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Broken timing belt

Recently the timing belt on my 2000 Nissan Frontier XE V6 broke and did significant damage to the engine. The car has 156K miles and fixing the current engine will likely lead to more problems down the road, plus expensive. There are no decent used engines to be found, and a new engine is not worth the money considering the current worth of the car. The truck is in good shape and it seems a waste to sell it for scrap. Any ideas on how best to recover my losses? Advice welcome.

Has damage to the pistons been determined?

Indeed. If the pistons are undamaged, then a new head will probably do the trick. Cheaper than a new engine, but still most likely over a grand. If the pistons are damaged or the cost of a head replacement is too much, then you don’t have much choice - either get a new engine, or sell the truck as scrap or as a rolling chassis to someone who wants a project vehicle.

Get a motor shipped to you.


Thanks for the advice, I need to assess the pistons but was holding off since it sounds like it will cost 500 in labor just to know whether or not the pistons are damaged.

I’d suggest a leakdown test, that should be too expensive. That will determine if significant damage was actually done. If it fails, that does not prove piston damage though. For less that $200, I have seen those flexible fiber optic cameras that can look into the cylinder just by removing the plug. ($179 at Costco)

It should not cost anywhere near 500 dollars to determine if there are bent valves due to this. It’s a matter of bringing a few cylinders up to TDC of the compression stroke, applying air through the spark plug holes, and then listening for air hissing back out the intake as the intake valves are the ones that usually get bent.

Another method is to pull a valve cover and check for excessive lash on the intake valves as bent intake valves will prevent the valve from fully closing. This in turn creates looseness in the valve train.

It sounds like for 500 bucks they’re wanting to rip the motor half apart and this is not necessary.

If the engine ran well before with no oil consumption and knocking you could try rounding up a pair of used cylinder heads and install those. Odds are the pistons and rod bearings are fine even if contact was made.
Any nicks in the piston tops should be rounded off with a die grinder, etc. to rid the pistons of any sharp edges. Any sharp edges left in place can create detonation problems.

Not to beat up the original poster… But I wanted to again beat the drum of proactively replacing the timing belt on engines so equipped. This situation is obviously one painful example.

A family member recently had the timing belt break on her Volvo. She bought the car used at 98K and just “assumed” the previous owner had replaced it. 40K miles later, it broke on her one afternoon. The total repair bill ended up being $3200. I was suprised she wanted to fix the car, or that it even could be repaired, but it was her call.

Anyway, point being that $700 or so spent proactively is a heck of a lot better than a car randomly breaking down one day and potentially costing you several thousand dollars.

Just my two cents.

Your truck may have surprising value to a rebuilder, far more than scrap value…There are legions of back-yard mechanics who supplement their incomes by buying and repairing vehicles like this. Or purchase a used engine from a source like @circuitsmith mentioned and have one of these guys install it for you.

Your V6 engine is a conundrum… It has two cylinder heads to replace and it will cost a considerable amount of money just to assess its present condition. Has ANY meaningful diagnostic work been done on it yet? You almost have to install a new timing belt to do this, but a compression test can be done without replacing the belt once the valve covers are removed and the cams can be rotated and valve action observed…

If money is a big issue, can you find a new vehicle for the price of the replacement engine?

I dont really like multibanked foreign timing belt engines for this reason(dont want anything with a timing belt nowadays) that being said,why wasnt it replaced at at 105K? One day I suppose there wont be anymore camshafts(wait till the big EMP hits) I guess a 12 yr old vehicle is sort of a hit or miss proposition.Be a good time to find a VQ or Supercharged 3.3 to drop in there.Had a 99 Frontier once really loved that truck,but Nissan carefully omitted a few things so I didnt buy another.Please take no offense none intended,I’m still a Nissan fan-Kevin