When should a timing chain be replaced?

lonesomeduvlonesomeduv Member Posts: 50
edited March 2014 in Nissan
I'm currently at a crossroads with regards to my 96 Nissan Maxima. It's at 92K miles, and I need to decide whether I want to keep it for another 50K or so, or trade it in on a truck. I just got through replacing the starter (long story on another thread), the 90,000 mile maintenance is a bit past due, and I'm likely going to need some brake work done to take care of an annoying squeak. Otherwise, the car is running fine and the tires and the battery are both less than three months old.

So, I'm trying to decide what major repairs or maintenance items I might reasonably anticipate coming up in the next 2-4 years. The only thing besides the 90,000 tune-up/maintenance that I could think of is the timing chain. I know it's critical to replace timing belts at certain intervals, but I don't if that's also true for chains. The owner's manual doesn't mention it as far as I can tell.

And, if I do in fact need to replace the timing chain, anybody have any idea what that might cost? Also, is there anything else I should consider?


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    No, I wouldn't touch the chain unless one of two things became critical:

    1. Timing chain noise was conspicuous on a cold engine and did not completely go away on a warm one.

    2. A timing check showed that the engine timing was being thrown off by the slack in the chain.

    Usually, neither of these symptoms occur on a car with those miles. Chains can break, but it is very rare and usually only after the chain has screamed for attention from the owner.
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    I wouldn't think it would be important at all at that mileage or the next 50K. I had a pick up with 220K on it. I replaced the timing chain when the front seal was replaced. Manifold vacuum increased 2" after being replaced. I would be interested in other peoples experiences. I have a 92 Explorer with 200K and engine seems to run great. Wondering if I should replace the chain when I do the water pump next.
  • mbbenzmbbenz Member Posts: 47
    but I believe your 96 Maxima has a timing belt not a timing chain.
  • brucer2brucer2 Member Posts: 157
    EVERY Maxima built after 1994 has a timing chain. The chain doesn't have to be replaced. The chain guides and hydraulic tensioners will have problems before the chain. If/when the guides/tensioners need service then change the chains. You have a problem when there is a rattling from the timing chains that doesn't go away after a minute or two.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    That Maxima has a VERY reliable engine that should be good for another 90K or more. If the timing chain starts to give trouble, you will know it. Pretty doubtful that it will anyway.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Oh, good point brucer. I have seen extremely worn chain guides actually break and jam into the chain, thereby "seizing" (temporarily, thank goodness) the engine. A mess, nonetheless.
  • leadfoot4leadfoot4 Member Posts: 593
    I realize that this discussion centers around the Nissan Maxima, but I'll toss this out as food for thought.
    My wife used to have a 1993 Chevy Caprice with the 350 cu in V-8. The crank seal on the front cover started to leak oil around 45,000 miles. Being a decent mechanic, I pulled the front cover off the engine to fik the leak, and was greatly surprised at the slack in the OE timing chain.
    I replaced it with a "true roller" type, and checked the timing when all was back together. The timing had shifted by 3 degrees. Would the chain have broken? Probably not, but that's still a lot of slack, and certainly something to think about.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    Did the top gear have that crappy nylon stuff for a gear on it or was it all steel? That stupid plastic gear GM used for all those years to get away from chain noise and cost was worth exactly crap in my opinion. I can't tell you how many of them I have changed in the past. Some of them actually had no plastic left on them, all the chain was running on was the aluminium center part that bolted to the cam. It should have skipped off and locked up the motor, I don't know why it didn't, someone was looking out for that guy!!
  • subtubsubtub Member Posts: 2
    I need some advice. I purchased a '95 Toyota T-100 pickup a few years ago and didn't know about the anti-theft stock type C cassete stereo. I know that if I change my battery or it goes dead, my stereo anti theft system will activate and it will be dead, then I will have to go to the dealer and probably end up paying more to reset it than to purchase a new one. I had no luck finding the code and cannot enter a new one. Does anyone have any experience with similar situation. Thanks for help.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,874
    My Mom & stepdad used to have a '91 Stanza, which had a 4-cyl, a 2.4, I believe. I knew a couple people with that engine that said their timing belt broke, and ruined their engine, so I warned my stepdad about it. He told me that it had a timing chain though. So which did it have?

    My Intrepid's 2.7 V-6 has a timing chain, and in the manual it says to inspect it at 105,000 miles. I asked my mechanic what he thought about it, and he said that as long as I don't let it run low on oil I should be fine. He also said that it had a series of guides built in to help keep the chain from stretching.
  • leadfoot4leadfoot4 Member Posts: 593
    I had forgotten about my post here, and haven't "checked in" in a while. The timing gears on the Caprice were both steel, and the OE chain was the "silent" type.
  • paul29paul29 Member Posts: 178
    2.4 liter had a timing _chain. S/Dad wins .
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    Yes, but I have an idea how the '91 Stanza timing belt story may have come about. The 2.0 Liter engines used in some of those cars did have timing belts.
  • vidtechvidtech Member Posts: 212
    i check for chain slack by rocking the crank and observing the distibutor shaft.usually after 100k miles there is about 4-5 degrees of slop.any more than that performance starts to suffer.much more than that the chain is loose enough to slip a tooth or two.this usually happens when you turn off the engine.
  • anon70anon70 Member Posts: 82
    I have a '93 Sentra w/194k miles. I'm hearing pinging noises when i accerate now. Is that chain?

    or do i need to just goto a higher octane? Oh, the pinging gets worst when the oil light pops up, and decreases after i have an oil change. WHY?

  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    I got 135,000 on the nylon GM gears a couple of vehicles ago, and one very cold, snowy, Saturday night in the middle of bloody nowhere the chain finally skipped three gear teeth and stranded me.

    I still have the bald gear as a keepsake, reminding me every so often that you can be too dripping clever for your own good.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    bad sign indeed. if you get noise/changes in noise when an oil light comes on, it is time to get out the long green and spend some money, because you truly do NOT have oil pressure, and you are hearing damage slowly accumulating.

    you are way overdue for an oil pump and pickup screen, and the noise may mean your overhead cam is or is getting blasted.

    get thee to a reputable mechanic anon.
  • vidtechvidtech Member Posts: 212
    with 194k on that sentra it could be more than an oil pump.main and rod bearings get pretty loose after that kind of mileage.i bet the sound he is hearing is not detonation but bearing slap.
  • smrennasmrenna Member Posts: 6
    I have a 1991 Olds Ciera Cruise wagon with 3.3LV6 engine with 140000 miles. I love the car but concerned about reliability on 500 mile trips.
    I recently had complete tune up etc and the car is running great. I have replaced the water pump and belt, starter, alternator, catalytic converter and muffler, and radiator. I am the original owner. How many more reliable miles can I get on the car?. Would appreciate your opinion.
  • britton2britton2 Member Posts: 305
    I think you should keep it - it sounds like you are the type of person who maintains their car very well - I kept my '86 Honda for 14 1/2 years - it took care of me and I took care of it - however, your '91 car is probably lacking in some safety features as was my old Honda (like airbags) and therefore I would be a little concerned about that - tough decision - just weigh the pros and cons of getting rid of it and go with that - good luck
  • mdeymdey Member Posts: 90
    I once owned a 76 Mercury Capri with the 2.8L V6 and a 4-speed manual. Fun car to drive. The engine had one of those lovely sprockets with nylon teeth bonded to a steel wheel (a quieter design so I was told).

    One day that little nylon gear disintigrated (the car had 130,000 miles on it) and left me stranded. They had to pull the engine to fix it, so I sprung for a new water pump and oil pump while they had it apart. $500 to a college kid in 1983 was pretty painful, but the car was well maintained and I had no warning it was about to break.

    Sometimes cars just break without warning. I've owned lots of cars, most went well over 100,000 miles, and that is the only time I lost a timing chain/gear/belt. Don't waste money chasing down problems that don't exist, but don't wait to fix an apparent problem. And don't skimp on maintenance. Aside from that, accept that cars break sometimes, and if you drive them long enough it will happen to you.

    You could change that timing chain, and something else horrible can happen the next day. That same car of mine destroyed a pilot bearing just weeks later and took out the synchros for 1st and 2nd gears. I grew to hate that car.
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