2000 Jetta Timing Belt Snapped after 25k predicament

Hello! I need some major advice!

I have a 2000 Jetta with 126k on it. I have owned it for 6 years and have taken great care of it… Over the years it has pretty much become an entirely new car inside. So… I took my car to mymechanic about a month ago, had him do a maintenance check, he said everything looked great. I just needed to fix the water house (sorry I know this is wrong lingo) because it was leaking coolant and got new rotors, cvboots, and front r axial. He said everything else was great and that my car has been well maintained.

Well… After only a month of driving, 1my timing belt snapped and definitely has done some damage to the engine. I don’t blame my mechanic for this because I gave him a list of all the repairs that have been done and I just replaced the timing belt 25,000 miles ago. Obviously he did not actually look too closely at the belt because he would have noticed it was wearing weird… And based on the previous repairs, it was not unreasonable to believe that the belt was fine after only 25k.

So… I am feeling pretty bummed right now and feel as though I have done my due diligence of keeping my car up to par by taking it to my mechanic. Is there anyone else that should be sharing the blame?? Like the mechanic who put the belt on originally? My mechanic for telling me everything was fine when it wasnt?? The manufacturer of the belt??

Should I say something to my mechanic?? What should I do?? Obviously this is a huge predicament for me because the car is not worth much and it will be a pricey repair, but on the other hand, I know that the rest of the car is in great shape. I live in Colorado so I can’t really get around without a car :frowning: I can’t afford a fancy new car and don’t want to buy another clunker that will require a lot of maintenance.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


@slads your current mechanic has absolutely no blame for the timing belt breaking

It is impossible to even look at the timing belt without at least taking off the valve cover. And even then, you’re just looking at a very small part of it. That tells you nothing about the condition of the seals, tensioner, idler, etc.

If you have an interference engine, you undoubtedly have some bent valves at this point. A good machine shop will have to take care of that once they receive the cylinder head.

FWIW I believe it’s possible you were cheated on the timing belt job which occurred 25K ago. Perhaps it wasn’t actually replaced. Did you get your old parts back?

I have known plenty of shady, dishonest, dirty, lowdown and crooked mechanics in my day. I even worked next to some of them.

I certainly hope this was just a freak occurrence.

Maybe the coolant leak led to saturation of the timing belt and once this happens the belt will have a short lifespan. The pump and tensioners should have been part of the timing belt job and if not, things like this can happen.

My mechanic did mention that there was a coolant leak from somewhere else, and I did keep smelling a small amount of coolant at start up, so I wonder if that is what happened?? I just figured it was the other ‘mysterious leak’ and that it was not a big deal, especially since I just had it looked at.

Would it be unreasonable for me to ask my mechanic to diagnose it for me at no cost?? I know that most shops will charge me to figure out what the damage actually is. Is this rude on my part?? He seems like a nice guy, iv used him a lot for my business truck that is 33 years old and he has done a great job. I am just undecided if I should even put the couple hundred in to find out if its worth fixing or not… Which it would be amazing if he would look at it for free. I am not blaming him, but do mechanics help their customers out every once and a while?


It is not clear to me how long it took to accumulate those 25k miles.
If it was 5 years, that could be the explanation, as VWs are known for an early demise of their timing belts.

Also, check the invoice to see if you paid for a new belt tensioner 25k miles ago. If the tensioner was not replaced, that could explain the belt problem.

The belt was 2 years old, and I don’t think it was, I had to replace the water pump so while they were in there they replaced the timing belt, I don’t have my repairs list on me this second, but I am pretty sure they just replaced the belt. That was the second timing belt that I put on since owning the car (purchased with 50k) .So should I be contacting that mechanic( the one who put it on) to see if they warranty it?? The only problem is that the mechanic who put it on is in Pennsylvania and now I live in Colorado.

If you have your receipt from the mechanic in PA, it should tell you if there is a warranty. If a warranty is not in writing, I doubt that there is one. At least not after 2 years. If you have a 4-cyl engine, it is an interference engine and you most likely have valve damage and piston damage. You might ask your new mechanic what it would cost to rebuild your engine, but he will have to disassemble the top end to see what is damaged. It will cost you some money for the estimate due to the labor involved. Other options are a used or rebuilt engine. Ask what the price of each is. Once you know the cost of a rebuilt engine, used engine, and to rebuild yours, you can decide what makes the most sense. Note that the used engine may need a timing belt, too, and the final cost may not be much less than the rebuilt one.

I agree that your current mechanic is blameless. Even if he did look at the belt, it probably would NOT have shown an unusual wear pattern. I don’t know the depth of the inspection you asked for but if it wasn’t an in depth inspection, then you would have been looking at a minimum of an extra half hour to look at the belt if the valve cover wasn’t removed, plus the cost of the valve cover gasket.

Based on you maintenance records, he really had no reason to add this much expense to your bill for the inspection.

He can’t do a compression test right now, but he maybe able to perform a leakdown test to see if any valves are bent, but if this is an interference engine, you can pretty much count on it. You might try a forum dedicated to the VW Jetta and ask how often the pistons are damaged or if the damage is usually limited to the valves only. If valves only, I would just have your mechanic pull the head and replace the valves and put in a new head gasket kit and timing belt and tensioner, maybe even a new water pump.

If the feedback you get form a Jetta forum indicates a likely hood of piston damage, the just opt for a reman engine, but only if you really like the car.

Thank you everyone for your advice. I spoke with my mechanic and he was sympathetic to the situation, especially since I just put about $700 into it. He said that he would look at it for no charge- he said that he would quickly be able to tell if there is engine damage by just pulling the spark plugs out- does this sound correct? If he sees damage that way, he will investigate further.

In hind sight, I do have a few questions…

After I got the front R axil replaced (it was leaking fluid), my car was making a really loud ‘wurr’ sound- like something was rubbing. It was the loudest/worst when I was driving around 65-75 MPH. However, the car made this sound a little bit (but not as loud) before replacing the axil. I just assumed it was that problem that was causing the noise. Could this have been the timing belt that I was hearing?

I will look into the VW Forum… I mean, the car is 13 years old, but like I said before, it has almost all new parts. The transmission was rebuilt at 50K, it has new alternator, battery, CV boots, rotors, two sets of really nice tires (one studded) and other misc repairs that have occurred over the past 3 years. I obviously don’t want to keep throwing money into a lemon, but if this repair could save my car for another 5 years, I think it is more worth it than buying a new used car, which could be just as problematic. I don’t have the $$ to buy a used 15K car, nor do I want to at this stage of my life, and a car for 5K is probably in about the same shape as mine was before this happened.

Thus… What kind of questions do I need to be asking my mechanic? What kind of checkups and how often should I be getting them? I keep a diligent maintenance schedule, but now I know not to trust it. I am happy to pay the extra hour or two of labor if it is going to save me $2,000 in the future.

The mechanic can pull the spark plugs and do an air leak test. If it passes that, then it should be OK. If he has a borescope, he can look into the combustion chamber and see if there is any damage. BTW, a quality remanufactured engine should run you $5-6k installed.