How Does a Defective Timing Chain Affect Your Volkswagen’s Performance?

12 Jun, 18

Volkswagens are known for issues with their timing chains; the well-documented premature wear of the timing chain tensioner can cause the timing chain to loosen, snap, and cause serious engine performance problems.

What Does a Timing Chain Do for Your Volkswagen?

A timing chain or timing belt is an integral part of internal combustion engines, including that of Volkswagen cars. In VWs, the timing chain resides toward the front portion of the engine. It adheres to several different pulleys and gears and rotates smoothly around them. If you think of a bike chain, it’s not all that different. The various different linkages on the chain lock into place with the connections on the camshaft and crankshaft, which controls the cylinder head valves, pistons, and rods in the combustion process. Ultimately, the timing chain generates enough power to smoothly control ignition processes. Just like a bike chain, your VW’s timing chain will wear over time. Think of a gold chain—the metal is malleable, especially when consistently exposed to hot conditions, and will stretch to the point of eventually snapping. If your jewelry chain snaps, you might lose an expensive charm; if the timing chain snaps, your engine can undergo severe damages that often lead to total failure.

The Defective Timing Chain in Volkswagens

While all timing chains eventually wear over time and must be replaced, Volkswagen timing chain defects are a known issue in the automotive community. Older models of VWs especially experience premature timing chain failure, and the problem is usually related to a failed chain tensioner. The timing chain tensioner is what keeps the chain tightly wound to the pulleys and gears, and has notoriously failed in many Volkswagen cars—it has even led to multiple class action lawsuits over the years. If the timing chain loosens, it can lead to the following issues:

  • A rattling noise coming from the engine
  • Check-engine light illumination
  • Starting problems
  • Engine going into limp mode
  • Engine failure

As you can see, the issue is a serious one. Timing chain maintenance has to be stepped up to keep this issue from occurring in your own VW, and anticipate a replacement well before the recommended interval in your owner’s manual recommendations.

How Timing Chain Defects Affect Your Volkswagen’s Performance

We know that the results of a failed timing chain can be devastating and severe. But there are often symptoms that your car exhibits once a chain becomes slightly loosened that you should follow up with immediately.

Misfiring Engine

A misfiring engine can be an indication of another issue related to engine functioning, not necessarily a failing timing chain. However, if the timing chain loosens, it majorly throws off the timing of the engine’s valves and piston function, which seriously interrupts the combustion process. If you experience a misfiring engine, a differential diagnosis is certainly in order sooner rather than later.

Contaminated Engine Oil

Engine oil can be contaminated with a number of different things, but if the issue is related to a failing timing chain, then your automotive technician will likely notice shavings of metal in your VW’s oil. This is never a good sign, as it indicates that engine components are undergoing friction and breaking off in pieces and entering your oil. Contaminated engine oil can cause serious engine damage and part failure, so it’s important to consult your VW specialist on how to adequately correct the issue.

How to Prevent Timing Chain Failure

You don’t want to wait until your timing chain fails to address this problem—it’s best to act preventively to ensure that your timing chain doesn’t snap or break, causing serious engine damages that are often irreparable. Here are three things you can do to prevent timing chain failure in your VW:

Perform Ongoing Inspections

The best way to prevent timing chain failure is to have a Volkswagen specialist perform routine, ongoing inspections of the timing chain and the immediately affected systems and parts. Especially since Volkswagens are prone to premature timing chain tensioner wear, your automotive specialist should be sure to keep an eye on the quality of the tensioner itself.

Routine Oil Changes

As we mentioned before, one sign of significant timing chain wear is engine oil that is visibly contaminated with metal shavings.

Follow Up On Concerning Symptoms

If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms of timing chain wear in your own Volkswagen, it is critical to follow up with a VW specialist right away. The longer these problems go unaddressed, the more likely they become irreparable. You’ll wind up saving yourself money and stress in the end.

How Santa Barbara Autowerks Can Help You

If you’ve noticed any of the signs of timing chain wear in your car, the Volkswagen experts here at Santa Barbara Autowerks in Santa Barbara, CA, can properly diagnose and treat the problem the first time around. Since fixing this particular problem in a timely manner is critical (no pun intended), our VW techs put their skill and expertise to good use. Please schedule an appointment right away to avoid further damage to your engine.

* Volkswagen Cars image credit goes to: jetcityimage.

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