck – You don’t have replace it. But you still have something to do, you’re not off the hook as easily as Victor Pylypyshyn, the ukrainan deputy who got dumped in 2014 in an actual dumpster by an angry mob, but luckily he was saved shortly after. I’m saying that he was off the hook easily because Johan De Witt, and Dutch politician from the 18th century got also mobbed but those folk actually ate him.
What happens if I forget or delay to replace the timing kit?
If you plan to stretch out that timing belt or chain, this is what’s in store for you:
- If you have a timing belt and you have an interference engine (that’s about 95% of modern engine), then a snapped belt will bend your valves, engine and bank account. A timing kit is 100 pounds, don’t be fussy and replace it on time.
- If you have a timing belt and you have a non-interference engine (such as the 1.2 or 1.4 FIRE petrol plants from Fiat and I think the legendary 1.4 MPI from the Dacia Logan), then nothing happens. The engine just won’t start, but nothing critical happened. Put another belt on and move on. Basically, have too much beer, go outside, puke, then back to the pub and back for more.
- If you have a timing chain and you are deaf enough that you don’t realize that the chain is rattling, at some point it either breaks (unlikely) or jumps spectacularly directly into the engine (most likely) and I don’t think you want to know what happens next.
Anything else that needs to be done when replacing the timing kit?
- Mandatory to replace the water pump. This is one of the reasons why Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Saab have such a bad image. The water pump is also engaged by the timing kit and if you forget about it, it will forget to do its job. And here I am referring especially to those with gear driven timing – even if the timing does not get replaced, the water pump still has to be replaced every 150,000 km otherwise you are just another Touareg owner who complains that the engine block cracked from the temperature because the water pump failed.
- We are all equal, but some are more equal than others. And if you have an engine in V – V5, V6, V8 or V12, then you must know that the fun will cost you much more and you will enter the service throwing money just as Macklemore does in his music videos. If you are going to buy a car with a V6 engine, consider the cost of the timing replacement. At 3.0 TDI from VW, for example, the distribution starts at 1500 pounds and goes up to 2500 pounds, and at the other manufacturers the price is probably still there. The advantage is that it is done at 200-250,000 km, which for many means “once in a lifetime”.