Since there are many aspects of timing chains and timing belts to consider, it can be difficult to know exactly where to start when it comes to the comparison between a timing belt vs timing chain. The first thing to have when making this comparison is some background information about why mechanical engine timing is so critical for proper functioning of a standard internal combustion engine. Given that an internal combustion engine has many moving parts that are functioning in unison to ensure that power is given to the drive train, the timing of the internal components is very important for maintaining proper functionality of the engine. Timing belts and chains are engine components which are almost always impossible to see when first opening the hood of a vehicle, and this is because they are shielded from the outside elements by a protective plate within the engine.
This helps to ensure that all timing components within the engine are always going to be protected from any elements which are on the outside of the engine. Rocks, ice, mud, and any other outside elements are things that should never be allowed into the timing components of the engine, mainly because if the timing is disrupted in any way this can be catastrophic for the engine. Without a timing belt or chain, it would be impossible to run an internal combustion engine because the parts would not be moving in the correct formation. Now that basics of engine timing have been covered, it is time to consider the differences between a timing belt and a timing chain.
Timing Belt Overview
The first rubber timing belts were utilized by a car manufacturer called Pontiac, and this was way back in the 1960’s. These timing belts, while made of rubber, also had some kind of strengthening material built into them in order to ensure that they would be durable enough to stand up to the intense conditions of an internal combustion engine. Some examples of material types that can be integrated into a rubber timing belt include Kevlar or fiberglass; both of these materials serve to add considerable strength to the belt. The manufacturer recommended life span for a timing belt of this nature would be around 60,000 to 100,000 miles, though this number can be more or less depending on a wide range of different factors.
Timing Chain Overview
A timing chain is similar to the rubber belt version, except that it is made out of all metal components. A timing chain has an appearance which is remarkably similar to a bicycle chain, except it is less greasy and a bit larger. One of the best aspects of having a timing chain versus a timing belt in an internal combustion engine is that a timing chain is a bit more durable and has the potential to last the entire life of the vehicle. While not every timing chain will last this long, they do tend to last longer than rubber timing belts on average. One of the only negative aspects of having a timing chain is that it is heavier, so if it does break during the operation of the engine the damage to the engine is likely to be total.
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