Unlocking Subaru’s Timing Secrets: Unveiling the Truth about Timing Chains and Belts for Optimal Performance and Reliability


When it comes to the inner workings of a Subaru vehicle, few components are as important as the timing system. The efficiency and reliability of this system directly impact the vehicle’s performance and longevity. Subaru owners, potential buyers, and automobile enthusiasts often find themselves questioning whether their beloved Subaru vehicles come with a timing chain or a timing belt. In this article, we will dive deep into the realm of Subaru timing systems and shed light on the various considerations to help you make informed decisions regarding maintenance and ownership of these exceptional vehicles.

Timing Chains vs. Timing Belts: Understanding the Difference

Before we explore Subaru’s choice of timing system, it’s essential to understand the fundamental differences between timing chains and timing belts. Both components regulate the opening and closing of the engine’s valves, synchronizing the piston and camshaft movements for optimal engine performance.

  • Timing Chains: Made of heavy-duty metal links, timing chains are known for their durability and longevity. They are typically found in high-performance engines and are designed to last the lifetime of the engine. Their robust design ensures minimal maintenance requirements.

  • Timing Belts: Timing belts are made of rubber and fiber composite materials. While they are quieter and more affordable than timing chains, they require periodic replacement, typically between 60,000 to 100,000 miles, depending on manufacturer recommendations. Failure to replace a worn timing belt can lead to serious engine damage.

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Subaru’s Choice: Timing Chains or Timing Belts?

Subaru utilizes both timing chains and timing belts in their various models, depending on the specific engine design and associated requirements. Let’s take a closer look at Subaru’s approach:

Subaru Model Timing System Reasoning Behind the Choice
Outback Timing Chain Enhanced durability for rugged use
Forester Timing Belt Cost-effective maintenance and reduced noise levels
Impreza Timing Belt Smooth engine operation and fuel efficiency
WRX/STI Timing Chain High-performance demands and durability
Legacy Timing Belt Balance between cost-effectiveness and reliability
Crosstrek Timing Chain Optimal performance and longevity

Timing System Maintenance and Risks of Neglect

Maintaining the timing system is crucial to ensure the continued performance and longevity of your Subaru. Regular inspections and adherence to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule are essential. Here are a few key maintenance considerations:

  • Timing Chains: While timing chains require less frequent maintenance compared to timing belts, they still need periodic inspections for wear and proper tension. Timely replacement is critical if any issues are detected to prevent potential engine damage.

  • Timing Belts: Regular inspections and replacement at the recommended intervals are vital for timing belts. Neglecting this maintenance can lead to catastrophic engine failure, costly repairs, and inconvenience.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: How often should I replace the timing belt in my Subaru?
A: Subaru recommends replacing the timing belt on most of their models around every 105,000 miles or 8 years, whichever comes first. However, it is always best to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for accurate and model-specific information.

Q: Can I replace the timing belt myself?
A: Timing belt replacement is a complex procedure that requires specialized knowledge, tools, and expertise. It is highly recommended to consult a certified Subaru technician to ensure the job is done correctly.

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Making Informed Purchasing Decisions

If you are considering purchasing a Subaru or upgrading your current vehicle, it is essential to consider the timing system. Factors to keep in mind include:

  • Longevity: If long-term ownership is a priority, models with timing chains may be a preferred choice due to their enhanced durability.

  • Maintenance Cost: Models equipped with timing belts require periodic replacements, leading to additional maintenance costs. However, they often offer smoother engine operation and reduced noise levels.

  • Performance Needs: If you require high-performance capabilities, such as in the WRX/STI models, timing chains provide the necessary durability and reliability.


Subaru understands the importance of a reliable and efficient timing system in their vehicles. With a balanced approach that includes the use of both timing chains and timing belts, Subaru caters to a variety of needs and preferences. Whether you own a Subaru or plan to purchase one, understanding the intricacies of the timing system empowers you to make informed decisions regarding maintenance and ownership. Remember, regular maintenance and adherence to recommended intervals are key to optimizing the lifespan and performance of your Subaru’s timing system. Happy driving, and may your Subaru’s timing always be impeccable! 🚗💨

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Peter Banks

With years of experience as a professional mechanic and Subaru specialist, Peter is one of the most respected members of our team. He's written several articles on Subaru maintenance and repair, and his advice and tips are always practical and helpful. When he's not working on cars, he enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes.

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