2001 Camry timing belt

My 80 something year old aunt was suggested by her local Toyota dealer to have her timing belt changed on her 4 cyl 2001 Camry. She has about 41k on the car and obviously drives about 4k miles a year. They quoted her $800 which also included a new water pump and belt. The car is running fine. No leaks or strainge noises. She has always had basic service done at this dealer since she bought it new 10 years ago.

I am not familar with the vehicle but have some basic questions for those who know.

  1. What is the timing belt recomended change interval?
  2. Does the Water pump have to be removed to change it?
  3. What is a fair price for this work at the dealer?
  4. What is a fair price for this work at an independant shop?
  5. How hard is it to do in the driveway?
  6. Are these cars know for the water pump to fail?
  1. I don’t remember what the mileage interval is, but most makes and models recommend a 7 year interval, so you are three years overdue and on borrowed time.

  2. The water pump does not need to be removed to replace the timing belt, but the timing belt does have to be removed to replace the water pump, so changing the water pump proactively is not a bad idea. You could decline it and save a little bit of money now, but if the water pump starts leaking six months later, you will be paying for a timing belt job again, plus the cost of the water pump.

3 and 4. $800 is not out of line for this job at either venue, but some places may be lower. I would, however, add a timing belt tensioner to the estimate if the dealer didn’t quote you one. It’s money well spent to prevent a catastrophic failure, even if it drives up the cost of the job. If you can save money at an independent shop, go ahead. There are plenty of Camrys on the road, so there are plenty of mechanics who have done this job.

  1. For a person with sharp mechanical skills who has never done this job before, a repair manual, plenty of power and hand tools, including air tools (may need an impact wrench to get the harmonic balancer bolt off), this is a weekend job. As a side note, if this job goes wrong, the engine could be trashed, so if there is any doubt in your mind as to whether or not you can handle this job, leave it to the pros, unless you are willing to risk sacrificing an engine for the sake of a learning experience.

  2. I have only seen a couple Camrys of this vintage with leaking water pumps, so I would not say they are notorious for it, but part of that may be the tendency for mechanics to recommend their replacement with the timing belt. On the ones I have seen leaking, the owners admitted to having never had the timing belt replaced and being overdue for timing belt replacement.

I feel Mark9207 has given good answers. On #5 this is NOT a driveway job.

Perhaps the question should your 80+ aunt spend the $800 on this car? An '01 Camry with low miles, a body with no dents and dings, and in good mechanical shape has about $5K value. If the timing belt breaks the value goes to about $1,000. A new or rebuilt motor is about $3,000.

Your aunt can take the risk of doing nothing and the motor could be fine for years, or it could snap the belt tomorrow. If her driving days are just about over perhaps she should take the risk. If she is going to drive for a few years or plans to leave the car to a favorite relative the $800 seems reasonable to keep it on the road for another 7 to 10 years.

The only thing I will add is that there is no way of knowing when a timing belt is going to break. Some have been known to snap at 30, 40, or 50k miles; others will last for an eternity.

The engine will run perfect right up to the nano-second that it does break so there is no warning sign in advance.
The current belt is 11 years old and my feeling is that 6 years is about the limit; maybe even less depending on any coolant or oil vapors/leaks, environmental conditions such as extreme heat and cold, etc.

This car does not have an interference engine, so a broken timing belt will not destroy the valves. However, it will stop in its tracks and lose power brakes and power steering.

If “mleich” is correct and you don’t have an interference engine, if you have the tools and good mechanical skills this is something that can be done in the driveway. If the engine is non interference even if you did make a mistake there won’t be engine damage. I’ve been driving cars with timing belts on them for about the last 18 years and haven’t yet paid anyone to do a timing belt/water pump change, but I’ve been working on my own cars, the cars of friends and family members for 35 years. It usually takes me about 4-6 hours to do a timing belt/water pump change on my Ford Escorts and that’s taking my time, not rushing through it. For $20-$30 you can buy an automotive manual such as Haynes or Chilton’s that will give you detailed instructions on how to do the job. After getting the manual and studying it you can decide whether this is within your scope of mechanical skills or not. I suggest being sure before you start, because once the old belt comes off the car will not run until the timing marks are correctly aligned and a new timing belt is put on, meaning if you can’t do it the car has to be towed to someone who can. If you have a friend that has done a timing belt/water pump change before maybe they would give you a hand and be there to help answer questions.

Timing belts are rubber, and will deteriorate with exposure to pollution, road salt, ozone, and other things. Even though the car has not been driven much, the belt is old enough that it is time to change it.