Alfa Romeo 159 – Timing Belt Service Interval – 2005 to 2011

If your Alfa’s motor is driven by a timing belt one of the most important things you need to do is to change the timing belt (cambelt) at or before the recommended service interval. Failure to replace the belt and tensioner leads to a much higher chance of something going wrong, which will almost certainly leave you with a severely broken car and a very painful trip to the mechanic (for your wallet that is).

In this quick guide we are going to tell you when to replace the timing belt on your Alfa Romeo 159, along with some other timing belt related info as well.

Does the 2005 to 2011 Alfa Romeo 159 have a Timing Belt or Chain?

This depends on the model. JTS engines are all driven by a timing chain, while the rest of the motors in the 159 range use a belt:

EngineYear RangeTiming Belt or Chain
1.75 TBi2009-2011Timing belt
1.82007-2010Timing belt
1.9 JTS2005-2007Timing chain
2.2 JTS2005-2010Timing chain
3.2 V6 JTS2005-2010Timing chain
1.9 JTDM 8V2005-2010Timing belt
1.9 JTDM 16V2005-2010Timing belt
2.0 JTDM 16V2009-2011Timing belt
2.4 JTDM2005-2010Timing belt

When Does the Timing Belt Need to Be Replaced on an Alfa Romeo 159?

Credit: Alfa Romeo

For petrol models with a timing belt, it is recommended that carry out replacements every 60,000 km (40,000 miles) or every 4 years. Diesel models keep the same time interval but bump up the mileage to every 96,000 km (60,000 miles).

These recommended intervals are quite a bit different to what Alfa Romeo originally specified. For the 1.75 TBi engine Alfa originally recommended changes every 105,000 – 120,000 km (65,000 – 75,000 miles) or every 5 to 6 years depending on where the car was purchased and what manual you were looking at. The 1.8 petrol engine and the diesel units had original replacements that were longer as well, with an interval of every 116,000 km (72,000 miles) or every 5 years or so.

The shorter intervals that are recommended above are due to the risk of what happens if a failure occurs and the fact that Alfa Romeo has been a bit too generous with change intervals in the past (Quite a lot of Alfa’s experienced premature belt/tensioner failure, especially with previous generation cars).

EngineYear RangeRecommended Change Interval (KM)Recommended Change Interval (Miles)Change Interval (Time)
1.75 TBi2009-201160,000km40,000mi4 years
1.82007-201060,000km40,000mi4 years
1.9 JTDM 8V2005-201096,000km60,000mi4 years
1.9 JTDM 16V2005-201096,000km60,000mi4 years
2.0 JTDM 16V2009-201196,000km60,000mi4 years
2.4 JTDM2005-201096,000km60,000mi4 years

What Happens if the Timing Belt Breaks on an Alfa 159?

As these are interference engines a failure will almost certainly lead to catastrophic engine damage when the pistons and valves collide. This will obviously be very expensive to fix, so change your timing belt!

To get a bit of an idea of health of both the belt and the tensioner, you can try to listen for any abnormal rubbing, squeaking, tapping, or ticking sounds originating from the timing belt area. The presence of such noises may signal that the belt and tensioner have surpassed their intended lifespan on your Alfa Romeo 159. However, if you want to get a good idea of the condition of the belt and tensioner they will need to be physically inspected (and then it’s probably better to just get them replaced).

What Else Should be Replaced with the Timing Belt?

You should replace the following components during a timing belt service on a 2005 to 2011 Alfa Romeo 159:

  • Tensioner
  • Idlers
  • Aux belt
  • Water pump  

What About the Timing Chain on JTS 159s?

Credit: Alfa Romeo

While you don’t have to worry about changing the chain at a specified interval on chain driven 159s, problems can still occur, so it is important to be mindful of the following issues that can cause premature chain failure/stretch:

  • Incorrect tension/problems with the tensioner – incorrect tension (both too tight and too loose) will lead to increased strain on the chain, which can lead to premature failure.
  • Engine seizure – if the engine seizes it can lead to chain stretch or possibly even total failure. Most of the time engine seizures are oil-related (lack of oil, wrong oil, etc.).
  • Insufficient lubrication – the chain is lubricated by the engine oil, so if there is not enough of it or the oil is not changed regularly, it can lead to chain stretch/premature failure.
  • Age – Despite claims that timing chains never need to be replaced, they can eventually succumb to wear and tear over the years even if the car is serviced well.

When Do Timing Chain Issues Usually Start to Occur?

There is no hard and fast rule for this, but once a chain driven car starts getting well past 160,000 km (100,000 miles) we would expect timing chain related issues to become a bit more frequent. Another thing to keep in mind is that the 2.2 JTS is quite susceptible to timing chain stretch, especially if regularly maintenance (oil change, etc.) has not been carried out. This means that chain failure can occur quite a bit earlier than on other chain driven engines, and some owners have had issues at shockingly low miles.

The 3.2 V6 JTS isn’t as susceptible to chain stretch as the 2.2 JTS 159, but there are still quite a few owners who have experienced the problem.

What are the Symptoms of Timing Chain Failure/Stretch on an Alfa 159

Luckily, unlike a timing belt, chains usually give a bit more warning that there is an issue before they fail, so watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Rattling noise from around the timing area, especially at idle
  • Misfires and general rough running
  • Metal shavings in the engine oil
  • Check Engine Light (CEL) warning

If you suspect that your Alfa Romeo 159’s timing chain is failing, get it checked out and replaced as soon as possible. A failed chain can lead to much more serious damage that can be extremely expensive to repair.

To Sum Up

For petrol models except for the JTS engines a timing belt service should occur every 60,000km (40,000 miles) or every 4 years. For diesel models this should occur every 96,000 km (60,000 miles) or every 4 years. These engines are interference, so a belt or tensioner failure will probably lead to catastrophic engine damage. Lastly, the belt should be replaced along with the tensioner, idlers, Aux belt, and water pump.

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  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

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