Cambelts versus Camchains. What is the difference?

AutoTrader NZ
Published 4 August 2021

Is it Cambelt or Camchain driven? We have all heard this question during the sale/purchase of a car, but what does this really mean and how will it affect the maintenance costs of the vehicle?


A Cambelt is a vital part of the engine that keeps the rotation of the crankshaft and the camshaft in time so that the engine valves open and close properly. The cambelt is usually made from a sturdy composite like polyurethane/rubber with ridges, but they do need to be replaced over the vehicle’s lifetime. 

There is no set rule of when a cambelt will need to be changed, it will depend on the vehicle, how often it is driven and how it is driven. Manufacturers will usually recommend that you replace the cambelt after a certain number of years or kms driven (typically between 80,000kms & 100,000kms) and this will usually amount to a few times over a vehicle’s lifetime. You will be able to find this information in the vehicle’s handbook. Some signs to look out for if you suspect your Cambelt may need replacing are cracks in the belt developing, noises coming from the engine or being unable to start the vehicle. In the event that the cambelt breaks, it can be a very costly repair so it is best to err on the side of caution and replace it within the manufacturers given guidelines. 



Quickly becoming the more desirable option, Camchains do the same job as a Cambelt but they are made out of a metal chain. A Camchain will last a lot longer as they are designed to require less maintenance. However, they do emit more noise from the engine than a cambelt and although they don’t tend to break, they can stretch out over time. Some signs that the Camchain has stretched out are a rattling noise coming from the engine, or an engine that is slow or hard to start. While it is far less likely that a Camchain will need replacing, if it does happen a Camchain will be quite a lot more costly to replace than a Cambelt. 

Both Cambelts and Camchains do the same job, but the Camchain has become more desirable for consumers due to the lower regular maintenance costs. When purchasing a vehicle it is a good idea to ask whether the vehicle is Cambelt or Camchain driven and when it was last serviced. Whichever option you decide on, it’s important to look out for any signs that they need replacing, and as a vital part of the engine be prepared for any maintenance costs that come along with each option.