Everything You Need to Know About Subaru Boxer Engines and Their Timing Belts/Chains: Replacement Costs and Alternatives

Subaru vehicles are renowned for their durability, performance, and sleek design, and part of what makes them unique is their engine design. Subaru uses boxer engines in their vehicles, which offer several advantages over other engine types. One question that often comes up among Subaru owners and enthusiasts is whether Subaru boxer engines use a timing belt or chain. In this article, we’ll answer that question and provide other information related to Subaru engine maintenance.

What is a Timing Belt/Chain and Why is it Important in a Car Engine?

A timing belt or chain helps synchronize the rotation of the engine’s crankshaft and camshaft. In a four-stroke engine cycle, the valves must open and close at the right time to allow air and fuel into the engine and exhaust gases out. The camshaft operates the valves, while the crankshaft controls the pistons’ movement.

The belt or chain ensures that the opening and closing of the valves occur at precisely the right moment. Over time, the belt or chain can wear out or break, causing engine damage and potentially leaving you stranded. Therefore, it’s essential to replace the timing belt or chain regularly to keep your engine running smoothly.

A Brief Overview of Subaru Boxer Engines

Subaru boxer engines, also known as flat engines, have a unique layout that differentiates them from most traditional engines. Instead of the cylinders being arranged in a straight line or "V" shape, the cylinders in boxer engines lie flat, facing each other.

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This design provides several advantages, such as a lower center of gravity, improved handling, and reduced vibration. Additionally, Subaru engines typically have an exceptional reputation for reliability and performance, making them a popular choice for car enthusiasts.

Subaru Boxer Engines: Do They Use a Timing Belt or Chain?

Subaru boxer engines come with either a timing belt or a timing chain, depending on the specific model and year. Typically, newer models (2013 and later) are equipped with a timing chain, while older models use a timing belt.

Timing belts require replacement every 80,000 to 100,000 miles, while timing chains typically last for the life of the engine. In contrast, timing belts are more susceptible to damage, which can result in costly engine repairs if not replaced on schedule.

Therefore, if you own an older Subaru model with a timing belt, it’s crucial to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacing the belt and have it serviced accordingly.

How Often Should You Replace the Timing Belt/Chain in Subaru Vehicles?

Subaru recommends replacing the timing belt in most of its models every 105,000 miles or every ten years, whichever comes first. Due to the critical role the timing belt plays in the engine’s operation, it’s essential to follow this schedule to prevent costly engine damage.

As mentioned earlier, newer models with a timing chain don’t require replacement at regular intervals. However, it’s still crucial to have your engine serviced at recommended intervals to keep it running smoothly.

Replacement Costs and Alternatives

The cost of replacing a timing belt or chain can vary depending on the car model and where you live. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1,000 for timing belt replacement. Timing chain replacement can be more expensive due to the labor costs involved, and depending on the model, it can cost around $1,500.

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If you’re looking for a cost-effective alternative to a timing belt or chain, an option to consider is a timing belt kit. These kits include all the necessary components to replace the timing belt, such as tensioner, idler, and water pump.

Another alternative is to upgrade to a high-performance timing belt or chain, which can offer improved durability and performance. However, these upgrades can cost considerably more than standard replacements.


Q: Can I replace my timing belt/chain myself?

A: Replacing a timing belt or chain requires technical knowledge and specialized tools. Therefore, it’s recommended to have a professional mechanic perform this task to ensure it’s done correctly.

Q: What happens if I don’t replace my timing belt/chain?

A: If you don’t replace your timing belt or chain, it can break or slip, causing severe engine damage. Repair costs for such damage can quickly accumulate into the thousands of dollars.

Q: What are the signs of a failing timing belt/chain?

A: Signs of a failing timing belt/chain include engine misfires, a ticking noise from the engine, difficulty starting the car, and reduced engine power.


Subaru boxer engines are a marvel of engineering, and knowing whether they use a timing belt or chain is essential for proper engine maintenance. While older models use a timing belt, newer models typically come equipped with a timing chain. Regardless of the type of timing system your engine uses, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule to keep your engine running smoothly and avoid costly repairs.

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Billy Covington

With a passion for all things automotive, Billy is our go-to expert on Subaru performance upgrades and modifications. He's been featured in several car magazines and blogs, and his extensive knowledge and expertise make him a valuable member of our team. When he's not working on cars, he enjoys playing guitar and writing music.

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