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2000 Chevy Prism - To Change or Not Change the Timing Belt

I have a 2000 Chevy Prism with 162,000 miles. A year ago I replaced all four struts to the tune of about $900. The car currently burns about a quart of oil every 600 miles. Otherwise the car runs well and is getting close to 35 mpg on the highway in the spring and summer. It will soon need new brakes and new tires. I would like to drive this car as long as I can. It is past due for the manufacturers recommended timing belt replacement. My mechanic said they would likely replace the water pump at the same time and the job will cost about $1000. I have heard mixed thoughts on the necessity of getting this work done. My girlfriend lives 180 miles away and I drive to see her e every other week increasing the likelihood of getting stranded if the belt fails. What I am wondering is this: What is the likelihood the timing belt will fail? Should I replace the timing belt on this car sooner than later?

I think you need a new mechanic. I looked your vehicle up on gates.com and Autozon and they list your 1.8 engine as having a timing chain. Timing chains usually last the life of the vehicle. The 1.8 engine is the only engine your car came with. That’s why the timing belt did not break about 40 thousand miles ago. You don’t have one.

I tip my hat to the Missileman!
But remember that you can be just as stuck of the serpentine belt breaks. If you’ve not changed it yet, you’re due.

A qt every 600 miles is high for that 1.8. Has anyone looked into this?
I don;t want to alarm you, because the truth is that as long as it has oil to pump the qt/600 miles does not mean the engine is at its life’s end, but you might be in need of a simple PCV valve.