A cheapskate's timing belt

For starters, I should explain my background, as it will give you some insight into my dilemma:

I have been a graduate student for 4 years and a missionary teacher for 2 . . . so I have learned how to be compulsive in my penny-pinching ways.

At the moment, my 1991 Toyota Corolla, with about 180.000 miles, needs a new timing belt. Or at least that is what my mechanic told me at my last oil change. I have done all manner of random things on my own, for lack of willingness to spend [from mowing my 1-acre with a push mower to figuring out how to replace a broken door pane when renters left my family home gutted].

So is there some what I can do this change on the cheap–or drive it until the belt breaks? Or until I move back to Africa for my next job?

[They told me it would cost about $300 to do the repairs and, considering the fact that my current child-care garners about $45/week, I blanched at this amount :-)]

My daughter was driving a '91 Corolla with over 100K miles on it. The timing belt was due for replacement. We did the job in my home garage for less than $75. If I can do it, you can do it.

The belt is cheap, and, assuming you have a service manual to direct you, the labor is not beyond a basic do-it-yourselfer.

You will need some tools, some of which you may not have. Beg, borrow, (I won’t suggest stealing) the tools you need, and do it yourself.

You WILL need a service manual. I suggest Books4Cars.com if you don’t have one already.

$300 is not bad if you can’t do this yourself, assuming the job is done correctly.

Good news! The engine in your Corolla is not an “interference” engine, so, even if the timing belt breaks the engine will not suffer internal damage.

I recommend replacing the timing belt, ASAP, especially at 180K miles. Get a book and some tools. You can do this.

$300 is an incredibly/suspiciously cheap quote for a timing belt job. Replacing the timing belt is normal maintence for many cars. I don’t think this is an interference engine (I could be wrong though) so if the timing belt breaks the engine just shuts off, no engine damage should result, but it will definitely leave you stranded on the side of the road providing you make it to the side of the road without getting run over. Basically you’ll going to have to have this fixed sooner or later.

My take on it is to get it fixed for the low low price of $300, it’s just routine maintence that comes with territory of owning a car. By not doing so you could potentially endangering others on the road with you in the event the time belt breaks while you’re driving along in rush hour. If I were driving along minded my own business and suddenly someone in an unpowered car tries to dive across 3 lanes of traffic in a mad dash to get to the shoulder of the road because of an event that he/she could’ve easily avoided had he/she not been so bloody cheap. I would be pretty offended and I imagine the other people on same road would be too.

$300 is neither incredibly nor suspiciously cheap for this car. The fact that you say this, FoDaddy, means you have no first-hand experience with this particular vehicle.

Replacing the timing belt on a '91 Corolla is a piece of cake. There’s no water pump to worry about, there’s no “interference” to worry about.

I’ve done it.

What do you know that I don’t know?

I do not have any first hand experience with that particular car. Nor did I ever claim to for that matter. $300 for a timing belt job is pretty cheap when measured against most other cars you would find in North America. A job for a comparable car like a Civic would be at around double that figure.

What would replacing the timing belt be worth, if it broke and held you up for five hours when you were racing to your mom’s hospital bedside?

You can probably do the job yourself. The big issue is probably how the pully on the front of the crankshaft is held on. If it is held by one big bolt/nut then getting the sucker on/off will be a real chore. But on some cars, it is held on by a bunch of small bolts and they will probably spin right off. It will take a day – maybe two. You’ll need a manual. And you may have to do the assembly/disassembly twice if you get it wrong the first time.

If you don’t drive a lot, you can consider ignoring it. The timing belt will break someday, but it might not happen for years. You will, however, have added the cost of a tow to the cost of the job if it does break.

If you do the job yourself, remember to rotate the engine until the timing marks are oriented where they belong. Memorize their positions before you take the old belt off. Few things are more exasperating than going to put the belt back on and finding that there are three things on the camshaft that might be timing marks and none of them look like the photo in the manual.

Here are the instructions for replacing the timing belt: http://www.autozone.com/autozone/repairinfo/repairguide/repairGuideContent.jsp?partName=Timing+Belt+and+Sprockets&pageId=0900c1528006f043&partId=0900c1528006f043 I see a couple of places where the novice could mess up.
To insure that the engine stays in time, loosen the idler puller (looks like a roller), lengthwise, cut the installed belt down the center, all the way around its circumference. Cut one of the halves across and remove it. Leave the other half in place — around the pulleys and all that.
Put the new timing belt in place, around the pulleys and all that. Now, you can cut off that half of the old timing belt, and push the new timing belt fully into place. This way, no pulleys move out of position (timing).

I believe the engine is not interference. Break downs are no fun but given the age of vehicle I think that comes with the territory at this point. I would drive along till it snaps or you can afford to replace it.

I just would not take long trips with the car.

You are terribly encouraging to me McParadise . . . maybe too much so since I have tackled enough DIY projects blindly to have botched a few, or gotten myself in a pickle.
Any chance you live near TN and want to be hired to help? :wink: