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How long can I wait to replace timing belt?

My 2000 Solara has 100k and I add another 600 miles (highway driving DC to NYC and back) every week. Unfortunately I can't afford the $1000+ that my mechanic is quoting to replace the timing belt.
<br/> How long can I postpone the repair?
<br/> Is there a way to tell if the timing belt is worn or about to go?
<br/> What happens if it breaks while I am on I95?
<br/> What is a reasonable price for the repair?
<br/> Any other suggestions?


  • edited July 2010
    What does the owner's manual say is the replacement mileage for the belt ?

    You can't afford NOT to .

    What happened to that rainy day fund you started when you bought the car because you knew you'd need it ?'s raining !

    The belt is only $23.00 but the repair is all labor to get in there.
    In fact, just to 'see if it needs it' will expend most of that labor anyway.
  • edited July 2010
    is it the 4 or the 6 cylinder engine? From what I can tell, the 4 is an interference engine, which means if you wait around to fix it, you might end up with a very steep repair bill, but the 6 is non-interference, which means if it breaks, it just stops running rather than self-destructing.

  • edited July 2010
    You're already on borrowed time. This should have been done a couple of years and/or about 10K miles ago. You cannot postpone this maintenance (not "repair") any longer.

    There will be no warning or signs. If your engine is 2.2 you will be tooling along I95 at 60-75mph and the car will immediately shut down. If you're lucky you won't be in a center lane with a tractor trailer bearing down on your rear bumper. Either way, imagine sitting dead on 95 with no way to move your car and traffic roaring by at 75mph. It will be an adventure - but only if you live through it.

    If the engine is the 3.0V6 you will enjoy all of that PLUS - you get to wreck your engine at the same instant. Sounds like fun, eh?

    The $1000 doesn't just cover the belt. The standard timing belt charge involves replacing quite a few things that make sense while the front of the motor is torn down (e.g. water pump). Maybe you could post the full, detailed list of what will be done with the belt.

    That said, $1000 is on the high side. Call around to local, independent mechanics and you can likely knock off $3-400.
  • edited July 2010
    Which engine does this car have? The gates guide ( says the V6 is an interference engine, but the 4-cylinder isn't. If yours is an interference engine, if the timing belt breaks the piston crashes into the valve, causing serious engine damage. It'll make that $1000 sound cheap. If it breaks on I-95 it will stop running and, if an interference engine, make a terrible noise.

    Unfortunately, there really isn't any way to reliably inspect the timing belt, so you've got to change it on schedule. Maybe you'll get away with putting off the repair, but it's definitely a gamble and it WILL break sooner or later.

    As for the price, it depends on your local labor rates and also on what else gets changed at the same time. On many cars it is an extremely good idea to change the water pump at the same time. When I lived on the west coast a lot of shops seemed to use timing belts as something of a loss leader, so calling around might get you a better price (although be sure you know what all they're proposing to replace when you get estimates so you're comparing apples to apples).
  • edited July 2010
    ***How long can I postpone the repair? ***

    Until the timing belt breaks. Which may be tomorrow or might be 2017

    ***Is there a way to tell if the timing belt is worn or about to go?***

    Yes. It will break. (The non-fippant answer is "No")

    ***What happens if it breaks while I am on I95?***

    Your vehicle will coast to a stop and will not start again until you get it repaired. With towing charges and the "how are you going to take the work elsewhere" factor, the repair will probably cost more than your mechanic is asking and may be several thousands of dollars more if you have(had) an interference engine before you destroyed it.

    ***What is a reasonable price for the repair?***

    If you replace it now $500 to maybe $1400. Depends on the vehicle, labor rates, and whether the water pump is replaced as well. Replacing the water pump when the timing belt is replaced is generally recommended, but strictly speaking, it's optional.

    ***Any other suggestions?***

    If you have tools, a place to work, and know how to use the tools, you may be able to do the job yourself. It is a fairly difficult job and not one I would recommend as a first automotive project. Other than that, you could/should get bids from several mechanics. Or depending on your situation, you could leave the car in DC and depend on the Metro, the NY subway and the Chinatown Bus (a cheap bus service between several NE corridor cities) for transportation.
  • edited July 2010
    Correction: Got my numbers mixed up. 4 is non-interference, 6 is interference
  • edited July 2010
    You probably went to the Toyota dealer in which case they're going to talk you into replacing a bunch of other things in addition to the timing belt.

    The belt itself is cheap. You can probably get a good one for $20 unless you go through Toyota, then you'll pay a lot more. A mechanic could change the timing belt in 3 hours. Find out your mechanic's hourly labor rate. If you shop around, you could have a new timing belt installed for $300.

    BUT, at 100,000 miles, I'm guessing there are other maintenance items that should be done in addition to the timing belt.
  • edited July 2010
    You've been on borrowed time for the last 5 years and you're also being given a bit of erroneous information.

    When the timing belt is changed one always changes the belt tensioners, water pump, and any other belts that need it; no matter if it's accessory belts, balance shaft belts, etc.
    Failure to do that can easily leave you on the side of the road 2 weeks after the timing belt replacement with the options of having the car towed and repeating the job or having it towed and finding out the engine is destroyed (depending on make of car and engine).

    A DIYer at home can perform a halfway repair and let the chips fall where they may. A competent mechanic should refuse to replace a timing belt only. It's begging for trouble.

    The only way to avoid this particular kind of repair is to do your homework before buying a car and spending your money on a car that uses a chain instead of a belt.
  • edited July 2010
    I just changed the timing belt in my Honda Odyssey for $15.00.

    Why am I going to end up on the side of the road in 2 weeks?

  • edited July 2010
    You likely have the V6 motor, most Solaras have the V6.

    You can postpone the repair as long as you want. Until the belt breaks the car will run fine. After the belt breaks is the problem.

    No way to tell the condition of the belt as it sits now.

    If it breaks when you are on I-95; the motor stops suddenly, your power steering stops when the motor stops so steering is possible but it is very much harder to turn the wheel. You'll have power brakes to stop the car once, then the brakes will get hard and ineffective. You'll have to get to the side of the road "coasting" traffic will have to dodge around you. If you are in the middle or passing lanes it could be difficult to get to the right side shoulder before the car looses all momentum. If you are on a bridge you might have very little to no shoulder at all for an emergency pull over. Once you get to the side of the road you aren't going anywhere without a tow. So, you need to know the number for your AAA service, other road side service, or a local tow company.

    When you get the car to a shop the V6 motor will have internal damage to valves and pistons and you will likely need to purchase a new or rebuilt motor and have it installed in the car. The old motor will be broken beyond a reasonable repair cost. You will be looking at about $3,000 to get the car on the road again.

    Suggestion- replace the belt now. If you wish drive on, but be ready to buy another car when the belt breaks. If you can't afford the cost of a new belt, I don't know how you can afford to buy another car either.
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