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2001 VW Jetta 1.8 Turbo (AWD) timing belt

I attempted to start my car last week and it didn’t sound right so I switched it off immediately. It wouldn’t start after that and I had it towed to a garage that specialized in German auto repairs. The mechanic first said the compression was very low in cylinders that was peculiar because it ran great before I turned it off that morning. He then said the timing belt had a couple of broken teeth, had slipped and for $550 they would remove the heads to check for bent valves but did not replace the belt and reset the timing to see if it would run ok.

What are my chances that it just needs a new timing belt and no real damage was done to valves or engine?

First of all, you need a new mechanic. A timing belt with “a couple of broken teeth” is a useless timing belt, and should be replaced. The fact that they did not replace the belt, and continued to try running your engine with a damaged belt, is a HUGE RED FLAG. Get away from these morons. They are costing you money unnecessarily.

Having said that, if the timing belt was, indeed, bad (entirely possible considering its age), there could be considerable engine damage, especially since the 1.8T is an interference engine.

What does your owner’s manual say about replacing the timing belt? Did you follow the manual’s advice? If not, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Still, get away from these idiots. Anyone willing to use a damaged timing belt is not to be trusted.

As far as your last question: The chances are slim to none. If the timing belt failed, there will be internal engine damage.

I wish you the best of luck. You’re going to need it.

I agree with MC.  I especially agree that it would appear that from your message, that is the original timing belt and it should have been replaced at either 60,000 or 80,000 miles.  (the next one should be rated for a longer life).  If I am right, and was not just making some mistaken guesses, you should open up that owner's manual and see what the recommended maintenance is on your car and make sure you get it all caught up.  Not doing that maintenance can be very expensive.

I also agree with mcparadise. Your mechanic’s expertise is clearly in doubt, given his approach to “fixing” your car. (Hint: His method will not fix it.)

As Mr. Meehan stated, if you plan to keep this car, be sure that all of the scheduled maintenance is done, including all of the things that may have been skipped. As you have found out the hard way, failure to change the timing belt on schedule (there are both odometer mileage values and elapsed time values for replacement, as expressed in your Owner’s Manual) inevitably winds up being VERY expensive. Although you did not tell us how many miles are on the odometer, a 7-8 year old car is overdue for timing belt replacement.

I really appreciate the advice. I got the car at an auction and there was no blow by an ran great. i replaced the normal items, fuel and oil filters. Replaced the transmission fluid and so on and when i looked at the timing belt it seemed to be in pretty good shape. But I will keep a closer eye on it. Thankyou

The engine timing belt may have a couple of teeth missing and not be off-time enough for the valves to clash with the pistons. MAY.
Valves can be checked for damage by performing a leak-down test on each cylinder. It shouldn’t be necessary, for me, to explain to a “mechanic” how to do that; but, here’s a tutorial to “refresh” his memory: http://www.carcraft.com/techarticles/116_0406_cylinder_leakdown_tester/index.html