2003 Acura MDX Timing Belt and Water Pump

Hi There, I have 106K miles and I know I am supposed to change my timing belt. This is very scary to me because I have heard all kinds of stories about this. So I contacted the dealership and it will cost me 1200 and they REQUIRE a waterpump replacement as well. The research I have done shows that because the waterpump is not connected to the timing belt system, it is not necessary to change it. Moreover, I have heard I need to change the idle as well. Can you dispel the urban legend that you must get water pump changed when you change the timing belt. Also, am I playing with fire here? If my timing belt goes will I completely ruin my engine or will my engine just stall?


Dennis From Stoneham


First find an independent shop that works on Honda’s(yes your Acura is a glorifed Honda). Water pump is very prudent and likely a $200+ part however labor is essentially free during a timing belt change. Basically they remove most everything when they replace the timing belt. You can skip it but expect pay nearly what you did for the timing belt replacement to perform change latter if need be.

$1200 is beyond steep. Keep calling for quotes.

If your timing belt fails it will damage your engine to the tune of $3000-$4000 usually.

The dealership is actually being very proactive by requiring a water pump replacement when the timing belt is changed.

When a water pump needs to be replaced, it is necessary to remove the timing belt. So, if you don’t replace the water pump along with the belt now, and if the water pump fails next year, you will pay the same labor costs AGAIN in order to remove and replace the timing belt, along with the water pump.

If you go to an independent mechanic, he will probably just replace the belt if you wish, thus holding down the costs, but in the long run, you may wind up paying more by trying to “cheap out” now. It would be more fiscally prudent to replace the water pump, along with the timing belt tensioner, at the same time as the timing belt itself.

When that timing belt snaps (with no warning, I might add), it will cause significant damage to the valves and pistons, thus necessitating a tear-down of the engine in order to replace the damaged parts. At that point, the repair bill will likely be something on the order of $2,500.00, in addition to the cost of the timing belt that should have been replaced previously.

Thanks for the input

You have been going to the dealer all this time. Why should you try to save several hundred dollars by going to an independent shop/mechanic? The dealer might disapprove. The independent mechanic may be a stranger. You may, even, get to talk to the independent mechanic, face to face!

Most people do the water pump, tensioner, and other belts at the same time. I’d recommend you do the same.

Hop over to http://www.acuramdx.org/forums for more details if you’d like.

The research I have done shows that because the waterpump is not connected to the timing belt system, it is not necessary to change it.

According to the Gates site (http://www.gates.com), this is an interference type engine (thus repairs due to a broken timing belt will be VERY expensive) AND the water pump is driven by the timing belt. It looks like your “research” was faulty.

It’s a good idea to replace the water pump while the mechanic is in there, because 1) if it fails later, most of the cost of taking the front end of the engine apart will have to be repeated, and 2) a seized water pump could shred the timing belt, leading to engine destruction. Ditto for idlers and tensioners. That said, you may be able to get a better price at an independent mechanic.

We have had more then one poster that has posted a problem with the timing belt tensioner failing causing major engine damage even though the timing belt was replaced less then a year prier to failure. This, because the tensioner was not replaced.

Not replacing every wear item in contact with the timing belt while replacing the belt, IMHO is false economy.

Let me second MrPhil in that the water pump is indeed driven by the timing belt.

I have a 2002 with only 55k miles- Factory says change at 7 years- Any thoughts on doing the belt change?

Yes, I would change the belt as indicated by the elapsed time (7 years). You don’t need to do this TOMORROW, but I would do it before the end of the year. Honda and Acura have belts with a good safety margin, but the potential damage is great and warranty would not cover it.

If you had a Volkswagen, I would say, change it TOMORROW.

“Factory says change at 7 years…”

7 years or nnn# miles, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST

7 years came first - change it