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Car won't start after timing belt replacement

I have a 2001 Honda Civic EX with 110,000 miles. Last weekend I decided to change the timing belt. I own the Honda Service Manual for this car, and I followed the instructions exactly. After putting everything back together, I turned the key, and the car wouldn’t start. The engine turned over and it stuttered for a second while I turned the key, but it died as soon as I let go of the key. When I tried turning the key again, there is no stuttering - just the engine cranking. If I wait for a few hours and try this again, I get the same sequence of events.

I borrowed an ODB-II reader and hooked it up to make sure I didn’t damage a sensor. It showed no codes.

What could be wrong? If I installed the timing belt incorrectly, it could not be grossly off - I made sure the TDC marks were in the right place, etc. At most I can’t be off by more than 1 or 2 teeth. Could this have done it? Is there anything else I can look for before pulling everything apart again?

Make sure all the timing marks line up exactly. Timing belts can be tricky to install even with the service manual. Did you turn the engine a few times and recheck the timing marks prior to finishing the job?

Before you put everything back together, you should have turned the engine over with a breaker bar, NOT THE STARTER, a few times and rechecked the TDC marks. This will minimize the likelihood of bending any valves, since most people will stop trying to turn the engine over with a socket when they feel something hitting something inside. The starter won’t care, it will just wreak havoc. If you didn’t do this step, you could be off by some amount, and one or two teeth could be enough to do valve damage, but hopefully not. Does it sound different when you crank it than it did before you changed the belt?

BTW, if you didn’t change the tensioner and water pump, you should have, and might as well if you have to do the job over again.

Thanks mark for covering my butt. I would never think of turning an engine over with the starter when changing a timing belt or chain. That’s why I have the battery disconnected throughout the job.

I mention that because I have seen people do that, thinking it’s a good, lazy shortcut. They think if they just keep ‘tapping’ the key that it will be okay. Not so. I honestly don’t know if the belt being off by one or two teeth will do damage to a Honda engine, or any other interference engine for that matter, since I have never tried it, but Honda motors are pretty touchy. The engine will at least not start, and valve damage, like I said, is a real possibility.

Is it possible that you timed the camshaft off 180 degrees? Remember that the crank turns twice for every turn of the camshaft. The spark should happen as the piston reaches TDC after the compression stroke. If the canshaft were 180 out, the spark would happen at the top of the exhaust stroke.

I own a 2003, and did the DIY for the timing belt change for our cars on

You have the timing belt off by 1 or 2 teeth at most. This is entirely possible if you pulled the “grenade pin” off the tensioner too early or if you didn’t replace the tensioner and had to move it out of the way but couldn’t keep it locked down. The simple but dangerous test it to disconnect the cam position sensor (upper one, big rubber grommet that goes into the hole in the upper timing cover. and start the engine. if it keeps running, thats what you did.

1 or 2 teeth won’t bend a valve as far as I know, but any more than that and yeah, you are looking at bad times. Since you already know you are off, restring the belt and try again by turning the engine counterclockwise via the crankshaft with a socket a few revolutions to make sure your belt is on right.

Hi. I’ve exactly the same problem…is appears that the ignition spark dont work, but i try then outside and they work… But outside i gave the negative… Maybe that’s missing but I’ve checked everthing and it seems is all connected😔 do you figure it out?

As the others have stated you may be a tooth off without realizing it. When you pull the pin on the tensioner the slack it takes up will sometimes throw you off…or try to I should say.

Its best practice to pull your tensioner lock pin…then rotate the engine by hand and then see where your marks are.

Like I said…this is the step that will try to throw your timing off a tooth, but it wont if you are careful. Try the crank sensor disconnect to see if she starts and if so…go back in…and correct your one tooth off shituation.

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Ok, its safe to disconet the crank sensor? I will try that tomorrow and leave here the feedback. I rotate severa times the engine and the marks are in place as you can see in pictures.

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Why dont you just re verify your marks? They are right there for you to check… check them.

Yes i verified the marks… Many times… On the camshaft they are also correct…tomorrow i will try to disconet the crankshaft sensor and see if it starts, and then i will align the points again to check if it’s ok.

Please dont overlook the obvious things like plugs that you had to disconnect… go over all electrical connects you had to separate during the job… sometimes that can fool you into thinking they are snapped on or connected…etc… That sort of thing…

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Thanks😉 i will check every conector.