Dear Car Talk:
I have a 2001 Acura Integra LS Coupe. 4 years ago, my timing belt broke. I wasn’t aware that replacing the timing belt was a preventative maintenance issue and the belt broke on me just as I hit 105,000 miles. A family friend who is a mechanic replaced it for me along with the water pump and all the usual parts that go with a timing belt job. About a year later, I started experiencing low RPMs at idle, slight shakiness, and even once or twice, the car turned off after shaking/low RPMs right after turning over the engine. I went to several mechanics over the next 2 years, going through several attempts to correct this issue (2 tune-ups, throttle body cleaning, fuel line flush). The Check Engine Light diagnostic indicated random misfires, (which eventually led to my catalytic converter needing to be replaced). One mechanic (a Honda specialist) eventually did a valve adjustment and fixed the problem! However, a little less than a year later, the problem came back: extremely low RPMs at red lights/when idling. I grew used to putting my car in neutral and revving the engine to keep it from shaking. Maybe you’ve already guessed what the issue is, but after taking it back to the Honda expert, he found that the car needed a valve/head job. After diving further in, he ended up having to replace 6 valves because several were bent. (I NOW KNOW I HAVE AN INTERFERENCE ENGINE). From everything I’ve read about being “unlucky” and having a broken timing belt on an interference engine, I’m wondering how my car was able to last so long with bent valves. Am I lucky in my unluckiness? I wasn’t driving very fast when the belt broke but it’s amazing that the car lasted this long while I keep reading that a broken timing belt on an interference engine results in catastrophic damage.