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subaru timing belt

edited April 2012 in Repair and Maintenance
My 05 Subaru outback is at 91,000 miles and runs well. I want to keep it forever. I am about to have the timing belt replaced ($370). The dealer service adviser suggests that I also replace the "belt tensioner" for another $165. Have done timing belts on previous Subarus and never heard this. Is this indicated or dealer scam?


  • That's very common. When ever I replaced the timing belt on my Pathfinder(s) I replaced the tensioner ever other time.
  • Hmmmm...a dealer who quoted you $370 for a timing belt? That's too low, and I suspect that's to get it into their shop - not quite a bait & switch, but similar principle.

    Expect to spend more like $600-1000 by the time you're done. To the tensioner add a new water pump. If there's an idler pulley on that system add one of those too. Ask that the cam and crank seals are carefully inspected and replaced if there are any signs of issues.

    To replace a timing belt you have to tear down much of the front of the engine. Most of the cost is in labor. Conventional wisdom says that you replace most anything subject to typical wear and tear failure so that you're not paying for the same labor again in the near future.
  • I have an Acura MDX. For those, I know that some people replace the tensioner and some people just inspect it. I replaced mine.

    I note that your timing belt job is far cheaper than mine, though, so I guess you'd pay far less if the tensioner does fail in the next few years.
  • The price is reasonable for timing belt replacement. Its pretty easy on Subaru. My mechanic charged me 2.5 hrs labor for timing belt/tensioner including those parts for $375. A Subie mechanic of 20yrs said most look pretty bad at 105k and suggested replacing.
  • The tensioners and water pump should always be replaced or you run the risk of major problems when one of those extras decides to go south.

    The fact that someone spins an idler or tensioner pulley by hand and it feels smooth as silk means nothing. With aged grease inside of the pulley bearings the pulley may feel fine at the time of the belt replacement and may disentegrate 5k miles later. The same thing goes for the water pump.
  • Thanks for the help.
  • I just had my 1998 Forester timing belt, tensioner, water pump, thermostat, seals & O-rings, and coolant replaced. At 95K miles. About $1000. By the way, the engine is supposed to be a "non'interference" type. My 1999 Forester engine stopped while running. Timing belt broke or slipped, and piston met valve. But the car was starting to fail in many other areas, so I gave it away as a parts car. The lesson is: DO NOT FAIL TO REPLACE TIMING BELTS ON SCHEDULE. 1998, 1999 Foresters are due at 105K miles.
  • There's another factor or two regarding belt replacement. They're also time critical, not just miles, and should also be replaced if there's a fluid leak (oil or coolant) inside of the belt case.
  • i have a 2007 forester with 95k miles. when is timing belt due to be changed?
  • It's due when the owner's manual says it's due.
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