- When the timing chain breaks, your whole life flashes in front of
your eyes. Loud bang, engine stops immediately, possible crack or
hole in valve cover. Thousands of dollars to fix.
- There is a very distinctive chain slap noise if the tensioner is bad
or the chain is stretched/worn excessively. It is different than
lifter tick and may be present only at startup. The flopping around
of the chain can cause it to jump a tooth on the sprocket or break a
guide rail, then the interesting things happen. I believe the
suggested replacement interval is 40K miles, 100K for the double row
chain. As the chain wears, valve timing becomes less accurate. Lack
of the chain slap noise does NOT mean you are safe with a single row
- The chain, sprockets, and guide rails are metal, rail covers are
plastic. A new single row chain can be had for $70 (but not at a
dealer), and can be replaced by one person in a few hours, removing
sparkplugs, fan, and RH valve cover only. An extra set of hands makes
it a LOT easier. The idea is to not lose valve timing as you pull one
chain out and feed the new in while turning the engine by hand.
Replace the tensioner at the same time as cheap insurance.
- Some early 380 SLs had the conversion done at dealers, in a sort of
stealth recall. If you have long skinny fingers you may be able to
feel if the conversion has been done through the oil filler hole in
the valve cover. Otherwise, use a dental-type mirror or pull the
valve cover. You don't say what year you have, but you may be late
enough to have a factory install. All the parts (chain, rails,
gaskets and seals, sprockets, tensioner, etc.) for the conversion can
be had in a kit for $700-$800 and the job is one long day or short
weekend depending on what tools you need to run out to get and general
skill level. Not difficult. Do be careful, as the block is alloy and
it is easy to strip threads.
- Do the conversion, life is too short.
"Silverbird" '82 380 SL 161K