Interference engine

An Interference engine is a type of internal combustion engine where in the event of a serious valve train failure, or a 180 degree timing error, could lead the valves and pistons to strike each other. The most common cause of this a broken timing belt, but a catastrophic timing chain failure can also bring about this situation.

Interference engine
Damage caused by timing belt failure.

For an engine to work properly, the actions of the pistons and valves must be precisely harmonized. This is accomplished in three ways. In racing engines, gears may connect the camshaft and crankshaft. In street engines, that task is accomplished by a timing chain or belt. When the chain or belt is installed, the camshaft and crank must be turned so that the number one cylinder is at Top Dead Center, or when it is at the maximum of its stroke. Generally, there are timing marks on the timing gears. or pulleys to aid in this, and the gears themselves are usually keyed to prevent misalignment.

If the belt or chain breaks, then this relationship is destroyed, and the valves and pistons move independently. In most automobile engines, this does no serious damage. The motor simply stops running until the belt/chain is replaced and the engine retimed. Even when the valves and pistons are at full extension, a small gap remains between them. This is called a non-interference engine. If the chain or belt breaks in an interference engine, the piston and valve will strike each other. The least this will do is bend the valve. The piston may also be damaged, and bits of metal may work loose in the engine. An engine rebuild is required, with engine replacement a possibility.

How to Avoid a Valve Piston Moment

Timing Chain failures are very rare. A timing chain is basically a short bicycle chain, often with doubled links. They are usually good for well over 100,000 miles. When they fail, it usually involves stretching. Timing chains generally provide a lot of warning before they fail, giving on average a year of driving.

Timing belts are different. They are really nothing more than a wide version of the serpentine belt that operates your car’s accessory drives, such as the power steering pump and alternator. They are cogged, to permit precise timing. Timing belts break with little or no warning. While belt life varies, most require replacement every 60,000 miles. 30,000 miles is recommended for Porsche owners. A vehicle’s service will contain information on whether the engine has a chain or a belt, and if a belt, its expected life. The manual will also tell you whether or not the engine is an interference design.

If the timing belt or chain is changed on a vehicle the tensioner must also be changed. If a timing chain is being changed, then the gears should be changed as well.

Interference engines with timing belts

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Make Year Engine size (L)
Acura Integra 86-89 1.6
Acura Integra 91-95 1.7
Acura Integra 90-95 1.8
Acura Legend 86-89 2.5
Acura Legend 91-95 3.2
Acura Legend 86-90 2.7
Acura Vigor 92-94 2.5
Acura NSX 91-95 2.0
Audi 77-93
Audi 70-73 1.9 1.8
BMW 325I 525I 87-95 2.5
BMW 740I 94-95 4.0
Chrysler Colt 93-95 1.5
Chrysler Colt 87-88 1.5
Chrysler Colt 87-88 1.6
Chrysler Eagle Summit 92-95 1.5
Chrysler Eagle Summit 89-92 1.6
Chrysler Neon Stratus 94-98 2.0
Chrysler Eagle Talon 90-95 2.0
Daihatsu Charade 88-92 1.0
Daihatsu Charade 88-92 1.3
Daihatsu Rocky 90-92 1.6
Fiat 128 Series 74-79 1.3
Fiat Stranda 79-82 1.5
Fiat 124 Series 74-78 1.6
Fiat 124 Series 74-78 1.8
Fiat 131 Series, Brava 74-78 1.8
Fiat Brava, Spider 79-82 2.0
Ford Escort EXP 81-85 1.6
Ford Lynx Topaz Diesel 84-87 2.0
Ford LN7 Lynx 81-83 1.6
Ford Escort Tempo 84-85 2.0
Ford Probe 89-92 2.2
Ford Probe 93-5 2.0
Ford Ranger 86-88 2.0
Ford Ranger 85 2.7
Ford Ranger 86-88 2.3
Ford Diesel Ranger 86-87 2.3
Ford Crown Victoria 91-98 4.6
GM Geo Metro 86-95 1.0
GM Firefly (Canada) 89-91 1.0
GM Sunburst (Canada) 85-88 1.5
GM Spectrum 85-89 1.5
GM Prizm, Storm 90-93 1.6
GM Diesel (Canada) 81-84 1.8
GM Buick Skyhawk 82-86 1.8
GM Buick Skyhawk 87-88 2.0
GM Buick 85-97 3.0
GM Saturn 90-98 1.9
GM Quad Four 88-95 2.3
GM 1979-95 3.8L Buick 79-95 3.8
Honda Prelude 86-87 1.0
Honda 73-78 1.2
Honda 73-78 1.3
Honda 80-84 1.3
Honda 73-78 1.5
Honda Civic 85-89 1.5
Honda Civic CRX 88-95 1.5
Honda Civic Del Sol 93-95 1.5
Honda 79-84 1.5
Honda CRX 85-87 1.5
Honda Civic Del Sol 93-95 1.6
Honda 73-78 1.6
Honda 80-82 1.6
Honda Civic CRX 88-95 1.6
Honda Prelude Accord 84-87 1.8
Honda 79-83 1.8
Honda Prelude 86-91 2.0
Honda Prelude 90-91 2.1
Honda Prelude Accord 90-95 2.2
Honda Prelude 92-95 2.2
Honda Accord 95 2.7
Hyundai Excel Scoupe 84-85 1.5
Hyundai Accent 95-98 1.5
Hyundai Elantra 92-95 1.6
Hyundai Elantra 93-95 1.8
Hyundai Sonata 92-95 2.0
Hyundai Sonata 89-91 2.4
Hyundai Sonata 90-95 3.0
Infiniti M30 90-92 3.0
Isuzu I-Mark 87-89 1.5
Isuzu Stylus Impulse 90-93 1.6
Isuzu Impulse 87-89 2.0
Isuzu Diesel Truck 81-87 2.2
Isuzu Truck Trooper 86-95 2.3
Isuzu Truck Rodeo Amigo 88-95 2.6
Isuzu Trooper Rodeo Amigo 91-96 3.2
Kia Sportage 95 2.0
Mazda 626 84-85 2.0
Mazda 626 MX6 88-92 2.2
Mazda Pickup 89-93 2.2
Mazda 929 MPV 88-95 3.0
Mitsubishi Mirage Precise 85-95 1.5
Mitsubishi Mirage 90-92 1.6
Mitsubishi Galant Eclipse 89-95 2.0
Mitsubishi Diesel Pickup 83-86 2.3
Mitsubishi Galant 94-95 2.4
Nissan Centra 82 1.5
Nissan Sentra Pulsar 83-88 1.6
Nissan Pulsar 87-89 1.8
Nissan Stanza 300ZX 82-89 2.0
Nissan Maxima 300ZX Pathfinder 84-95 3.0
Porsche 924 (excluding some NA versions) 76-83 2.0
Porsche 944 Series 76-89 2.5
Porsche 944 Series 89 2.7
Porsche 944 Series 89-91 3.0
Porsche 928 76-83 4.5
Porsche 928 84 4.7
Porsche 928 85-91 5.0
Porsche 928 92-95 5.4
Suzuki Samurai Sidekick 85-94 1.3
Suzuki Swift 89-94 1.3
Toyota Tercel 86-95 1.5
Toyota Pickup 81-83 2.2
Toyota Pickup 84-87 2.4
Toyota Celica Cressida 82-88 2.8
Toyota 4-Runner 87-94 3.0
Volkswagen 76-91 all except 1.9, 2.1
Volkswagen Golf (Canada) Jetta 90-92 1.6
Volkswagen GTI Jetta GLI Passat 90-95 2.0
Volvo Coupe 940 91 2.3
Volvo 240 740 940 86-94 2.3

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