What to Do If an Engine Timing Chain Slips or Stretches

Posted on: 29 November 2021

Within an internal combustion engine, many moving parts need to work together in concert so that the crankshaft can eventually turn at high speed and provide drive to the wheels. This requires perfect timing, and engineers have designed these parts to interact with a fantastic amount of precision. At the centre of this frenetic activity is a timing chain, and as with everything else mechanical, this can sometimes encounter problems. What type of problem could you expect, and why is it important to take action as soon as possible?

Like a Bicycle Chain

Most of the moving parts involved are hidden away within the engine casing, but the timing chain is very similar in appearance to the chain you may have on your bicycle. When you move the pedals up and down, the chain turns the rear wheels, and the same thing happens when the pistons rotate the crankshaft on your car. Here, this rotary activity is transferred to a secondary shaft that opens and closes input and output valves on time. These valves allow air in and exhaust fumes out as part of the combustion process.


As you can imagine, it is crucial to ensure that the camshaft turns at precisely the right time in relation to the crankshaft. Any difference here will certainly affect performance and could, in the worst scenario, create catastrophic damage. Now you can see how important it is to look after the timing chain and ensure that it is always correctly adjusted.


Engineers can use a variety of different parts to set up the timing chain in the first place. These can include bearings and sprockets and special devices known as "tensioners." Between them, these parts ensure that the chain is always adjusted properly and will constantly move through the same channels.

Slipping and Stretching

Idlers or tensioners are mechanical components that can wear and slip out of adjustment. The chain itself may also degrade and, if it does, can actually stretch. When it does so, it will begin to make a clattering noise which will gradually become worse. You may notice an engine misfire, rough idling and significantly reduced power as well. In addition, you'll almost always spend more money at the fuel pump.

Regular Servicing Required

To avoid any trouble associated with your timing chain, make sure you take the vehicle to a mechanic regularly. They have special tools to help them keep the chain and ancillaries in proper adjustment, and as they maintain these parts proactively, they can help you avoid problems.

And remember, you cannot afford to mess around with the timing chain as if it were to break completely, you might be looking at a new engine. Contact a local car service to learn more.