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How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Bad Timing Chain?

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You’ve heard it before: timing is everything.

That old adage couldn’t be truer when it comes to your car’s engine.

If the engine and its combustion cycle aren’t timed correctly, your car may not run at all.

The timing chain keeps engine components running asynchronously.

A faulty timing chain (perhaps stretched out) could throw your engine’s timing out of whack, causing inefficiencies, or even stalling the engine altogether. 

To keep your engine running the way it was meant to, it’s important to replace a problematic timing chain, but the fix can be quite costly.

Keep reading to find out how much you can expect to pay to replace a timing chain. 

Timing Chain Replacement Cost Estimate

Getting your timing chain replaced can cost you anywhere from $1,600 to $1,900.

What’s behind such a big repair cost?

Labor drives the biggest portion of the cost of replacing a timing chain.

The process of replacing a timing chain is complicated and (no pun intended) time-consuming.

Labor costs range from about $900 to $1,200 alone, making up the bulk of the expense.

The timing chain itself isn’t necessarily inexpensive, but depending on the situation, could also be nearly half the cost of the labor.

The average total price of necessary parts for a timing chain replacement comes to about $650.

On top of all this, you typically want to replace the water pump when replacing a timing chain. This could add an extra $100 to the bottom line.

That big gap between parts and labor can make replacing a timing chain seem like an appealing DIY job. However, keep in mind that the job is not easy. There’s a reason why labor is so costly.  

How Long Will the Repair Typically Take?

Again, the process of replacing a timing chain is complicated and takes a good amount of time.

Replacing a timing chain takes about 5 to 8 hours, making this essentially an all-day job.

You’re not likely to get your car back from the mechanic on the same day. 

What makes tire chain replacements so long and demanding?

There is a lot of disassembly required just to be able to get to the timing chain.

This makes the job much more complicated and takes some time to break down carefully.

Not to mention, replacing a timing chain typically involves replacing other components like the timing chain tensioner and other components that work in unison to keep the engine running smoothly.

Once the timing chain is replaced, it has to be timed and tested to make sure everything is running correctly before fully reconstructing the engine back. 

How Long Does a Timing Chain Last?

Replacing a timing chain is expensive, but there is good news: you likely will never have to get a new timing chain.

Timing chains are very durable and made to last the entire lifetime of a car. 

Timing belts, which are made of rubber composites, are a different story, however.

Of course, nothing is absolutely perfect, and problems can arise.

For most vehicles, it’s rare to need a timing chain replacement, but it does happen.

Certain makes, models, and years with timing belts (rather than chains) may recommend replacing the timing belt every 70,000 to 120,000 miles as a normal service and preventative measure.

For vehicles without a specific recommendation on replacing the timing chain, since they are built to last, there are no real measurements of when you might need a new one.

No matter how many miles you have on your car, you generally shouldn’t worry about a timing chain until you start seeing timing issues.

Timing chain issues may be related to manufacturing flaws. Keep an eye out for any repair alerts and recalls for your car. 

Timing Chain vs. Timing Belt

Many cars have a much less durable timing belt rather than a timing chain.

Timing belts serve the same function as timing chains but are made of rubber that will eventually wear down.

Timing belts typically need to be replaced at about 70,000 to 90,000 miles.

Timing belts are slightly less expensive than timing chains, but the labor is nearly identical.

Overall, you can expect to pay upwards of 1,000 to have a timing belt replaced during the specified service interval for your vehicle.

Symptoms of a Bad Timing Chain

The biggest sign that you have a bad timing chain is your car stalling or running poorly (i.e. stuttering, no responding to acceleration, etc.)

A timing failure will also trigger the check engine light. 

Other signs that you may have a bad timing chain include:

  • Engine misfiring.
  • A metallic clanking sound from the engine.
  • Metal in the oil.

If your car experiences these symptoms, have your mechanic look into the car’s timing chain.

Should You Drive with a Bad Timing Chain

If you suspect that your car has a bad timing chain, you should get it checked immediately.

The last thing you want to do is stall out right in the middle of a busy freeway.

Like with most potential repairs, putting off replacing a bad timing chain could be catastrophically more costly in the end. 

Running your car with poor timing can result in metal parts colliding that aren’t supposed to touch. That can be very bad.

In the worse case scenarios, it could result in a situation where your entire engine would need to be replaced.