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Bearings/Timing Belt

I hope someone can help me figure out the best way to deal with a big mess. I usually take my 97 Volvo 960 wagon to the dealer for service, but have sometimes used an independent mechanic for small jobs. At one point, this mechanic told me I should change the timing belt, so I had him change it. I didn’t realize how crucial the timing belt was; otherwise I would have had the dealer change it. The mechanic did not give me any information or options about replacing the bearings along with the timing belt. Yesterday, when I tried to start my car, it wouldn’t start. I thought the car needed a jump start, so I called the independent mechanic, who said it wasn’t the battery, & towed the car to his shop. He then told me that the bearings had worn out, that the timing belt had jumped, and that there were probably bent valves in the engine. I asked the mechanic how this could have happened when I take my car in at regular intervals for servicing. He said that when he replaced the timing belt, he would have checked the bearings & they were good, but “a lot can happen in 30,000 miles.” My thought is that if the timing belt is only changed every 45,000 miles, & the bearings can wear out in 30,000 miles & destroy the engine, they should be changed with the timing belt. Not much help now.

I really don’t want this mechanic to touch my car again. I had my car towed to the dealer, but expect they will quote me a horrible price to rebuild the engine. My Volvo has about 123,000 miles, & could probably last another 100,000. I want to fix it, but is that foolish? Do I have any recourse with this mechanic?

Any thoughts appreciated - thanks!

Can you please find out which “bearings” are being referred to?
At this point, I am having a hard time connecting a timing belt replacement with bearings.

I suspect that the problem might have been the result of a belt tensioner that was not replaced along with the timing belt, but that is just a guess. But, as to bearings…?

Sorry, yes I meant bearings in the belt tensioner. At least the mechanic tells me there are bearings in the belt tensioner…

Belt tensioners should always be replaced at the same time as the timing belt, but–since so many people try to accuse mechanics of trying to rip them off with unnecessary maintenance/repairs–some mechanics have decided to take a chance and not suggest replacing the belt tensioners along with the timing belt, in order to be able to quote a lower price.

Ideally, the job should include the timing belt, the serpentine belt, the water pump, and all belt tensioners. Your case is a perfect example of why the tensioners should be replaced at the same time.

The belt tensioner probably has a roller bearing.

When you replace a timing belt it’s a good idea to replace the tensioner.

As for going to the dealer…Just because you had bad luck with this mechanic doesn’t mean a good independent can’t do the job correctly. I’ll take a 50yo independent with 30+ years experience over a 20 something who’s been working at the dealer 2 years to work on my car.

I just did a timing belt on a 2001 Pt cruiser for my mom. I opted to get the kit, with the timing belt, idler pully (which also has a bearing), belt tentioner, the water pump, and both drive belts. With all that is involved with this type of job, I’d rather replace all those parts with the timing belt.

For the extra $75 dollars for the tentioner and idler it was a no-brainer.

I’d say that when the belt came off,you bent a few valves.
That is what happens to these “Interferance Engines”…internal damage.
This is why they recomend that you change the timing belt at such intervals.


Unfortunately, the mechanic never discussed or offered me any option of replacing the tensioner with the timing belt. So…what should I do now???

Should I: A) Rebuild the engine at the dealer? B) Try to find a used engine?
C) Buy a new car?

A lot can happen with a tensioner bearing in 5k miles, much less 30k miles. Tensioners and idlers always get replaced. Failure to do so is what led to this problem and inspection at the time of a belt change means very little.

Valve contact with the pistons due to a failure of the timing belt or tensioner does not automatically mean the engine must be rebuilt or replaced. In the vast majority of cases the damage is limited to bent intake valves in the cylinder head(s) and nicked piston tops.

This means repair of the cylinder heads only would cure the problem although a more cost effective method would be to find a pair of low miles cylinder heads and go that route; assuming both heads are damaged.

Any nicks in the piston tops can be fixed by filing or grinding off any sharp edges without removing them from the engine. Removal of the sharp edges prevents detonation on a running engine due to those sharp edges glowing red and setting off the fuel/air mix.

Thank you, ok4450! Question - I’ve always taken my car in for servicing to the dealer at recommended intervals. I’ve depended on the dealers to replace what needs replacing. Should the tensioner bearing & idlers be changed every 5K miles? Do I need to specifically ask for this to be done?

I am curious as to whether the shop offered some price option that might imply a level of service. With price competition being expected by the public a great many shops might be forced to offer a range of good-better-best without going into detail unless the customer asks for an explanation.

I am certain that in today’s economic climate, with the public overwhelmingly suspicious of shops, it would be impossible for me to open a repair shop. The public wishes to feed their vanity with glitz and performance and dump it when a warning light comes on and the automobile industry is more than happy to oblige. Luckily, the economy was in the dumps when I opened my business and the practical, ‘frugal’ people who could have bought new cars decided to keep their old cars another year or two “till they could see better” and there were no McParts stores or McMuffler shops on Main St with fancy signs for me to compete with.

As for this car, an honest, experienced mechanic can give a tentative guess as to the damage and if there is a leak down problem offer to remove the head and inspect the damage to allow for a true estimate for repair.

I’m sure 0k4450 meant that those bearings had already passed their predicted life. That after the Timing belt was changed, they could go 5K or 30K miles.

I personally would never go thru all that work and not spend that little extra on a new tentioner and idler.

Just like the water pump…why not replace it while you have 3/4 of the parts off that would need to be removed to replace it during the timing belt job.

Correct. A tensioner bearing can fail a few hundred miles after a belt change even though by feel the tensioner may have felt fine.

With age and heat, the grease in the bearing congeals over time. Eventually the hardened surface of the bearings and bearing races start to disentegrate and once that happens the bearing is on borrowed time.

You’ve fallen victim to the fact that the independent shop does not have many customers that are as good as you are.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quoted a price for a timing belt job that included new idler pulleys and tensioners, only to have the customer say “It doesn’t need all that, the owner’s manual just says replace timing belt.” I’ve called people in the middle of a timing belt job and reported that inspection shows a tensioner that is failing only to be accused of trying to pad the job. As a result of being beaten up repeatedly like that, many shops have just given trying to do the job right and have caved in to the price-shopper. You, on the other hand, certainly would have chosen to replace the items in question if you had been given the option, right?

If you’ve had good experience with this independent shop in the past you may want to try to work with them on repairing your engine. If not, or if this experience has just left a bad taste in your mouth, have your dealer repair the car. After all, it sounds like they’ve earned your trust in the past. Price isn’t everything.

Yes, if the mechanic had explained the options to me, I absolutely would have had him replace the tensioners & idlers. Unfortunately, the dealer says I’m looking at $6000-8000 to replace the engine. He says that he doesn’t recommend replacing the engine because the chances are that something else would fail, like the transmission. I had been counting on this car going another 100,000 miles. Is it foolish to put this kind of money into the car?

“Is it foolish to put this kind of money into the car?”

In order for you to make this decision, please first consider this question:
Since the book value of this car is–at most–$2,000 if it is in “average” condition, does it make sense to you to “invest” over $6k in a 15 year old car that will only develop more (expensive) problems as it ages? To me, doing this would border on insanity, but your values may be different than mine, and you are entitled to hold those values and opinions.

“I had been counting on this car going another 100,000 miles.”

In reality, this car–like any car that is still repairable–can probably go for another 200,000 miles. The ultimate question is whether it makes much sense to invest the huge amount of money (on an ongoing basis) that would be necessary in order to reach that goal.

Unfortunately, all too many Volvo owners seem to think that their cars will last forever. While this may–theoretically–be possible, the cost of repairing a Volvo as it ages tends to become truly prohibitive and trying to preserve these cars almost always veers into the category of bad economics.

If you were to buy a newer car, you would be getting a few things that you just can’t have with this car:

Better fuel economy
Superior safety for driver and passengers
Better reliability

Yes, I know that your Volvo was very safe when it was made, but even the smallest, cheapest cars on the market nowadays actually protect their occupants far better than your 15 year old Volvo. And, advances in fuel economy have left your Volvo in the dust when it comes to economy of operation. Needless to say, something much newer will have far fewer repair issues than a 15 year old car, as long as that newer car was properly maintained.

Your comments are so vague that it is hard to determine what is wrong with car.
U say mechanic changed timing belt
U do not say if he changed belt tensioner
U do not say what is wrong with car
We all are assuming mechanic caused nine failure by not doing “something”?
And what did he do to cause nine failure?