Change a timing belt after many years, but few miles?

My mom has a 2002 Lexus RX 300. It runs great and has only 30,000. Should I have the timing belt replaced?

It will run great up to when the timing belt breaks. Get the belt, water pump, and seals replaced also. It should have been done at least 4 years ago. My wife’s 06 Toyota Sienna will be having its timing belt replaced this summer at the 7 year mark with only 60k on the clock.

Ed B.

I think most manufactuers recommend a time interval for timing belt replacement independent of the mileage. The rubber materials decompose and break down over time from ozone, temperature fluctuations, etc. If the time interval isn’t in the owner’s manual, phone up a dealership parts dept and ask them. I expect they’ll know. Usually it is around 5 years I think.

Actually, @GeorgeSanJose, the standard time interval is 7 years. I’ve seen a few that use 8 years, but most at 7.

7 years, that makes more sense than 5, I agree. If you drive 10K per year, 7 years would be 70K, which is about the spec’d timing belt mileage for many cars. Aren’t most cars in the range of 60K to 100K? In 5 years you’d only drive 50K. I’m not aware of any timing belts not rated to at least 60K. Thanks for correcting.

The car was probably manufactured in 2001 so this means the belt is probably going on 12 years old and it’s just my humble opinion, but 6 years is about the limit. It’s not just miles and age that are a factor; temperature extremes, oil and coolant residue due to weeping seals or a water pump, etc all play a part in belt life.

My belief is that a potential problem should be headed off before it becomes a real problem. If the belt breaks the car will die instantly and having this happen while trying to beat a train at the crossing or in heavy traffic with someone tailgating at 70 MPH makes it a safety issue also.

Look in the owners manual. Some later models are 105k miles and 8 years I think. My corolla went 155k and 11 years on the first belt.

"Corolla went 155k and 11 years on the first belt."
Before it was changed or broke or it was traded or sold ? If all we had to do is not worry about "where and when " it broke, life would be simple. Sometimes they just don’t break in the front yard of a garage. The added expense, danger and or inconvenience just isn’t worth it…sometimes. Otherwise, you’re lucky if it is.

Please tell us what your owner’s manual says. We don’t have your manual in front of us.

Please tell us what your owner’s manual says.
The online Lexus manual states every 90K or 72months.

I agree that proactively changing it is far better than having it go when you’re on an interstate in front of a tractor trailer on a dark rainy night…

Before it was changed. They said it looked good no broken teeth or cracks but I know they can break suddenly. One mechanic told me once that my engine is very easy on timing belts if that makes any sense. Not sure if that’s right or not.

@kenberthiaume, similar to your experience, my Corolla didn’t get its first timing belt change until 10 years and 110K. By the only moderately worn appearance of the removed belt, it still had quite a few miles left in it I expect. I’m not recommending folks go beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation though. My Corolla enjoys the benefits of a mild climate and a driver who’s rapidly approaching geezerhood.

If you want to change your timing belt according to the maintenance schedule or even earlier to be proactive, be my guest, but why bring fear into it. Years ago, cars frequently died suddenly on the highway and we just dealt with it. Even today cars quit at highway speeds for many other reasons,or suddenly lose control due to wheel bearings, ball joints, lug nuts , tire blowouts etc. .
I submit that on a car with a non interference engine, it may make sense not to change it when the car doesn’t figure in your future plans for a long time.
Even on a car with an interference engine, if the cost of the job is more than half of the value of the car,it doesn’t make sense.

similar to your experience, my Corolla didn't get its first timing belt change until 10 years and 110K. By the only moderately worn appearance of the removed belt, it still had quite a few miles left in it I expect.

Unfortunately it’s impossible to tell by looking at it. I’ve seen perfectly good belts just break. They looked almost new…then they broke.