Unlocking the Secrets of Engine Timing in a 1998 Subaru: A Comprehensive Guide

If you own or are interested in purchasing a 1998 Subaru, it’s important to understand how the engine timing works and how it affects the overall performance of your car. Engine timing refers to the precise synchronization of the engine’s operation, which determines how efficiently fuel is burned and how much power the engine produces. In this article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at engine timing in a 1998 Subaru and how to maintain optimal performance.

What is engine timing?

In short, engine timing refers to the process of opening and closing the intake and exhaust valves and firing the spark plugs in the engine in a precise sequence. This sequence determines the power output, fuel efficiency and overall smoothness of operation of the engine. A proper engine timing must be maintained in order to ensure optimal performance and efficiency of the engine.

Different types of engine timing

There are two types of engine timing: the camshaft timing and ignition timing.

Camshaft timing

Camshaft timing refers to the regulation of the opening and closing of intake and exhaust valves through the use of a camshaft. Engine camshaft timing is classified into two types: variable timing and fixed timing.

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Variable Camshaft Timing

In subaru cars, some versions come with Dual AVCS technology which allows infinite control of the camshaft timing, and as a result, the valves’ opening and closing occur precisely when they’re required. This system is designed to constantly adjust the camshaft timing depending on the car’s speed, fuel consumption and other operating factors.

Fixed Camshaft Timing

In fixed camshaft timing, the valve-actuating mechanism is fixed in place, and the timing cannot be adjusted.

Ignition timing

Ignition timing refers to the timing of the spark in the combustion chamber relative to the position of the piston. It is the timing of firing the spark plugs in the engine that ignites the fuel. This sequence is regulated with the help of the car’s computer system, which constantly adjusts the timing to achieve optimal performance.

Components that control engine timing in a 1998 Subaru

Several components control the engine timing in a 1998 Subaru. These components include:

Timing Belt

The timing belt is a fundamental part of any car’s engine. It works together with the camshaft to regulate the opening and closing timing for the valves. The timing belt should be regularly maintained, inspected and replaced to keep the engine running smoothly. Typically, the timing belt in a 1998 Subaru should be replaced every 105,000 miles or 8 years – whichever comes first.


The crankshaft is a mechanism that converts linear motion into rotational motion, regulating the power output of the engine.


The camshaft regulates the opening and closing timing for the valves, which is a crucial part of engine timing.

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The timing belt tensioner ensures the timing belt doesn’t become too loose or too tight, which can cause the timing to be off.

Idler Pulleys

The timing belt idler pulleys support and guide the timing belt, ensuring it doesn’t ‘jump’ and cause catastrophic engine damage.

Common issues that can arise with engine timing

There are a few common issues that can arise with engine timing.

Misaligned timing

Misaligned timing can be caused by a malfunction in the camshaft, timing belt, or other components. This can sometimes result in rough or uneven engine operation.

Timing belt failure

Timing belt failure can be caused by age, mileage, or from being exposed to heat. A failed timing belt can cause significant damage to the engine and can even be the cause of engine failure.

Lack of maintenance

A lack of maintenance or regular inspection can contribute to timing-related issues. Routine inspection and replacement of timing components can aid in preventing unexpected problems and drastically reduce long-term maintenance costs.


1. How do I know if my engine timing is off?

If you’re experiencing rough engine operation, loss of power or acceleration, or unusual loud engine noises, your engine timing may be off. These symptoms may also indicate other issues, so it’s best to consult with a mechanic if you’re unsure.

2. How often should I maintain my engine timing?

Maintaining engine timing is recommended according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Generally, timing should be inspected for wear every 60,000 miles and adjusted regularly as required.

3. What should I do if my timing belt has failed?

If your timing belt has failed, it is important to have your car towed to a mechanic immediately. Continued engine operation with a failed timing belt can cause significant and irreversible damage to your engine.

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In conclusion, engine timing is crucial to the performance of your 1998 Subaru. Regular maintenance, inspection and replacement of timing components are essential to keep your engine running smoothly and prevent catastrophic engine damage. By understanding engine timing and how to maintain it, you can ensure optimal performance and fuel efficiency for your car while also extending its lifespan.

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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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