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Change chain when it rattles

Question : I RECENTLY bought a used 1997 Mercedes Benz E280. Although the vehicle is now approaching nine years old, it has only done 25,000km. I have been advised that the timing chain requires regular maintenance and I wonder at what mileage or time interval should the chain be replaced.

Answer : THE valve timing mechanism of a modern vehicle is usually driven by a chain or a toothed rubber belt. Gears are also used although these are uncommon except on some heavy-duty diesels.

The timing belt, as it is often called, is the most common choice. It is cheap, light and, more importantly, silent in operation.

However, the disadvantage of the rubber belt is that it requires periodic tensioning and renewal, failing which it can break and cause extensive damage to other components.

The cost of labor to remove and refit is often higher than the price of the replacement belt itself.

The recommended renewal interval for a timing belt ranges from 50,000km to 100,000km, and varies from one engine manufacturer to another.

The timing chain is more robust and seldom requires any attention during the life of the engine. No regular maintenance or renewal is scheduled for timing chains although, occasionally, the automatic chain adjuster (or tensioner) may require renewal if it is excessively worn. However, this usually happens only after extremely high mileages when the engine will have to be dismantled anyway for other components to be replaced.

A worn chain or adjuster soon becomes obvious, the tell-tale symptoms being a loud rattling noise each time the engine is accelerated. Timing chains are not expensive to purchase, often not much more than a timing belt. 


Timing chain or timing belt

When to change

What a waste

Change chain when it rattles

Time to change timing chain

Self service

Elantra suddenly stopped


Safer to change other bits, too

Doubting the manufacturer

Belt too tight

Timing chain

Belt or chain?

Timing Belt

Timing chain

Spark plugs
Timing belt


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