1999 Nissan Pathfinder - Timing Belt Replacement Questions

I have a '99 Pathfinder with the 3.3L V6 engine with 102k mi on it and need to get the timing belt replaced. One shop told me they would replace the camshaft seals and front crankshaft seal at the same time. The labor-only cost for the timing belt, water pump and seals is $450, and the cost for the timing belt itself is $42, with the grand total being $675 (including water pump and coolant). There was no mention of a “timing belt kit” which would include the tensioner (or so i have been told).

Another shop is quoting more because he charges the “suggested retail price” of the timing belt kit because he says the tensioner should be replaced with the belt. He also states that the Pathfinder’s seals are something like 4.8hrs of labor because they are not located in the front just behind the timing belt pulleys (where the seals on the 3.3L V6 Frontier engine are located) and he does not recommend that I do the seals based on the cost of the labor and he has not had problems with them leaking. He believes the other shop is mistaken to say they will replace the camshaft seals and front crankshaft seal at no additional charge. His grand total is $785.

I am hoping that someone will be able to offer me their thoughts on the discrepancies between the two shops-- which one is right? And is the second shop charging too much??

The second mechanic is full of cr*p.

Replacing the cam seals is an easy job once the timing belt is off.

The labor is the timing belt replacement.

Most of this job is labor. It should take a decent mechanic the better half of a day to do this. I’ve done it 3 times on that engine for my 98 Pathfinder.

The first guy sounds about right. That’s NOT a bad price. The tensioner should be replaced…along with the water pump. If they radiator hoses, thermostat and drive belts haven’t been replaced you should get those replaced also since you have to remove them anyways to replace the timing belt.

Both prices sound fair to me but the oddity is the discrepancy about the seals.
There should be an extra amount of labor charged for any cam and crankshaft seal replacement.
Why No. 1 wants to do this for free I have no idea unless it’s a PR move and he hopes you will remember him the next time around.
Any tensioners and idlers should be replaced along with the timing belt.

No. 2 says almost 5 hours of labor on those seals. My gut feeling is that the seal replacement may actually take that much by the flat rate book.
A timing belt change may take X hours but changing the seals requires removal of the timing belt.

It could be that No. 2 is not taking into account any labor overlap.
Does he have to? No, and he’s not legally obligated to.
Should he? If he’s ethical, then yes overlap should be a consideration.

I’ve replaced the seals in this engine…5 hours may be right if you’re just doing the seals. But to replace them as part of the timing belt is an extra 20 minutes…NOT 5 hours.

Thanks for the info- very helpful. My next question has to do with the radiator. My OTHER '99 Nissan (a Frontier w/ the 3.3L V6) just had the fan clutch and radiator replaced. Labor was very expensive. So, since I live in AZ (extreme climate) and they are both 12 years old and both had the original radiators, should I get the radiator replaced when I do this timing belt on the Pathfinder? I don’t want to have to pay that labor again if that radiator will last me maybe another 3 years?? And since MikeinNH mentioned radiator hoses, I wonder about doing the radiator also, which I have quoted at $320. Also, Mechanic #1 said he saw “stress cracks” in the upper tank. At the time I didn’t ask to see them, that’s just what he told me.

One more thing: I also got a quote from the Nissan dealership. After weeding though a couple of morons, I got a reasonable quote of $714 out-the-door for the belt, tensioner, and waterpump. Given the competiveness of the pricing between Dealer and Mechanic #1(who did not say he’s including tensioner so I expect to pay extra for it) should I favor the dealer?

I never replaced the radiator on my 98 pathfinder. But I also maintained it properly by replacing the fluid every other year. Radiators are usually something you replace when it needs to be replaced. But you do need to replace the fluid at the very least every other year.

If there are actual stress fractures then it might be worth considering.

Replacing the radiator is NOT difficult. I don’t see how the labor is so high. But the radiator does have to be removed to replace the timing belt (at least removing it will make the job a lot easier).

We can’t tell you what they are replacing…You have to do that…Get a detailed list from each of them to find out what they are replacing…then compare the two estimates. Don’t assume anything. How are we going to know. In general an independent should be cheaper because labor costs are usually a lot cheaper.

Glad you live in AZ.

Otherwise I would say get your Pathfinder checked out as Nissan has a safety recall(1996-2004) on the vehicle due to dangerous rust to salt and poor design.

My brother is beyond unhappy driving a loanerfor a month while Nissan is hemming and hawing about fixing his 2001 Pathfinder. He wanted to get another year or two out of the 190k 2001 Pathinder which is running decent otherwise.

However may simply offer Kelly Blue Book value. Toyota at least offered 1.5x on their rust buckets unworthy for the road.