Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain: How Do They Stack Up?

by Conner Mckay

Honda CRV is easily at the top of the most popular crossovers in the United States. In fact, it is extremely popular across the world. With a lot of eyes and hearts on the CRV, discussions about it are everywhere. One such discussion topic is on the Honda CRV timing belt or chain.

The talks on the Honda CRV timing belt or chain can be found almost on all automotive forums. As thousands and thousands of people are interested in buying this crossover, new or used, it is beneficial for all to tackle this debate.

What is better? Honda CRV timing belt or chain? Which one of these options comes with less maintenance? Which of them can last longer? What are the general advantages and disadvantages of the Honda CRV timing belt or chain? Let us take a shot at answering these questions and clear these doubts once and for all.

Honda CRV History

Honda CRV is no stranger, even for someone who is least interested in cars. Most of us must have seen one, sat in one, or driven one. The CRV is one of the oldest continuously running nameplates in the crossover segment and rightly so. The Honda CRV is known for its comfort, optimum size, and fuel efficiency. Honda’s reliability comes as a cherry on top of this crossover cake.

First Generation (1995-2001)

The Honda CRV’s inception was in 1995 when it launched in Japan. It reached the United States two years later, in 2007. The first generation was a monocoque little crossover, a form that the Honda CRV kept constant through its different generations, albeit with variations in size.

Walking into an SUV segment that was ruled by big burly creations, the CRV was a breath of fresh air for the urban dwellers. The crossover form brought the high driving position of an SUV and the nimble handling and compact size of a sedan together for a match made in heaven. Honda and the crossover segment never had to look back since then.

When we talk about the Honda CRV timing belt or chain, the first-gen is not always in the picture. Very few own and run one of these now, despite its bullet-proof reliability. So even if you are sifting through the classifieds for a used CRV, you may not find numerous first-gen models.

Yet, the first-gen model came with a 2.0-liter inline-four engine that churned out 126 hp and 180 Nm of torque. This engine chose between the Honda CRV timing belt or chain, in favor of a belt mechanism. A decision that was changed later. The first-gen CRV’s engine is similar to the 1.8-liter unit found in the Integra, but with a larger bore.

The first-gen CRV was facelifted in 1999, with cosmetic changes and a more powerful powerplant under the hood. The Honda CRV timing belt or chain debate still swung in favor of the belt though.

Second Generation (2001-2006)

This is where the Honda CRV timing belt or chain debate took a sharp turn. The immensely popular second-gen Honda CRV came up in 2001 with a larger 2.4-liter K24A1 engine, good enough for 160 hp and 190 Nm.

This improvement came when the world was increasingly worried about the fuel economy. The new engine adopted Honda’s i-VTEC technology for optimum fuel efficiency, and this worked.

The second-gen Honda CRV was quite popular among the press and the public. It won scores of accolades, including the Best Small SUV by Car and Driver magazine in 2002 and 2003.

The second-generation Honda CRV changed the Honda CRV timing belt or chain debate forever. The new K24A1 engine adopts a more durable timing chain instead of the belt. The answer to the question, Honda CRV timing belt or chain, remains timing chain to this day.

Third Generation (2007-2011)

This generation of the CRV is the one that pioneered the iconic shape of the CRV, including the sloping rear roof. The rear tailgate of the third-gen opened upwards instead of sidewards, and it loses the tailgate-mounted spare wheel as well. The 2.4-liter engine is an upgraded version with 166 hp. In some international markets, the CRV was also offered with a diesel engine.

The third-gen Honda CRV instantly became the most popular CRV yet. In the US, it dethroned the Ford Explorer as the best-selling SUV in the country, a position the Ford held with pride for fifteen years.

The popular CRV received a facelift in 2010 which also brought about changes in powertrain and equipment. The engine was uprated to 180 hp with this facelift. The fuel economy also saw a hike, now sitting at 21 mpg/28 mpg (for the two-wheel-drive versions) in the city and highway respectively.

Fourth Generation (2011-2015)

The fourth generation of the Honda CRV built on the design of the popular third-gen model but this time around, it had more than just a handful of competitors. The crossover market had heated up beyond imagination. The CRV was definitely a great offering and enjoyed decent sales, but it was not close to the glory that the third-gen model earned.

The 2.4-liter i-VTEC engine was again upgraded, at 185 hp. The all-wheel-drive system was all-new for this generation. This gen model was facelifted in 2015.

Fifth Generation (2016-Present)

The new generation of the Honda CRV debuted in 2016 with the underpinnings of the tenth-gen Civic under its skin. This time around, there are new engines under its hood. There is a base Earth Dreams 2.4-litre engine with 184 hp and a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine with 190 hp.

Till this date, the Honda CRV timing belt or chain debate remains in favor of the metallic option

What Is Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain?

For those who do not understand what a Honda CRV timing belt or chain is, let us have a little engineering lesson.

Crankshaft And Camshaft

As we must know, all engines have a crankshaft that translates the reciprocating motion of the cylinders to a rotating motion. This rotation motion is responsible for rotating the tires in the way we know them. The crankshaft generates the torque and transfers them onto the wheels via the transmission.

The crankshaft is not the only component that uses a rotating motion to perform its function inside an engine. There is yet another part, the camshaft. This sits above, in the cylinder head, in the case of Over Head Cam engines. It may be found close to the crankshaft in the case of regular push-rod engines.

The camshaft is responsible for opening and closing the valves of an engine. The size, placement, and rotational speed of the camshaft determine how wide they open and how long they remain open. These valve timings are extremely important as they directly affect the performance of the engine.

Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain

To perform its function properly, the camshaft needs to have a connection with the crankshaft. This connection keeps both the shafts in sync and ensures that there is no delay in the operation of the valves. If the timing is all proper, the valves will open or close at the right stroke of the engine.

If the timing is off, the entire performance of the engine goes for a toss. You will experience a myriad of issues. And if you have an interference engine and this connection fails, boom, the pistons can crash into the valves. This will end up eating into your wallet, and your savings.

The importance of this connection between the crankshaft and camshaft is quite evident.

Timing Chain And Belt

Timing chains or belts are the main methods used for creating this connection between the shafts. The belt or chain is looped over gears at the ends of the crankshaft and camshaft, keeping them coordinated. For instance, this ensures that when the crankshaft pulls down the cylinder to suck up the air in the intake stroke, the camshaft opens the intake valve. The crankshaft and camshaft position sensors sense the timings on both shafts.

The timing chain is a metallic chain that is employed by many manufacturers. Being a metallic unit, it does not require regular replacement hence can go longer than timing belts. More than 200,000 miles in most cases.

The timing belt, on the other hand, needs regular replacement. Fret not, it does not occur in every 10,000 miles or so. Belts can last way longer than that, up to 60,000 or 100,000 miles. In fact, you may not have to change the belt all along the time you own that vehicle. But as a rubber part, age can have its effect on it. So, if you are looking for an old Honda CRV, the timing belt may need a check.

Why A Timing Belt?

But if the timing belt needs replacement and the timing chain can last longer than it, why would someone choose a timing belt? The timing chain gets bad marks in two different departments. Cost and smooth operation.

The timing belt is a long-lasting, metallic component baked into the engine design, will cost more to manufacture. Hence, the costs are passed on to the customer. So, in low-cost models, manufacturers generally pick the timing belt.

The timing chain can also be quite noisy in operation. Modern engines have taken care of this to a respectable extent, yet it is nowhere near the timing belts. The rubber construction of the timing belts provides a way smoother operation than the metallic chains.

Which Generation Gets Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain?

Through its five different generations, the Honda CRV timing belt or chain choice has swung either way. When the first-gen model was up for the Honda CRV timing belt or chain decision, the boffins at Honda went for the belt.

The first gen’s smaller 2.0-liter engine used a timing belt, like the one on the Integra. This was to provide smoother operation and better refinement. But this was to change.

Engine types configurations layout specifications

From the second generation, Honda CRV adopted a larger, new 2.4-liter engine. Went the older mill went out, so did the timing belt. The new engine replaced it with a timing chain.

The timing chain improved the durability of the unit. Maintenance came way down from the timing belt era. Modern technologies in the engine served well to keep the mill refined. This refinement only got better as time progressed and generations passed by.

General Maintenance On Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain

As you may have already understood, the timing chain mostly does not require much regular maintenance. The timing belt, on the other hand, needs replacement after you rack some miles.

If your car has done more than 60,000 miles, a timing belt change is what you must do. Especially, if you have an interference engine, you risk losing your pistons and valves, if your timing belt snaps.

Changing the timing belt is a labor-intensive process as it requires the removal of many components, just to reach it. The replacement of the timing belt requires experts as messing up the timing even a little bit can end up giving you a lot more headaches than you want. So, this is not a DIY repair for a newbie.

Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain

The timing belt should also be replaced if your vehicle is old. It does not matter that it only has 30,000 miles on the clock. The timing belt constantly bears the heat of the engine and the rubber can deteriorate over time. So, if you have an older vehicle, do not wait for it to reach 60,000 to 70,000 miles to change the belt.

The timing chain, on the other hand, needs no replacement. It is built to last the life of the car. If you regularly change the engine oil and filter, the timing chain should be all good. If you do want to drive your vehicle for even longer, you may have to replace the chain.

Replacing the chain is an even more laborious process than a timing belt replacement or to consider replacing the timing belt. Expect it to cost a lot more as well.

Reasons For Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain To Fail

Manufacturers make timing belts made with a certain life in mind. So are the chains, albeit longer than its rubber-made sibling. But some bad practices can reduce the life of these components and make them fail even before their regular failure point.

1. Misalignment Of The Belt

This is mostly an issue found in the cars which gets their timing belt replaced. If the replacement is improper, the belt can be misaligned. It can also be caused by uneven tooth wear or loss of tension. It is recommended to check and align your shafts and pulleys to keep the belt going well for more.

2. Excessive Load

Any component inside a car is made with its envelope of performance. If the load on that component goes beyond the accepted value, it can fail. The same applies to the timing belt as well. Shock loads or loads more than their accepted value can cause excessive tooth wear. It can also lead to misalignment of the shafts and pulleys.

3. Under-Tensioned Belt

The timing belt is designed to work at a certain tension. If the tension goes less than that, ratcheting can happen. This happens when the belt skips a tooth. No need to mention, this can cause additional tooth wear. Keep that tension in the optimum value using a tension gauge.

Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain

4. Damaged Pulleys

Of course, when the belt snakes around a pulley all the time, any damage on the pulley can end up damaging it. If the pulley surface has any dents or gouges, it can eat into the rubber material of the belt over time. Whenever you are changing your timing belt, inspect the pulleys as well. Though there is no need to replace them as occasionally as you would do with the timing belt. But, if it looks damaged in any way, replace it as a favor for the new timing belt.

5. Debris Damage

Debris on the pulleys and the belt can be quite abrasive. This is not the right environment for the belt to function in. This can eat into the rubber material. It is not just dirt that can be detrimental to the belt. Oil and grease can damage the material of the belt. When you are replacing the belt, use a brush to clean the rust and dirt on the pulleys. This can smoothen the operation of the belt. Remember to wipe off any oil or grease on the pulleys before you fit the new belt in.

The timing chain though does not require any maintenance as such. But if your timing chain-equipped engine is making cluttering noises after some years of running, it would not hurt to have a look at the health of the chain.

How To Know If The Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain Has Failed?

Here are a few things you can look out for to detect any problem with your Honda CRV timing belt or chain.

1. Engine Misfire

This happens when the timing belt wears out and slips off the pulleys at the end of the shafts. This can completely mess up the timing of the engine. This means that the engine may end up injecting fuel when the piston is in the exhaust stroke, or the spark plugs may try to ignite the mixture when they should not. This can cause the engine to misfire.

2. Rough Idling

Other symptoms that come along with thrown-off timing apply to a wonky timing belt as well. As the primary effect of a worn-out timing belt is bad timing of injection and ignition, rough idling comes as a given.

3. Unusual Noises

If your Honda CRV timing belt or chain is nearing its end of life, it is going to make unusual noises. These noises are quite easy to understand though. If you hear a high-pitched screech from your engine that goes up in frequency when accelerating, your timing belt has probably gone wrong.

If your vehicle has a timing chain, it can also make noises if it’s at the end of its life. This sound may differ from the timing belt though. You may notice metal clinking or a grinding noise if your chain is about to give up.

Cost Of Replacing Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain

The cost of replacement of the Honda CRV timing belt or chain depends on a bunch of factors. The first of which is the year your CRV is built in. If you own one of the first-generation CRVs, your replacement may not cost much as it has a timing belt.

But in the later CRVs, the timing chain may make it more expensive as well labor-intensive to replace. Fortunately, this does not happen often. In fact, if you ask which is the most durable of the Honda CRV timing belt or chain, you will find that the chain will outlast the car most times. So, this may not be worthy of being your top concern.

Engine Maintenance

But if you do have a timing belt and you want to replace that, it can cost you around $390 to $570, depending upon the manufacturer of the belt, the area you live in, and the garage you take the vehicle to.

The cost includes labor as the belt itself does not cost a lot. It needs a lot of effort to replace the belt, hence the large labor cost. But make use of this opportunity and replace other parts like the water pump, pulleys, tensioners, etc if you find them faulty.

The price can also go up if you find your pulleys damaged and want to replace that too. It can rise even further if you choose to replace other parts. But you do not open the vehicle’s engine bay like this that often. So, this is the best time to shell some dime out and make those replacements. You will not regret it.

Honda CRV Timing Belt Or Chain: A Pain?

Not really. The Honda CRV is a reliable car and just like the rest of the vehicle, the Honda CRV timing belt or chain is not very troublesome. If you keep up with the regular maintenance, the Honda CRV timing belt or chain will not give you any trouble.

Facts about Honda CRV Timing Belt and Chain

  1. Honda CRV models are equipped with timing chains, which last longer than timing belts.
  2. The 2002-2004 Honda CRV models came with a rubber belt tensioner, but it can be replaced with a metal one for better durability.
  3. Timing belts are typically found in older engines and need to be changed every 60,000-80,000 km, while timing chains don’t require regular replacement.
  4. Timing chains can stretch over time, causing problems with engine timing, but they won’t harm the valves or pistons.
  5. Maintaining a timing chain involves occasional checks, and replacing the timing chain tensioner can prevent damage to engine valves and pistons.
  6. The cost of Honda CRV timing chain replacement varies depending on location, but it typically costs around $500 or more.
  7. Replacing a timing chain on a Honda CRV is not recommended for inexperienced mechanics or car owners, and it takes at least 3 hours to complete.
  8. A broken timing chain can damage the engine’s valves and pistons and cost thousands of dollars to repair.
  9. Symptoms of a stretched or broken timing chain include clicking noises, smoke from the exhaust, and difficulty starting the car.
  10. Honda CRVs were made with both timing belts and chains until 2004, after which they switched to using chains only.

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