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'03 neon timing belt

Hello everyone, I recently bought a 2003 neon from a used car dealer for 3k…the car has 118k miles on it…no maintenance records. I have a couple questions concerning the timing belt: First is this an interference engine? in other words if the belt breaks am i pretty much done for? Iv’e read conflicting opinions on this on the internet…it’s 2.0 se sohc model. Second…interference or not is replacing the timing belt something i should be immediately concerned about? I know alot of people just drive and never even think about changing it. Thats probably because garages charge a small fortune to do it. I plan on keeping the car for a few years and dont want to pay $6-$700 for a timing belt change if its not necessary because there are other things i do know that the car needs replaced…i.e. front struts. So should i make the timing belt my asap priority? or can i wait a while and replace the other things it needs first and do the belt in say a year or so? any opinions on this are appreciated … thanks…

Whether you have an interference engine or not, you should get the timing belt job done so you don’t get stranded in the middle of a 12 lane highway in the middle of rush hour.

Some garages don’t charge that much for a timing belt job. Shop around for the best price. I got my last timing belt job done for less than $500. It helped that I went to Goodyear’s website and printed a 10% off coupon to bring with me after I got the estimate. (I’m not necessarily recommending a Goodyear shop, but if you go to one, make sure it is a company store and not a franchise. The franchises, in my opinion, are the least honest.) You should compare other shop’s estimates too, like Firestone, a couple dealerships, and one or two independent mechanics. With any luck, you can find a reasonable price to pay for the installation of a new timing belt.

Make sure you get estimates that include the whole timing belt kit, not just the belt. A new belt should come with a new timing belt tensioner as well, and maybe a few other small parts that can suffer from metal fatigue. Don’t let anyone just replace the belt and not the tensioner.

If your water pump runs on the timing belt, get it replaced at the same time. Since they will already have everything opened up, you should pay very little for labor to add the water pump to the job. My last timing belt job included the water pump and tensioner pulley, and it still didn’t exceed $500.

Take Whitey’s advice. And check for an estimate on how much the job should cost for your car in your area.

The engine in your Neon is an interference type engine. So if the timing belt fails engine damage will occur.

If you don’t know if the timing belt has been serviced, then you want to make this the number one priority.


You can find the interference or not answer for yourself on the Gates belt website.

If you are intending to get into repairs as your screen name seems to imply, consider doing the job yourself. Find what you can about the procedure including parts and special tools needed. Sometimes you must have special tools and other times you can work around the need or even make your own special tools. Get yourself primed to do the job and then go ahead and pay others to do it this time. The next time you need a belt, the shock of paying $500 for little more than a Saturday morning’s work will find you ready to DIY.

The reason for changing the water pump, if timing belt driven, is that a failed pump can make you do the whole job again or less likely can take out the belt to cause an internal engine crash.

I have done my VW (interference engine) timing belt several times and have saved a ton of money. The belt and tensioner pulley are about $20-$25 each; no water pump change needed.

It should have an interference fit engine and if it has the original belt then it’s about 6 years past due.

Given this is a one or the other situation, my vote would be to do the timing belt and delay the struts.

In all honesty, struts and the timing belt are things that should have been used in negotiating the price of the car. It could well be that the prior owner decided to unload it because they did not want the expense.

One of my colleagues recently bought a new car. He was very excited, until he popped the hood and realized the engine had a timing belt. He said he will trade in when the timing belt is due. He has no intention of ever replacing that timing belt . . . and the guy is a heavy equipment mechanic

So, yeah, as @ok4450 said, there are plenty of guys out there that get rid of their cars when the timing belt is due.

Buyers of used cars . . . BEWARE

I’ve replaced the timing belts on my wifes Honda’s. They were a pain.

The timing belt on my Pathfinders were a magnitude easier. The hardest thing on the job was removing the radiator. A forward facing engine is far easier to work on then a transverse mounted engine.

I recently did the timing belt on my 2005 V6 Camry

I did everything:
Timing belt
Water pump
Hydraulic Tensioner
Tensioner pulley
Cam seals
Crank seal
Accessory drive belts

I’m sure it would have been pricey if I had to pay a shop to do it

When ever I did the timing belts I always replaced your list. As long as you’re there you might as well replace everything. The cost of parts was a couple hundred bucks…Labor would bring the cost to over $500. But in my opinion the Pathfinder is far easier to do then the Camry.

My wifes 07 lexus needed a new waterpump. I wouldn’t do it. Just not enough room to work. Maybe easier if you have a lift.

Without the seals this would be a little over $1000. I think it would be more than $1500 in Central Md.


You’re wife’s 2007 Lexus didn’t still have a waterpump driven off of a timing belt, did it?!

The 07 Lexus with the 3.5l has a timing chain.

You have the 2GR-FE V6, correct? But it is transverse mounted, which makes everything fun

But it is transverse mounted, which makes everything fun

Exactly…and that’s why I’ll spend the money to have someone else do it. If it takes a trained mechanic with a lift to do it in 3 hours - it’ll take me 6+ hours.

@MikeInNH, having a lift makes all the difference. I’ll do Camry/Accord timing belts all day long over a Pathfinder. Raise the car and pull the wheel and everything is right there and easy to reach. No pulling radiators and fans/shrouds or leaning over front ends with an aching back.

I don’t particularly find transverse mounted engines any harder to service than longitudinal ones. Often, they’re easier.

I don't particularly find transverse mounted engines any harder to service than longitudinal ones. Often, they're easier.

Qualify that - when using a lift. Since most of us back-yard mechanics don’t have a lift…transverse engines are MUCH harder to work on then vehicles like the Pathfinders I use to own.

Since I did my timing belt in my garage, I used jack stands. My back was pissed off at me by the time I was done!

I know about the back…I replaced the belt about half the time on my wifes Accords…in my garage or in the driveway. Pain in the butt…I turn 60 next year…no thank you…I’m starting to pick and choose the jobs I want to do.


I’m 41, and I have scoliosis . . . so I’ve literally got a bad back

Yet I chose to turn wrenches for a living, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else

I must be a glutton for punishment

And I’ve got a long way to go before retirement