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Timing Belt vs Timing Chain (Explained)

Updated: Jan 11

Timing chains and timing belts (also known as a cambelt) serve the same function of synchronising the crankshaft and camshaft. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks, as explained in this article.

A timing belt or timing chain is an integral part of an internal combustion engine which synchronizes the crankshaft rotation and the camshaft to open and close the intake and exhaust valves at the correct time during each cylinder stroke.


Table of Contents:

timing belt vs timing chain

What Do They Do?

The timing belt or chain's job is to keep the engine's timing accurate. Timing refers to the relationship between the camshaft, crankshaft, valves, and pistons.

The intervals between these crucial parts of an engine must always remain the same.

A belt or chain physically connects the crankshaft to the camshaft, and this connection drives pulleys or sprockets.

A chain drives sprockets, while a belt drives pulleys. Sprockets and pulleys work in tandem with a belt or chain to accomplish the same task.

diagram of how a timing belt works
Diagram of a timing belt

The number of teeth on a camshaft pulley or sprocket will always be double that of a crankshaft pulley or sprocket.

The camshaft will turn once for every two crankshaft spins because to the varied number of teeth.

What's the Difference Between Timing Chain vs Timing Belt?

Timing chains and belts provide the same function. One is made of metal, while the other is a firm, rubber-like substance.

  • The design of an engine is affected by whether a timing belt or chain is used, aside from the fact that they are made of different materials.

  • It also has an impact on how often it needs maintenance and how long it lasts.

A metal timing chain is stronger and more resilient than a rubber timing belt because metal is more robust than rubber.

diagram of a timing chain
Diagram of a timing chain

An engine will turn more than a million times in a normal day of operation, which translates to more than 30 million times in a month of operation.

Timing chains and timing belts resist wear and tear at different rates.

Metal resists wear and tear better than rubber. However, only when it is lubricated in oil does metal outlast rubber in terms of wear resistance.

This takes us to our first significant distinction between timing chains and belts; timing chains need oil lubrication to keep them from prematurely wearing out.

Oil leaks must be stopped by sealing a chain away from the environment.

You can quickly determine whether your engine has a timing chain or belt by looking in the engine compartment.

If the engine has plastic covers, it probably has a belt, but if the front of the engine has metal covers, it probably has a timing chain.

timing belt vs timing chain cover
A timing chain cover (left) vs a timing belt cover (right)