Timing belt question

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justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I have a 99 Honda Civic EX. Honda recommends that the timing belt be changed around 120k miles. Apparently, the old timing belt design was crappy, and if one broke, it took a lot of other stuff out with it. Like major $$$ worth of damage.

Well, my car gets serviced by the same shop all the time. I just had a major tune upat the beginning of July, and i asked about the timing belt when i picked up my car, and i was told not to worry. It still looked good. A couple of weeks ago, i had my brakes done, and i mentioned that i was told my timing belt was still in good shape. This guy (the manager) told me there's no way the mechanic could know that without taking everything apart to see it. I don't think he realized when he said it that it was his mechanic that said it.

My question is who is right? Is it possible to know the condition of the timing belt without taking everything apart? The reason i know they didn't take it apart is because it's a lot of $$$ in labor to replace it.

Oh, and i'm also thinking that maybe the first guy thought i meant the other 3 belts, that were replaced about a year ago.
Orion Mad Cow
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Its always better to replace the belt than to try and squeak a few more miles out of it. Depending on what type of engine you have, breaking the belt may be a minor inconvenience or it may cause catastrophic engine damage. There are two types of engines out there, interference and noninterference. The difference being that in an interference engine, the valves open up deeper into the cylinder and are timed precisely to just clear the piston as it reaches the top of the cylinder. If the belt breaks and a valve is open, the piston will hit it on the way back up to the top of the cylinder. Could bend the valve, break the piston, damage the connecting rod, etc. In a noninterference engine, the valves clear the pistons with room to spare, so if the belt broke and the valve was open, the piston will still clear it. My friend broke the timing belt in his Hyundai Accent a few years back and it blew out the valves and dented the pistons. We ended up having to grab a new head off a junkyard car to get it going again. The head had cracked from the force of the pistons hitting the valves.

Personally, I'd have it changed if your car is close to the mileage recommended in the manual. Its cheaper than replacing major components of the engine or buying a new car.
macnuke Afar
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my kid sister had a Honda.... they said replace the belt at some number of miles...
she didn't.
when the belt broke.... open valves met pistons.
basically a couple $K in repairs.

I would make a plan to replace if I was going to keep driving that car.
Mother has an 01 Civic and I just went and looked at it. To inspect the timing belt would require probably 1-1.5 hours of dis-assembly and reassembly, plus a new cam cover gasket. So definitely not a job which would be done free as part of the cursory inspection done during an oil change or tune-up. Now I know the 01-03 Civics were different than earlier models, with a 1.7L engine instead of a 1.6L so it is possible the earlier engines don't require so much dis-assembly to get at the belt but even if they were as simple as my 91 VW it would still take 15-20 minutes to do more than just verify the presence of the belt.

Your car is a 99 model. How much longer do you plan to keep driving what is now a 13-14 year old car? If it is in good shape, not burning or leaking any oil or coolant and not making any funny noises then it probably has enough life left in it to justify the expense of changing the timing belt. But if it is near the end of its life then it might make more sense to take that money and use it to start a fund for a down payment on a new car. You know your own vehicle best. Certainly here in Ontario a car that old would be in pretty rough shape from all the salt used on the roads in the winter and would probably have some serious structural problems which would kill it long before any mechanical wear and tear became terminal. But Hondas are pretty durable mechanically so in a climate where corrosion isn't big problem your car quite likely has a few years left.

As Orion said, it is major and expensive job to fix (or replace) an engine when the timing belt breaks, The case he describes was middle of the road in terms of damage done and low on the cost scale because used parts were sourced and the labour was DIY. When I worked in the shop I priced/billed a few such jobs and they averaged around $1,000, assuming damaged was limited to the valves. If a piston or rod was damaged it usually wasn't worth spending $3-4,000 to replace the engine in a 10 year old car with 200,000 km and which would probably only go for another year before some other major, expensive failure occurred.
Geesie Couldn't hit it sideways
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justine wrote:
I have a 99 Honda Civic EX. Honda recommends that the timing belt be changed around 120k miles. Apparently, the old timing belt design was crappy, and if one broke, it took a lot of other stuff out with it. Like major $$$ worth of damage.

Well, my car gets serviced by the same shop all the time. I just had a major tune upat the beginning of July, and i asked about the timing belt when i picked up my car, and i was told not to worry. It still looked good. A couple of weeks ago, i had my brakes done, and i mentioned that i was told my timing belt was still in good shape. This guy (the manager) told me there's no way the mechanic could know that without taking everything apart to see it. I don't think he realized when he said it that it was his mechanic that said it.

My question is who is right? Is it possible to know the condition of the timing belt without taking everything apart? The reason i know they didn't take it apart is because it's a lot of $$$ in labor to replace it.

Oh, and i'm also thinking that maybe the first guy thought i meant the other 3 belts, that were replaced about a year ago.


All engines with timing belts will eat themselves if the belt breaks. It's better to be safe than sorry. Change it at the given interval whether or not it looks good.
DukeofNuke FREE RADICAL
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rj brings up a good point. How much longer do you think you will be driving the car ?
How many miles are on it now ?
Apparently, you've never changed the timing belt before.
Get an estimate from your shop. You're gonna have to either replace the belt or trade the car, but you need to do it before the belt breaks and you have to chose between sell the car or replace the motor.
maurvir Perfectly balanced - mostly
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rjprice wrote:
Your car is a 99 model. How much longer do you plan to keep driving what is now a 13-14 year old car? If it is in good shape, not burning or leaking any oil or coolant and not making any funny noises then it probably has enough life left in it to justify the expense of changing the timing belt. But if it is near the end of its life then it might make more sense to take that money and use it to start a fund for a down payment on a new car. You know your own vehicle best.


This. The car is almost certainly paid for by now, so factor in that the new car payments in the math. I dropped a wad on my 98 Camry, most of which was a belt change and new gaskets, to keep it running because we had just replaced our van. However, the car was otherwise in good shape and runs fine. I'm hoping to keep it at least another five years.

However, if it had been burning oil or failing to turn over reliably, I would have probably dumped it and gotten a cheap commuter car.
Yep, if you can spend the equivalent of a couple monthly payments on a new car and keep your existing vehicle going for another 2-3, maybe 5 years then it is money well spent. But if your monthly repair bill is equivalent/near to payments on a new car then I'd let the timing belt slide and start saving for that down payment on a new car.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I am the original owner. I plan on driving this car for another 5-10 years. It has 121k miles on it.
It does not hurt to factor in the relative cost of gas usage and insurance rate too (new cars of the same class often get better milage and new cars typically bring higher insurance rates).

justine wrote:
I am the original owner. I plan on driving this car for another 5-10 years. It has 121k miles on it.

Nevermind...

Change the bloody belt ASAP if not sooner.
DukeofNuke FREE RADICAL
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Quote:
Change the bloody belt ASAP if not sooner.

Absolutely !
Old Yoda agitator
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justine Elitist Beer Lover
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OldYoda wrote:

Unfortunately, it is a costly repair. No choice but to wait. :(
Fortunately, it is not a repair but a maintenance procedure. The car is still running and it is safe to schedule it for a future date. It isn't like timing belts automagically fail at the recommended maintenance interval - many last for well beyond the recommended interval - so you are safe to get it done when time and money make it feasible. But if you plan on keeping the vehicle for as long as you say then you definitely need to keep up on the maintenance and the timing belt is part of that.

It sure does suck paying all that money to "fix" something that ain't broke though.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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rjprice wrote:
Fortunately, it is not a repair but a maintenance procedure. The car is still running and it is safe to schedule it for a future date. It isn't like timing belts automagically fail at the recommended maintenance interval - many last for well beyond the recommended interval - so you are safe to get it done when time and money make it feasible. But if you plan on keeping the vehicle for as long as you say then you definitely need to keep up on the maintenance and the timing belt is part of that.

It sure does suck paying all that money to "fix" something that ain't broke though.

Oh, i know. And i do want this car to last me for a long time. Or at least until i can get my hands on my 401k with no penalties. :)
Donkey Butter jerk face
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"there is never time to do it right but there is always time to do it over." this saying comes to mind. if it were me I'd find the 500 or so bucks to do the belt now and not worry about trying to find a few K later.
sean Royal Wombat
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DukeofNuke wrote:
Quote:
Change the bloody belt ASAP if not sooner.

Absolutely !


^ Wot they said.

It's cheap insurance. You can choose: A timing belt now, or a new engine later. If your timing belt decides to let go (at least, on an interference fit motor, which yours most certainly is), pistons bash into valves, rods get bent, etc... You'd basically be looking at an entirely new engine.
Pariah Know Your Enemy
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justine wrote:
rjprice wrote:
Fortunately, it is not a repair but a maintenance procedure. The car is still running and it is safe to schedule it for a future date. It isn't like timing belts automagically fail at the recommended maintenance interval - many last for well beyond the recommended interval - so you are safe to get it done when time and money make it feasible. But if you plan on keeping the vehicle for as long as you say then you definitely need to keep up on the maintenance and the timing belt is part of that.

It sure does suck paying all that money to "fix" something that ain't broke though.

Oh, i know. And i do want this car to last me for a long time. Or at least until i can get my hands on my 401k with no penalties. :)

Just to pile on, do change that belt as soon as you can afford it.
Those old Civics can last forever if well taken care of. 250,000 miles is a reasonable expectation.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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Thanks for the advice guys, but i have to say to those of you telling me do it now or spend lots more later. You can't get blood from a turnip. I just had $1100 worth of PM and repairs done on my car. The well has run dry. The resources have been tapped. No amount of telling me how bad it is to not do it now is going to change the fact that there is no money for this right now. I will be saving for it. That you can bet on, but it's not happening in the next month. That's for sure.
Hence the AP in my ASAP, though in your shoes I'd be trying to move up the as possible as much as possible if possible. Whether or not I could actually do it may be another story, but that's another story.
DukeofNuke FREE RADICAL
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justine wrote:
Thanks for the advice guys, but i have to say to those of you telling me do it now or spend lots more later. You can't get blood from a turnip. I just had $1100 worth of PM and repairs done on my car. The well has run dry. The resources have been tapped. No amount of telling me how bad it is to not do it now is going to change the fact that there is no money for this right now. I will be saving for it. That you can bet on, but it's not happening in the next month. That's for sure.


What all did you have done, for $1100 ?

Get an estimate from your shop, so you'll have an idea what you're in for. You might want to shop around, too. I've found that a dealer may not be so much more than an independent shop, and offer a limited warranty, like 90 days or so.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I had a major tuneup, which for my car was a little over $500, including changing the chip in the distributor, which they wouldn't allow me to buy elsewhere at half the price. I also had to get my brakes done. Inspections. It all added up. I already know it's going to cost around $500, and most of that will be labor. It was also suggested by several people to have the water pump changed at the same time since the costly labor is the same for both. I haven't shopped around, simply because my car always goes to the same shop, even if it is a little more pricey. I'm going to ask my son if he knows of anyone that can do this cheaper, though.
Geesie Couldn't hit it sideways
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I recommend not changing the timing belt.
DukeofNuke FREE RADICAL
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justine Elitist Beer Lover
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Thanks for the smile :)
jkahless Custom Title
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Never understood why they use timing belts as opposed to timing chains or timing gears. Initially more expensive, but much more reliable. Oh wait...
dv
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jkahless wrote:
Never understood why they use timing belts as opposed to timing chains or timing gears. Initially more expensive, but much more reliable. Oh wait...

I was under the impression that when a chain went, it did damage?

Some manufacturers do use chains, or at least used to... Volvo maybe?
In the past, we've had our timing belt break on two cars, but, both times it did not cause any damage to the engine. They were older cars. Most cars these days if the belt or chain go, then the engine is shot, and that can mean that you need to go shopping for a car.

We've been good about getting it done, we actually are scheduled for it to get done, but, like you, we just cant swing it right yet. OTOH, the belt is in great condition, we just had some work done on the car and the mechanics agreed the belt was fine. But, its not something you want to forget about. We're saving now for it.
jkahless Custom Title
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dv wrote:
jkahless wrote:
Never understood why they use timing belts as opposed to timing chains or timing gears. Initially more expensive, but much more reliable. Oh wait...

I was under the impression that when a chain went, it did damage?

Some manufacturers do use chains, or at least used to... Volvo maybe?


When timing goes on any interference engine it does damage. A chain is heavier, noisier, more challenging to adjust, but it also is much more reliable. I think BMW and Mercedes might still use them, and commercial trucks often do.

Of course, the future is computer controlled timing that does away with camshafts altogether.
macnuke Afar
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I think Justine's Timing Belt is moot at this point.
user Stupid cockwomble
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Old Yoda agitator
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As long as the replacement car does not need one.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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OldYoda wrote:
As long as the replacement car does not need one.

That will be a question asked. Trust me.
dv wrote:
I was under the impression that when a chain went, it did damage?

Some manufacturers do use chains, or at least used to... Volvo maybe?

I read in a recent Car & Driver (or was it Road & Track) that chains are making a comeback due to their higher durability because people can't be bothered to maintain their vehicles.
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Timing belt question