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​Timing Chain Basics for your Chevy Cobalt

The engine on your Chevy is a complex system of moving pistons and valves, along with the timing chain or cam belt that keeps everything in sync. Your engine can’t operate properly when if the timing chain on your Cobalt snaps, which is why you should know what the timing chain is and when to replace it.

What is the difference between a Timing Chain and a Cam belt?

Both timing chains and cam belts have the same function: keep the moving parts of an engine synchronized.  Some vehicles use timing chains while others use cam belts, depending on how the manufacturer designed the model.

A cam belt, also known as a timing belt, is made out of rubber. It has teeth on the inside to help it maintain a firm grip on the vehicle’s components. The rubber belt is lighter, cheaper, and runs quieter than a chain.

If you own a Chevy Cobalt, your vehicle uses a timing chain instead of a cam belt. Timing chains are made from metal and looks just like the chain on a bicycle. The timing chain on your Cobalt is heavier, more expensive, and louder, but it’s also more durable and should last much longer.

Some people take the chain versus belt into consideration when choosing which vehicle to buy. A broken timing chain or cam belt will make a car useless. This can make the chain a safer option since it’s less likely to suddenly break and leave you stranded.

Importance of a Functional Timing Chain

Like any part on your Chevy, timing chains will degrade over time from the stress of keeping the engine running. Unlike a belt, which should be replaced every 60,000-100,000 miles, chains usually last as long as the engine. That said, some manufacturers still recommend replacing it around 100,000 miles.

At the same time, a broken timing chain is no small matter. It only takes a few minutes check the timing chain on your Cobalt every now and then, just to be safe. Your driving style, environmental conditions, and lack of frequent oil changes can shorten the lifespan of the chain.

If you want to help the timing chain on your Cobalt last as long as your engine, don’t delay on your oil changes! Oil changes keep the timing chain properly lubricated so it can function as it’s supposed to.

The Risks of a Worn-Out Timing Chain or Belt

Replacing the timing chain or timing belt is fairly inexpensive, and it’s much better to make sure they’re functional instead of risk letting them snap.

A broken timing chain or belt will render your vehicle completely useless. Not only that, but if it breaks while you’re driving, it could cause extensive (and expensive!) damage to your car or maybe ruin it completely.

If you’re lucky, the chain will break when you’re driving at a low speed, causing it to simply slide off without impacting the other parts of your engine. But if the timing chain breaks at high speed, it could break or bend every valve in the engine and cost more to fix than the car is worth.

Since checking the timing chain or belt isn’t typically part of a standard vehicle inspection, it’s best to learn how to inspect it yourself to be safe.

How to Check the Timing Chain on your Cobalt

The timing chain is part of your engine, so you might be alerted to a problem with an engine warning light on your dashboard. That said, inspecting your chain or belt every now and then is an extra level of safety.

While the car is idle, listen for loud rattling. This is one of the most common ways to tell if your chain or belt is loose and needs replacing. The rattling sound is more prominent in cold weather (around 50 degrees Fahrenheit or lower), so if you live near us in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, the sound should be hard to miss for most of the year.

Another sign of a worn-out timing chain is when your engine will turn over but not start. You might also feel a loss of acceleration and responsiveness when it’s time to replace the timing chain on your Cobalt.

If you want to visually inspect the timing chain on your Chevy Cobalt, you can find it as part of the engine block. When you lift the car’s hood, you should be able to see it on the passenger side of the engine.

Since the chain is deep in the car, you might need a flashlight to see it. Look for rust or damage to the chain. In a belt, there will be signs of cracking. If it’s covered in oil or grease, that’s not a good sign! It’s time to replace the belt, since the grease could help the belt slip loose.

If you feel comfortable servicing your own Chevy Cobalt, you can remove the cam cover (also known as the valve cover) to see the chain for yourself. When you pinch the timing chain and tug, it should be tight. Any kind of rattling or looseness in the chain is a sign that it’s time to replace your timing chain.

Since the belt or chain can snap suddenly, putting you and the drivers around you at risk, it’s not something you want to risk. Instead of getting yourself stranded on the side of the road, regularly check your timing chain or cam belt and check your vehicle’s handbook to see how often Chevy recommends replacing the timing belt or chain for your car.