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"Can a vehicle’s timing chain wear or stretch affect the recommended oil change interval?"
The timing chain is made up of a series of links inside the motor which work in conjunction with a group of gears and pulleys to deliver power to components, such as the camshaft and crankshaft. It is imperative for the timing chain to function properly, as wear of this component can result in unusual noise, poor performance, misfires, oil leaks and even damage to adjacent mechanisms.
Over time, after mileage increases on the vehicle’s engine, the timing chain eventually will start to wear. This may cause some looseness to develop in the pivots, rollers and pins of the chain linkage, affecting the chain’s pitch. This looseness often is viewed as chain “stretch” but should be defined as elongation or wear of the timing chain system.
Several factors can lead to an abbreviated life of the timing chain, with the majority related to lubrication. These would include extending the vehicle’s oil change frequency beyond the acceptable service life of the lubricant.
Engine oils with depleted additive levels are another issue to consider. As additives begin to diminish and oxidation starts to strip the integrity of the base oil, the lubricant may soon lack essential properties. Oils with poor-quality characteristics can break down easily and become ineffective, resulting in reduced lubrication, tar-like sludge and gummed surfaces.
An incorrect viscosity generally is the most common issue when it comes to selecting the right oil. Viscosity errors can play a significant role in wear development and energy losses.
Of course, it is one thing to select the right oil and another to ensure that it stays clean and dry. Using a quality oil filter with a high-capture efficiency is just as important as choosing the correct oil. Utilizing cheap filters and not changing them out over time can lead to an increase in particle ingression and a greater risk of wear.
In addition, failure to maintain the correct oil level in your engine can eventually cause excessive wear due to the components not being adequately lubricated.
If your vehicle has been subjected to one or more of these factors and chain wear symptoms have begun to occur, you should investigate the root cause and replace components as necessary to minimize the potential for larger problems down the road.