Facts About Changing the Timing Chain on a Chevy Malibu

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Changing the Timing Chain on a Chevy Malibu. Some tips and hints

About a month before Christmas the engine on my Chevy Malibu classic started to rattle rather more than usual when it was running. At first my husband thought maybe it was the lifters (or tappits as my husband calls them). Any way, a friend, who is a mechanic came and had a look and listen and said, 'no its your timing chain'! He then added it was a workshop job and would cost somewhere in the region of $900 and take about 10 hours!

With second thoughts it was more likely to be the timing chain guide, as the engine would actually run, it just rattled more than usual. As funds were short my husband decided he would do the work required. First things first, we purchased a copy of a Haynes Manual for our model car. My husband decided that he was going to do the work but would require the following before proceeding:-

  • An enclosed work space
  • A Haynes Manual
  • A set of good axle stands or ramps
  • A set of good METRIC wrenches and sockets
  • Enough oil to refill the engine.
  • Good Lighting
  • Any spare parts that may be required, i.e new timing chain and guides.
  • Somewhere to dispose of the waste oil from your engine as you will be draining it all.
  • Plenty of clean rag, a good sense of humor and lots of patience 

We called around for the best deal on the chain and managed to track down one for just over forty bucks. We were offered all sorts of different kits for this job ranging in price from 150 too 300 dollars, but these contained ALL of the guides etc that would be required, not really needed unless you are doing a complete over haul of the timing chain. You might also require two new sprocket bolts for the camshafts.

Before starting work, as well as making sure you have all the tools and equipment you need its also a good idea to let someone know where you are and what your doing. You are working underneath over a ton of metal and axle stands etc have been known to fail. So safety first, make sure everything you need is in good working order and that you are in a safe clean environment. It might also be advisable to have a pack of band-aids handy as working in ,around and underneath vehicles generally entails lots of banged heads and skinned knuckles.

If you are attempting this sort of work for the first time it is also advisable to have someone on hand who can lend a hand so to speak, there's almost always a case of something needing to be held in place while this bolt is tightened.

I'm not going to go into step by step instructions on how to actually change the timing belt, thats what the Haynes Manual is for, but I will say this. FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS IN THE MANUAL TO THE LETTER. These books are developed by qualified mechanics that disassemble the vehicle, and then re-assemble it. they take note of everything and then publish it in easy to follow instructions in the manual. My husband swears that the manual is the most important 'tool' for the car that he has. One tip he did give though that the manual didn't was this.

The access plug for the FIXED TIMING guide bolt is a 10mm hex plug and is a cast iron B*******d to remove, so be patient and be prepared to skin your knuckles (remember the pack of band-aids), as its also in an awkward place to get too! A lot of the nuts and bolts are actually in quite confined places so do be prepared to spend some time fiddling about trying to remove or replace items rather than as it says in the manual 'remove bolt A from hole B', its not quite that straight-forward.

Anyway, once my husband had taken apart everything that needed to be taken apart he discovered the actual cause of the rattle. The timing chain itself was in perfect working order, but the plastic coating on the top guide had broken and was rattling around. Problem solved, a replacement guide came in at just over 8 bucks.

In total the cost of our timing chain came in as follows:-

  • Haynes Manual $22
  • New Chain $43
  • New Guide $8.43
  • 10mm Hex Key $4.95

The total came to something under $97, as opposed to a mechanics bill for labour alone of $600 or more. Oh, and it took my husband 10 hours, that included a break of about 11/2 hours for lunch and running to get oil and a hex key.


Tanya Wallace
Posted on May 26, 2010
Alistair Briggs
Posted on May 26, 2010
Sharla Smith
Posted on May 25, 2010