Your engine is made up of literally thousands of parts. Some of them are static, just sitting there; like the valve cover. Other parts are always in motion, such as your piston rods. It is absolutely imperative that those moving parts not collide with each other. It's all about timing! If two parts are going to occupy the same space, they'd better not be in the same palce, at the same time.
Over the last 100 years, engineers have utilized a number of approaches to solving this problem, the majority of them involved gears (a handful of cars, like the VW Beetle, still use timing gears). In 1945, the earliest version of a timing chain was introduced. It was a big step forward, but it was not until the mid middle of the last century that the first American car (the Pontiac Tempest) was equipped with a timing chain. Timing chains and gears are made of metal and are generally considered to be more durable than rubber timing belts, but timing belts are cheaper to make, cheaper to install (because the are outside the engine itself), quieter and more efficient mechanically because of their lighter weight.
What does the timing gear/chain/belt actually do? It performs the same function as the traffic lights at an intersection, making sure that the moving parts don't slam into each other. When parts collide, the result is always very expensive.
Timing belts are usually accessable and easy to inspect visually. Timing chains and gears are inside the engine and can't be inspected at all without removing many other components (sometimes including the radiator and water-pump). Reduced engine power and poor economy, occasional back-fire, or a rattling noise from the front of the engine, could indicate failure is about to occur, but there may be absolutely no warning at all. For this reason, car makers often recommend replacement at specific mileage intervals (give us a call and we'll be glad to let you know when your car is due). When the timing belt or timing chain is due to be replaced, it's alomost always a very good idea to include replacement of the water pump in the process, because it will have to be removed anyway to access the chain or gear, and the only extra cost will be the parts.
Our technicians know how to identify problems in your timing belt, chain or gear and can pinpoint the issue, fix it and have you back on the road quickly and at a price that's kind to your wallet!
Golden State Transmission and Muffler 10792 Olson Dr., Rancho Cordova, California 95670 916.853.1788