96 3.1L Beretta timing chain replacement?

First, some background. The only timing chain experience I have is when I changed one on my old, beat up 73 Catalina with a 350. And I thought that was hard back in 1984! Looks like that's a walk in the
park compared to this Beretta!!
I just looked at the engine compartment of my 1996 3.1L Beretta, 130k miles, and I can't imagine how you could possibly change the timing chain without pulling the engine!! Can anyone give me a brief description or link if it's not too much to ask?
Also, is the water pump still in from of the timing chain cover like it was on the old V8?
The pump is original so I'm guessing it should be replaced when replacing the timing chain and gears regardless of the pump's location. Opinions?
Is this best done at the dealership or can a good indy shop do this? I went to a good indy near me when my head gaskets blew at 70k miles, and that seems to have worked out well. No more issues since then, and he charged me $800, which I thought was quite fair.
And one last thing. Any rough estimates what this is gonna cost me? Ideally if you guys could provide both dealer and indy estimates, that would be great.
Many, many thanks!!
Rick
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At 130 k, unless you already have some problem why are you planning to replace the chain, this is not normally a problem area in this engine.

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wrote:

The only reason is because it's an interference engine. I just read a post in here or the pontiac group about a 3.1's chain going at just under 100k miles.
My thinking is better safe than sorry. Then again, I don't know what the cost of the valve damage would add to the chain replacement cost.
At what mileage would you recommend it be changed? Or would you just let it snap and then repair the valve damage as well? Also, couldn't the pistons' surfaces perhaps suffer from slamming into the valves?
Keep in mind, I am NOT a mechanic!
Thanks!
Rick

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I'll give you a little working Experience.
I've got a 90 Oldsmobile with a 3.1 in it. Over 220k miles on it. (The odometer broke 5 years ago, at 200,000). It has the original timing chain. I just sold my 94 Pontiac Grand Prix with a 3.1 in it. I sold it with 160k miles on it. It had the original timing chain.
If it isn't broken, doesn't mess with it. Unless something funky, and I do mean really funky happens, those chains last for freaking ever. If you are worried, take it down to a shop you trust, and have em listen to the chain.
If it was me, unless you could hear the chain rattling, I'd just leave well enough alone.
Ask Harry Face when he replaced his timing chain.. I think it's still original as well.

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Cleever wrote: ask Harryface when he replaced his timing chain I think its still original.
The upper & lower timing sprockets on the 3800 are all steel. I did replace the two sprockets and chain when a mechanic friend was going to replace the cam sensor magnet which is pressed into the backside of the lower sprocket. I thought with mileage in the high 290's it would be worn. It wasn't, the teeth on both sprockets looked fine and line up perfect with the new ones. Some people say the chain stretches.
I didn't know about the nylon tensioner block that rides agains't the side of the chain, that had a wear mark of about 1/4 inch on the surface that presses agains't the chain. So we reused the old one.
Two sprockets & chain were only about $110
Knowing what I know now about the condition of the timing chain & sprockets I wouldn't of replaced them.
I replaced the TC myself in my 68 Buick LeSabre ( 350 ), it slipped on start up in -10 degree weather.
The 78 Olds 350 slipped driving along the long & winding road around 40 mph.
Harryface ؿ 1991 Pontiac Bonneville LE 302,820 miles
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Rutger6559 wrote:

You essentailly need big powered tools short of a removal. This is best done at a mechanic as you will hurt yourself trying to do it with hand tools.
The chains stretch and the main cog is synthetic on some vehicles - a bad combination. A chain is what - $100 or so in parts at most? Your timing also won't jump if you do a panic stop or stall in an accident with a new tight chain.

Yep. :) Also replace the timing sensors and anything that looks worn in the camshaft/top end area.
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Hi Rick, I've just gone through this with a 92 Caprice 305 V8 so I can offer some basic advice although I suspect access on my RWD car is much easier than a transverse engine.
My car had 340k on it and the chain was stretched cpmpared to the new one. The sprcokets were both metal and I replaced both sprockets as well.
1. If the motor has a harmonic balancer you will need a puller and an installer. Whatever you do, don't even try without the proper tools. I replaced the balancer because the shaft was grooved where the oil seal rides.
2. Camshaft sprocket on my motor was bolted on, but crankshaft sprocket was pressed on and trust me when I say you need a 3-jaw gear puller and a lot of muscle! I broke a 6 inch 2 jaw puller trying and finally soaked it overnight in penetrating oil and bought a 3 jaw 6 inch puller. Worked great. You will need a piece of pipe to press the gear back on. Don't hit it too hard, it's not pressed on too tight. The original was hard to get off because of corrosion not because it was pressed on by a gorilla like say the harmonic balancer.
3. The toughest part is getting the timing chain cover off and back on. TAKE YOUR TIME and read the replies to my Chevy 305 thread, especially Ian's method which worked like a charm.
4. You need to make certain to line up the dots on the gears before you take them apart. This involves jogging the engine by turning the key quickly until you hit the magic spot. Make CERTAIN TO DISCONNECT THE COIL WIRE!! so the motor does not start.
5 Use either the Black or Grey RTV designed for oil resistance and use plenty around the part where the pan meets the timing chain cover. I purchased a new chrome timing chain cover from Mr. Gasket which came with seal, bolts and gaskets. Looks real nice! Only cost $20.00 as well.
Good luck and understand you need some pretty decent sized ratchets and you should torque everything to factory specs. Use loctite on the cam gear bolts.
It's not a difficult job, but it requires patience and the ability to have the muscle to loosen things that are typically real tight. If the water pump has to be removed, replace that and the hoses as well. I don't know if that chain has tensioners but you might need to replace them if it does. The idea is that you don't want to have to do this again, ever! Good luck! Sammy
P.S Thanks to Ian, Bob ,Scott noname and the others who helped me out. It worked out very well and I saved a bundle of money but most importantly I know the job was done correctly.
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Hey Sammy!

By looking at my engine compartment and remembering the 350 I did a timing chain replacement on, I'd say there's a huge difference, but I'm no mechanic by any means.

Wow! High mileage there! I'm impressed!
Your post here and your 305 thread which I've been following has really brought back some memories from 1984 when I had bad water pump on my Pontiac Catalina's 350.
I went to the parts store to buy a new water pump as I was advised by knowledgeable friends that I could do the job. When I got there and got the pump and gasket, the guy at the counter asked if I wanted the timing chain and gears as well.
I said, why? He said well, if your gonna go as far as the water pump you might as well replace the timing chain since you said the car had 122k miles.
I asked him and the guys around if they thought a dumb kid like me could do it, and they said, yeah, just be careful and don't make any stupid mistakes. So I got the chain and sprockets.

Luckily I was able to borrow a wheel puller and a gear puller as well.

Yeah, mine was a 3 jaw puller as well. You're right that it took loads of muscle!

As I said, I've been watching that thread like a hawk.
My problem at this 3rd point was that one of the bolts on the timing chain cover snapped in half!!!
I ended up going to the junk yard the next day and getting a replacement.

Here I lucked out entirely. When I finally got the cover off, I noticed that the dots were lined up perfectly!!! Finally a little bit of luck!!

Cool! I simply used the stock cover again.

I never torqued the bolts at all!!! LOL! I still don't own a torque wrench! And I never used the loctite either. Guess I lucked out!

No tensioners on the old 350 of mine, but I bet there are on the 96 3.1L.

Indeed!
As for my old Catalina, it only lasted a few k miles before the trans died, so off to the junk yard she went.
I couldn't complain. I only paid $75 for the rust bucket. :) Chain, sprockets and water pump cost me more, I'm sure!

Thanks, but I think I'm gonna leave this FWD car to a pro. I've broken more things than I've fixed in my life!
Thanks for the walk down memory lane! And glad to hear your 305 is back in good order!
Thanks again!
Rick
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