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Old 10-07-2003, 04:44 PM
Posts: n/a
380 timing chain

I might be buying a 1980 380SL (107) with 90,000 miles.
I've heard about weak single timing chains and was wondering how big an issue these are;
Do they just snap with no warning or do they tend to rattle first?
What mileage should I consider changing it?
Is it worth while upgrading to a duplex and what costs are involved?
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Old 10-07-2003, 10:26 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Posts: 766
Plagiarizing a link from a similar thread above, here's a discussion of the issue:

AFAIK, it's not that the single-row chain breaks, but that it stretches a bit sooner than the double-row. It's chain stretch that allows the chain to slap against the plastic guide rail, which when it's old and brittle breaks, which leaves a piece to get caught in the chain and cause it to jump a sprocket, which causes mistiming and valve damage in the engine that Jack built.
Craig Bethune

'97 SL500, 40th anniversary edition

'04 Olds Bravada (SWMBO's)
'06 Lexus ES330
'89 560SL (sold)

SL--Anything else is just a Mercedes.
(Kudos to whoever said it first)
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Old 10-07-2003, 11:35 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,503

Only the U.S. got the single row timing chain on the 3.8 liter engine from 1981 to the middle of 1984 when the factory went to the double row timing chain.

All other countries in the world always got the double row timing chain.

However, it is always recommended to change the timing chain and chain guides on M116 and M117 engines every 100,000 miles, or so.

Read this very current thread to find out what happens when you don't change the above. This forum has probably over a hundred such experiences with all M116 and M117 engines (3.8 liter, 4.2 liter, 4.5 liter, and 5.6 liter).

380se timing chain ?
Paul S.

2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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Old 10-08-2003, 12:32 AM
MikeTangas's Avatar
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: So. Cal
Posts: 4,430
Single row timing chains on the affected 3.8L engines have/had a 30K replacement schedule, or so I seem to recall reading.
Mike Tangas
'73 280SEL 4.5 (9/72)- RIP
Only 8,173 units built from 5/71 thru 11/72

'02 CLK320 Cabriolet - wifey's mid-life crisis

2012 VW Jetta Sportwagon least its a diesel

Non illegitemae carborundum.
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Old 10-08-2003, 04:40 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Posts: 215
As suginami implies, the UK spec 380 never had a single row chain. It also had 218BHP against the 155 (I think) of the US model, so comments about the 380 being underpowered don't apply in the UK, either.

I had one of these and it was a fine car and a trouble free engine.
Cheers, Neil
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