2001 Toyota Sienna

I think the timing belt finally broke in my sienna. It has 106,000 and was warned to get that done. I never did. Then the engine light came on and the dealer said my electrical system was broken. i could not afford these repairs and now the car won’t start. Is it worth bringing in? What do you suggest I do with it??? Help!!

What makes you think the timing belt broke?

If the vehicle has electrical problems they may be responsible for the non-starting issue. Which light came on? Was it the alternator warning light or the Check Engine light? Maybe your alternator is bad and no longer charging the battery. That would make it impossible to start the car, but is not terribly expensive to replace.

Your Sienna isn’t going to fix itself. If you want to drive it you’ll have to have it towed to a mechanic and pay for diagnosis and repairs. You do NOT have to take it to the Toyota dealer. In fact, I suggest you stay away from the dealer. They are usually more expensive than independent mechanics.

Do you know any mechanics, or can someone recommend one to you? You could search for a mechanic in your area in the “Mechanics Files” on the CarTalk home page.

Actually I just assumed the timing belt, since the battery is working- all the lights went on and the radio.

The engine light had come on about 8 months ago, but then went went off recently. Why would it just go off like that?

I will look in the mechanics files on the home page. I really don’t know of a good mechanic around here.

Okay…this is wierd…I went to go try to it before the tow truck came and it started??? What does that mean? (aside from probably driving to the mechanics asap)

Now you know the timing belt isn’t broken. Yet.

I’m guessing the battery is weak. The lights, radio, etc, can work fine but the battery still may not have enough amperage to turn the engine over, which takes a lot. This is actually fairly common. People say, “I know it’s not the battery because the lights still work.” Doesn’t matter, it can still be a weak battery, and next time you try it may not start.

There is a test called the “load test” which can be performed on the battery. If a battery passes this test it’s good. If it fails it’s time for a new battery. Many auto parts stores will test the battery and the vehicle’s charging system free.

The Check Engine light comes on when the computer detects a signal from one or more sensors that is outside the normal range. The light is meant to be an early warning of a developing problem. Sometimes the signal returns to normal and the light goes off.

Or the bulb may be burned out. Does the light come on when you turn the key to “on” before you start the engine? It should do this, then go out after the engine is running.

Maybe the situation is not as bad as you thought. You should start planning for a timing belt replacement, however. This will cost several hundred dollars. Start saving.

You realize that if the timing belt breaks the cost to repair the motor will be $2,000 to $3,000? If yes, keep driving and see how long your luck holds up. So far you are lucky and $600 for a new timing belt is all it will take to keep you going for another 90K miles.

As for your current problem, there are many possibles. No need to take your car to a Toyota dealer. But you need to take it to a good mechanic and see what the codes are stored in the car’s computer. The problem is likely minor compared to getting the timing belt replaced ASAP.

Timing Belt and Engine Light are mutually exclusive.

Since it’s now starting it CAN’T be the timing belt.

According to Gates.com this is NOT an interference engine. Refer to your owners manual for a definitive answer. If it’s NOT a interference engine all you risk is being stranded until you get it fixed.

If you can get a timing belt replacement on a Toyota Sienna for $600, I will be very surprised. This is a minivan, so getting to the timing belt will be very labor intensive. I would double that estimate, especially if you include a new water pump (which I recommend).

Gates does not list the Sienna engine as an interference engine, so if the belt breaks the engine stops running but does not suffer internal damage.

You will have to tow the vehicle, however, if the timing belt breaks. It’s always better to schedule the timing belt replacement at your convenience rather than waiting for it to break.

Okay, I will get it towed to a mechanic and figure on getting that timing belt fixed and the battery looked at, I guess the bigger question here is this van worth fixing or is this just the beginning of a lot of money? The dealer had also quoted $1500 for the electronic system fixed since that was why the engine light went on originally. (the engine light did not burn out because it still lights up when I turn the key). ugh. Thanks.