What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Timing Chain?

Updated March 16, 2017

Timing chains are critical components in an automobile. According to Redline Motive, timing chains control a vehicle's crankshaft and camshaft, which allow the pistons and valves to fire and rotate. Properly adjusted timing chains, therefore, work to keep the valves in your engine opening and closing at the appropriate times. Bad timing chains affect the overall performance of your vehicle.

Vehicle Does Not Start or Run

At the most extreme, if your timing chain completely fails, the vehicle will not run and it cannot even be started. If a timing chain breaks while the engine is running, the valves may crash into the pistons, causing significant damage. In this case, the vehicle will typically have to be towed to a service station. Repairs may be costly. Watch for the remaining symptoms on this list to avoid a complete timing chain failure.

Rough Idle

Bad timing chains can cause your engine to shake and rattle when the engine is idling. A rough idling engine is noticeably more violent than it used to be. For example, typically, cars with proper timing chains will idle with slight vibrations through the vehicle. Conversely, a rough idle, may be so violent that words on the engine dashboard become blurred.

Valve Clatter and Poorly Running Engine

Additionally, bad timing chains may cause the car to run poorly. Symptoms of this may be in the form of the engine working harder than usual. Bad timing chains may also cause the valves to clatter in which cause noticeable noise would be heard coming from the engine compartment.

Misfiring Pistons or Valves and Backfires

Bad timing chains can also cause pistons and valves to misfire. This in turn may cause carbon to build up, which may cause an occasional backfire, according to Redline Motive.

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About the Author

Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.