Subaru Timing Chain vs Timing Belt: Which is Better for Your Car?

As a car enthusiast or someone who is in the market for a Subaru, you might be curious about the timing chain or timing belt in the Subaru models. In this article, we will explore the difference between the two, the history of Subaru models that used timing belts, when they switched to timing chains, and the pros and cons of each type.

Understanding Timing Chain and Timing Belt

The timing chain and timing belt are two important components of your engine’s internal system. They help keep the movement of the engine in sync. Their differences lie in the materials used, location, and strength.

A timing chain is a metal chain that connects the crankshaft to the camshaft. They are strong, durable, and can last for the life of the engine. Timing chains typically require less maintenance and do not need to be replaced as often as timing belts.

On the other hand, a timing belt is made of rubber and is located outside the engine. They connect the same components as a timing chain but are more prone to wearing out over time. Most car manufacturers recommend replacing timing belts every 60,000 to 100,000 miles.

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Subaru Timing Belt History

Before 2011, Subaru models used timing belts. Some models, such as the Legacy, Outback, and Impreza, used timing belts for over a decade until they were eventually switched to timing chains.

The switch from timing belts to timing chains was a huge improvement in terms of engine reliability and maintenance. The change benefited the consumers in terms of saving money and time from costly repairs and tuning.

The Pros of Timing Chains

As mentioned earlier, timing chains are durable and can last for the life of the engine. It requires less maintenance and does not need to be replaced as often as timing belts. Timing chains generally tend to last longer and can sustain harsh driving conditions without deteriorating.

The Cons of Timing Chains

While timing chains are deemed to have superior qualities, there are also some disadvantages to consider. One of them is that they can make noise, typically as the car ages. This noise can act as an alert for maintenance checks that are required to ensure the chain is still functioning efficiently.

The Pros of Timing Belts

The primary advantage of timing belts is that they are less noisy compared to timing chains. The material is softer and quieter than the metallic chains that produce hard sounds while running. Additionally, timing belts are lighter than timing chains, and contribute to the car’s energy efficiency.

The Cons of Timing Belts

Like all car components, timing belts have lifetimes. When they wear out or lose their elasticity, they break and cause engine damage. Timing belts are more prone to breaking than timing chains. It also needs to be replaced every 60,000-100,000 miles or every 6 years, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations, which can be costly.

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Subaru’s Current Timing Chain Models

Subaru cars are now equipped with timing chains. All new models have a timing chain system that is more durable, long-lasting, and requires minimal maintenance compared to timing belts.


The switch from timing belts to timing chains was an essential improvement for Subaru models. Timing chains are more reliable, durable, and require less maintenance compared to their belt counterparts. While timing belts have their own advantages, the relatively short lifetime and frequency of maintenance required make timing chains the better choice.

When it comes to Subaru models, the timing chains are more favorable due to their improved reliability and longevity. This switch has eliminated a significant source of problems and contributed to an overall better Subaru experience.


Do I need to replace my Subaru timing chain?

No, timing chains typically last for the life of the engine and do not require replacement. However, regular maintenance checks are still needed to ensure that the chains are still functioning efficiently.

What is the recommended lifespan for timing belts?

Timing belts are recommended to be replaced every 60,000-100,000 miles or every 6 years, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations.

How do I know if my timing chain needs maintenance?

Timing chains can make noises as the car ages, similar to clattering or rattling sounds. It is necessary to have it checked when you hear strange sounds from the engine. This can also alert you of any necessary maintenance checks.

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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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