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97 Civic with pinging

My daughter’s '97 Civic LX seems to ping every since the timing belt was changed. It’s been difficult to figure out exactly what to look for. Both O2 sensors are new, valves recently adjusted, new Honda distributor cap and rotor, new NGK spark plug wires, new ignition coil, new fuel filter, and we’ve run Techron through the fuel system. Pings in the low end of each gear range, even with 89 octane. Runs great otherwise. Any ideas what could be causing this. The car has no EGR valve or knock sensor, so those are not things to look at. I’d really appreciate some insights.

You mention that it started doing this when the timing belt was replaced. One possible cause of a persistent knock like this would be if they didn’t align the timing marks precisely right when the new belt was installed, and as a result the ignition timing is a bit too far advanced.

Given enough time, this has the potential to damage the engine. I’d suggest you take the car back to them and ask them to check and make sure they properly aligned the timing marks. How long has it been since the belt was changed?

You might need to revisit the lack of EGR issue.

If this problem surfaced immediately after the timing belt change I would suspect the ignition timing is not set properly.
Many people, including mechanics, may assume that if the distributor is not moved that everything will stay the same timing wise even after a belt change. It does not work that way though.

It is the shop’s responsibility to verify the ignition timing is correct and should be included in the timing belt price. The test plug MUST be jumped before checking the timing or it will be way off anyway.

Chronic pinging can be destructive to an engine so I would advise driving the car as little as possible until the ignition timing is verified to be correct. Hope some of that helps.

If you changed those parts in an attempt to fix the problem, it wasn’t a mistake if they had a number of years on them because they are scheduled maintenance items, anyway; but don’t change any more stuff. That’s enough.
Unless you know how to change a timing belt, or how to loosen the timing belt and turn the camshaft to the index marks, your task is done.

Just a FYI, here’s the instructions on removing the upper timing belt cover; then, one could look at the camshaft pulley’s index marks after placing the crankshafts index to its timing mark on the lower timing cover.

Otherwise, take it back to the shop/mechanic which changed the timing belt. It’s their job to set the timing right at no additional charge to you.

Thanks to all the responders. The timing issue had crossed my mind but the other items were due for replacement since the car has 115,000 miles on it. I’ll dust off the timing light and check the timing marks.

OK, so I changed the timing and the pinging went away. It was off by a good 5 degrees. However, I have the distributor as far as it will go and the timing mark is still not quite centered. Could this indicate that things weren’t lined up properly when the timing belt was changed?

It’s possible. The cam timing could be off a tooth or two.
A competent mechanic should rotate the engine through by hand several times after the installation of a new timing belt and it should be verified that the marks align themselves again. This also prevents any nasty surprises if the marks are way off on an interference engine and the starter is engaged right off the bat.