How to Find Out if Your Car Has a Timing Chain or Timing Belt

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 1 month ago

5 min read

  • Engine
  • How to
  • Car ownership
Mechanic holding a car's broken timing belt.

WhoCanFixMyCar explains the key differences between a timing chain and a timing belt.

All manual vehicles have a timing belt (also known as a cambelt) or timing chain. It's easy to find out which one your car has - this guide explains how.

Contents

What's the difference between a timing belt and a timing chain?

How to tell if your car has a timing belt or chain

How often do timing chains and belts need replacing?

How much does it cost to replace a timing chain or belt?


What's the difference between a timing belt and a timing chain?

Timing belts and chains perform the same function - controlling the engine's timing so that the valves and cylinders open and close at the right time. However, there are two key differences between them: what they are made of and where they are located.

A timing chain is made of metal, so it tends to last a lot longer. It is housed in the engine and lubricated with engine oil.

Engine timing chain

A timing belt is typically made of reinforced rubber, which can stretch and crack with old age. It is found outside the engine and is usually quieter than a timing chain.

Hand holding a timing belt near engine

How to tell if your car has a timing belt or chain

The easiest way to find out which timing component your car has is to check your owner's manual. If you've lost it or don't have access to it, the other option is to have a look in the engine bay.

Cars with a timing belt have a plastic cover near the engine block (often to the left-hand side), which provides easy access to the belt. It needs changing at regular intervals, which is why the removable cover is necessary.

In cars with a timing chain, you won't see a plastic cover. There is no easy access to the engine block - it has a sealed metal cover for two reasons. Firstly, the timing chain needs to be lubricated with engine oil, which must be sealed into the system, and secondly, the chain needs to be replaced far less often than a belt.


How often do timing chains and belts need replacing?

The owner's manual for your car will tell you the manufacturer-recommended replacement interval for the timing belt or chain. Generally:

  • Timing belts need replacing every 40,000 to 100,000 miles.

  • Timing chains need replacing every 80,000 to 120,000 miles.


How much does it cost to replace a timing chain or timing belt?

The average price of a timing belt replacement is £407.16, according to WhoCanFixMyCar's data, and for a timing chain replacement, you can expect to pay £963.07.

Mechanic checking the cambelt

The tables below show how prices vary between manufacturers.

Car makeAverage price
Audi£1,107.14
BMW£1,156.04
Citroen£798.08
Ford£747.86
Mercedes£717.11
MINI£899.20
Nissan£669.63
Peugeot£711.38
Renault£876.52
Toyota£724.55
Vauxhall£831.77
Volkswagen£715.76
Volvo£889.56

Timing chains are more expensive to replace because they are harder to access, requiring more labour.

ManufacturerAverage Cost of Timing Belt
Audi£420.90
BMW£490.94
Citroen£404.95
Fiat£370.27
Ford£410.02
Hyundai£368.31
Jaguar£578.25
Land Rover£435.53
MINI£419.90
Mercedes£423.84
Nissan£398.05
Peugeot£389.37
Renault£388.87
SEAT£420.74
Skoda£387.52
Toyota£344.80
Vauxhall£370.91
Volkswagen£412.16
Volvo£378.73

Is it time for your car's timing belt or chain to be replaced? WhoCanFixMyCar can help you find a reliable local garage to get the job done.

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