4 Things to Know About Timing Chains for Auto Mechanic School

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Without timing chains, a car literally cannot go anywhere. A timing chain acts in a similar way to a timing belt, connecting the camshaft and crankshaft in order to allow for gas to be converted into engine power. If this process is not timed accurately, and the intake and exhaust valves don’t open when they’re supposed to, the car’s engine cannot function correctly. But what else are timing chains capable of? And what do auto mechanic school students need to know about them?

Here are four facts worth knowing about timing chains, and how they work.

Timing Chains and Timing Belts Are Two Different Things

While both a timing chain and a timing belt may have similar purposes for a car, they aren’t cut from the same cloth. For example, timing chains are actually chains, and are more durable than timing belts, which are made of rubber and lighter, cheaper materials. Another key difference is how timing belts need to occasionally be replaced, while timing chains are meant to be long-lasting and do not need servicing. In fact, timing chains came before belts, prior to the latter becoming more commonplace in vehicles from the 1960s onward.

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Timing belts became more common than timing chains in the 1960s

Timing Chains Keep the Engine’s Components in Sync with Each Other

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the role of a timing chain is to connect both the camshaft on the top half and crankshaft at the bottom during the combustion cycle, for the process of producing engine power. In other words, timing chains ensure the parts of both the top and bottom halves of the engine are moving harmoniously with one another. While the camshaft is spinning and allows the cylinder’s valves to have air and have fuel enter and exit, the crankshaft helps compress these elements while the pistons are at the correct time. These processes are expedited through the timing chain connecting the camshaft and crankshaft, allowing them to rotate.

Automotive School Students Should Recognize Their Role with Speed, Too

Students in auto mechanic school may notice that a timing chain doesn’t just take care of the time aspect of the combustion cycle—it helps with the speed part, as well. By moving energy between the two shafts in the engine, it wraps itself around both shafts’ gears and grips them, resulting in rotational speed being reduced and the crankshaft moving twice as fast as the camshaft in any four-stroke engine. The timing chain is what helps keep them moving in synchronicity.

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A timing chain helps connect the crankshaft and camshaft

Make Sure You Notice the Signs That the Timing Chain Is Failing

Students in automotive school wanting to pursue a career as a mechanic should understand which signs indicate potential problems with a timing chain. Although timing chains are meant to last for a very long time, factors can come in that can cause them to break. For example, there may be chunks of plastic or pieces of metal found in the oil, which can indicate a dying cam sprocket. Other signs include rattling or ticking engine noises (arguably the most frequent sign), a misfiring or failing engine, an inability to start the car, engine vibrations, or a lack of engine power.

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