The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is recalling a handful of the Saturn cars and SUVS troubled by faulty timing chains.

Federal regulators have concluded that some of the links in the timing chain in the 2001 Saturn L Series equipped with a 2.2 liter 4-cylinder engine can separate causing the timing chain to fail.

If a timing chain link separates while the engine is running, the engine will stall and will not restart increasing the risk of a crash, according to federal regulators.

NHTSA reported that 20,514 Saturn vehicles are included in the recall.

Dealers will replace the timing chain free of charge when the recall begins in January of 2008.

But federal safety regulators at NHTSA offer no help for Saturn owners who have already suffered a timing chain failure and paid the price to repair the engine in their Saturn.

In Seymour, Indiana, Terry had to spend $1,200 just before Thanksgiving to repair a broken timing chain and the valves that bent as a result in his 2001 Saturn L200.

The day before, in Arlington, Texas, Susie heard her Saturn Vue begin to make tapping sounds which became increasingly louder within a range of about 15 miles before the engine died and would no longer start," she said.

Susie told us that the timing chain tensioner screws had backed themselves out and caused the valves to bend in the motor.

Now Susie says, I have a blown up motor. I have tried to get Saturn's customer service department to help me with this however they are unwilling to fully replace what I feel is a lemon motor. Every mechanic that I have talked to concerning this matter has assured me, that this should not have happened. Even Saturn technicians themselves.

In any event, the Saturn Vue is not covered by the NHTSA recall for faulty timing chains.

On November 11, a Saturn owner in Cheektowaga, New York, said we can add him to the list of people with a broken timing chain and big repair bill.

I bought a used 2000 L series with just under 60,000 miles in August 2006. Last Friday with no warning, the timing chain broke.

Kristi faced a similar problem on November 4 with her daughter's Saturn in Colorado. We had it towed. The garage said it needed a new timing belt. After $3,400 they said the engine was no good and would replace it for another $3,500. This looks like this same thing has happened to other Saturns."

Marilyn in La Mesa, California, reports that Saturn mechanics are able to diagnose the timing belt problem but Saturn will take no responsibility for repairing problems caused by a faulty timing belt, even with an extended warranty.

After fixing the belt tensioner and the serpentine belt, the mechanics found damage to the timing belt and some pistons. They had my okay to take down the engine. What else could I do? The repair for this is going to cost $3,400," she told us.

I was relieved when I heard what the problem was because those parts are covered under the warranty. My relief turned to shock when my claim was denied. The warranty company is refusing to pay because they say the damage was caused by the serpentine belt which is not covered, Marilyn said.

North Carolina complaints

The North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC) brought the timing chain failures to the attention of NHTSA after consumers in the state complained that the timing failures resulted in a sudden loss of power in the Saturn.

Some of the timing chain failures occurred at highway speeds.

NCCC reports consumer concerns that an improper oil flow in the timing chain lubricating mechanism contributed to the failure.