Do all cars have timing belts?

A timing chain fitted to an engine

This image shows a timing chain fitted to an engine, instead of a timing belt. This begs the question of why some cars have timing chains, as opposed to timing belts. Let us look at timing belt vs timing chain issues-

Timing belt advantages

  • Timing belts greatly reduce engine manufacturing costs
  • A timing belt is quieter than a timing chain
  • Timing belts are easier to replace than timing chains

Timing belt disadvantages

  • A timing belt needs to be replaced at fixed intervals to prevent engine damage
  • Oil leaks can cover a timing belt in oil, in which case the belt MUST be replaced to prevent timing belt failure
  • The timing belt cost increases the overall cost of maintaining the vehicle
  • Timing belt replacement cost in Australia is the highest single maintenance cost on cars with timing belts

Timing chain advantages
Timing chains typically do not need to be replaced unless they are damaged by-

  • Excessive mechanical wear caused by dirty or contaminated engine oil
  • Excessive mechanical wear caused by using the wrong or unsuitable engine oil
  • Insufficient chain tension caused by blocked oil passages. Note that this is most often caused by a lack of proper servicing or poor vehicle maintenance
  • Timing chain tensioner failure; note that this is most often caused by low oil levels, or dirty oil

Timing chain disadvantages

  • Timing chains are not as quiet as timing belts
  • Timing chains are much more expensive to replace when they do fail

Which common cars in Australia use timing belts?

In many cases, car manufacturers use both timing belts and timing chains. However, whether any given vehicle has a timing chain as opposed to a timing belt depends on the engine fitted to a particular model in a model range. Let us look at some examples-

2005 Toyota Camry

Only some 2005 Camry’s have timing chains. For instance, 2005 Camry models with 3.0L and 3.3L V6 engines are fitted with timing belts, while the 2.4L four-cylinder engine has a timing chain.

2014 Subaru Crosstrek

All Subaru Crosstrek models from the 2014 production year have timing chains.

Honda CR-V

Starting in 2001/2, all Honda CR-V models are fitted with timing chains

Mazda 3

There are no Mazda 3 timing belts- both the 2.0L and 2.5L Skyactive engines in Mazda 3 models are fitted with timing chains

Mitsubishi Triton

The Mitsubishi Triton has a long history, and for much of that time, most Triton engines were fitted with timing belts.

However, late model diesel Tritons usually have timing chains, while petrol models have timing belts.  Nonetheless,be sure to consult with a dealership or a professional Mitsubishi mechanic to see if your particular Triton model has a timing belt or a timing chain.

Note that many American-made engines, like small block V8 8 Chevrolet engines such as the LS -series of engines, do not have timing belts or timing chains. These engines have gears that drive the single camshaft that serves all the valves. 

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