July 8

2010 Toyota Matrix Timing Chain



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 25 time winners of best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a Toyota Matrix 2010 version. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: So the owner's complaint was when he'd start the car up in the morning for the first few seconds, there'd be a rattling sound coming from the engine that would stop and it was gone, but that that was the concern on the vehicle. 

Mark: So how important is this as something that's like across the board on vehicles, if you hear that rattling sound and then it goes away, can you just ignore it? 

Bernie: Well, you could, but you know, there's something wrong when it rattles. There's a number of causes. Usually it's something to do with the timing chains or the variable valve timing or timing chain tensioner, a part that's worn out. So problems like that don't usually get better all by themselves.

They tend to deteriorate and get worse. And when you're dealing with timing chain issues, you really don't want them to fail because if the chain skips a tooth or something gets worse, all of a sudden. Pistons and valves can collide in the engine and cause a very expensive, I mean, it basically wrecks the engine. So you don't want to ever get to that place. 

Mark: And would the check engine light necessarily be showing with that rattle? 

Bernie: No. In the case of this vehicle, there was no check engine light. Sometimes it could be on. And if we scan it and find there's a code for a valve timing issue that verifies the area of concern, but a lot of times these rattles will happen. They're very quick to happen. You know, they go away quickly, but they're an indication of a problem. So may not have a check engine light on. 

Mark: So how'd you go about diagnosing what the issue was? 

Bernie: So, you know, we had the vehicle cold. I mean, this is really important. If you happen to call us and need a diagnostic done on something like this, make sure you drop the car off the night before.

If the problem happens cold, we need to see the vehicle cold to hear it. If you drop it off and it's nice and warm, we won't get to it until the next day. So just a little tip. But we basically started up, then we can listen with a stethoscope to various components of the vehicle. Then, you know, do a little research on history of repairs.

We have databases on what are the common issues. Variable valve timing gears are the most common fault with this kind of noise. So at that point, we make an estimate up to replace a variable valve timing gears. And while we're in there, do the timing chains and the tensioners and all the gears, because this car is at this point, 14 years old, the mileage is around 150,000 kilometres.

If I remember correctly, it's not really high, but it's up there. So it's worth doing everything while you're in there. 

Mark: Okay. So let's look at some pictures. 

Bernie: Yeah, so here we're looking at the top of the engine with the timing cover and the valve cover off. So these are all the new parts. These are the timing gears I know you're moving your pointer around there, that would be the intake cam gear, the exhaust cam gears at the back. And these are the, they're big fat gear, so I know you asked me earlier. Why are these things so fat and large when they could just be skinny gears?

2010 Toyota Matrix Timing Chain

And the reason is that these are actually where the valve timing's adjusted. Inside those gears, there are valves and parts and pieces that are basically adjusted by engine oil pressure to adjust the valve timing, retarded or advanced, depending on what the computer decides it needs to be done. So that's what those, those items do. 

You can also see some the timing chain with some nice bright orange marks on one part, two on one and one on the other. These are the actual alignment marks. And this system actually is kind of unique. We do so many engines where you have to have special tools to lock the camshafts in a certain position. And in this engine, you don't. There are actually key ways and things. So it's actually sort of simple for a complicated engine, but you know, there are many steps and it's still a complicated procedure, but eased in some manner. 

Mark: So the gear part is really here, that matches where the chain is and then all the oil pressure and magic that makes for the variable valve timing is inside these other just extended cylinder that sticks out from the gear.

Bernie: Exactly. And those bolt up to the camshaft, and the camshafts are just in behind there. We'll look at another picture. You can see the cams a little more. The camshafts are the two shafts that run from left to right attached to the gears. And so those can vary their position based on where the oil pressure is fed into those particular gears.

2010 Toyota Matrix Timing Chain

In the olden days, before variable valve timing, the gear would just be bolted straight to the cam and it would just turn at the same timing, no matter what the engine speed or load would be. 

Mark: And this is all in aid of more power, less emissions, better fuel economy.

Bernie: Yeah. All work together. Let me just point something to at the very far right of the camshafts, if we look right there, you see a little sort of it's kind of small on the screen, but that's basically where the, there's sensors that sense the position of the camshaft. And they sit in the valve cover, so they send a signal to the computer saying, this is where the camshaft position is.

And again, the computer can make its adjustment decisions based on those cam position sensors. So there's some good useful information. Of course, if those are way out of whack, that'll cause your check engine light to come on with a valve timing problem. 

Mark: So how much more complicated, this is 2010 technology, how much more complicated is it in 2024 with new engines? 

Bernie: On some engines, it's not any more complicated than this. Probably the only advancement that a lot of engines would have had is direct fuel injection. This is pretty highly advanced, but there are some engines, even in 2010, that have variable valve lift as well as variable valve timing.

So as far as Toyota, I'm not sure what they've done, but I mean, this is pretty highly advanced. It's got adjustment on intake and exhaust cams. Some engines just do the intake, some just do the exhaust. 

Mark: So here's another view of the front of the engine. 

2010 Toyota Matrix Timing Chain

Bernie: Yeah, so this chain we replaced and you see that plastic piece on the right hand side, that's a chain guide. This is the balance shaft chain. So we changed all the chains and gears and the arrows just point to alignment marks on the camshafts. So these are kind of, you do it one time and then of course, once you rotate the engine, one revolution, these marks are never in the same spot, but as long as, as long as you line it up the first time, it's good.

Mark: Everything works the way it should. 

Bernie: Everything works the way it should. Yeah. So all planned into the system. 

Mark: And just to give an idea of the complexity, I have this picture here. 

Bernie: Yeah. So this is the timing chain cover. So this piece is removed. There are a number of seals that need to be changed. Plus it's a silicone, RTV is what it's called gasket material, that seals the cover. And I believe this cover was leaking as well on the vehicle. So good time to change that seal obviously. So yeah, that's the cover sits over top of all those timing chains and pieces.

2010 Toyota Matrix Timing Chain

Mark: So you mentioned a couple of things like this is a fairly common repair on this vintage of Matrix. 

Bernie: Yeah, it's a known fault. 

Mark: And what's sort of the background history of this that as far as you know of this vehicle? 

Bernie: Background history? And in what sense? 

Mark: Well, you mentioned it was probably purchased used. 

Bernie: Oh yeah, yeah. I know the client purchased it used and actually he was lucky, he had an extended warranty with a really good company. They've actually paid for most of the repair, which is fantastic for a 14 year old vehicle. So, you know, sometimes I often think are extended warranties worth purchasing for a Japanese car because they're really highly reliable.

Well, sometimes they are. I don't know what the price of this policy was, but I'd say based on sort of how they go, I'd probably at least paid for his warranty by having this repair done. 

Mark: Of course. Is there anything else? 

Bernie: No, that's it. Yeah. 

Mark: Once everything's back together, car runs great. Customer's happy. 

Bernie: Yeah, exactly. We work on Toyotas. We do complex work. We do simple maintenance. If you've got a rattle in your engine, make sure you come and see us before it gets bad, because if these things get worse, check engine lights will come on. Things just get more complicated. And if a chain were to skip a tooth or something were to get way out of whack, that could really cause some expensive repairs. 

Mark: So the guys to see if your vehicle's rattling on startup is Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. You can reach them online at pawlikautomotive.com. You can book right there or you can call them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Thank you so much for watching and listening. Thanks, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Mark Bossert

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