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HELP Timing Belt Forester

Timing belt photos

Hi All! So I’m a new member but long time advice seeker of the community. I have two 2003 Subaru foresters that Ive been breathing life into for many years. My wifes car is the base model and has 160k miles. Mine is the xs model and has 190k. Long story but mine had the infamous head gasket issue at 85k miles which resulted in a new engine block. At that time my timing belt was changed. Doing the math I’m seeming to be right about the point of changing in order to breath more life into breaking 200k! Problem is my wifes car has no found record of ever having timing belt changed. But how could that be at 160k? Anyway I took it to a local (not sure of trust) shop and asked them to check the belt. Came back a while later and he said yes they need to be changed. Then I went home and thought I would give a look myself.

My hope is if any of you skilled mechanics out there are able to tell from looking at the belt if they both infect need changing?

Fact is we’re some what (reluctantly) prepared for these to be beyond repair, and cut our loses. But if a $400ish timing belt repair will keep them going a little longer then we think it’s worth it.

Thank you so much for your advice!

You can’t tell when a belt will break just by looking at it . Any reasonable mechanic will not say the belt will last for 1 day or 10 years. If a 400.00 repair lets you drive for even 6 months it is not money wasted.


You can’t tell by looking at a timing belt if it needs to be replaced. OK, you can tell a timing belt that’s on the verge of catastrophic failure, but normal wear and tear happens at a level not visible to the naked eye. I believe the scheduled maintenance for that belt is 105K. It’s not unheard of to get 150K out of original timing belts. I would replace the timing belts/water pump kits on both your cars and drive them for several more years. You’re not going to get a quality job for $400, but that’s a different question.

There’s a train of thought out there among several shops I’m familiar with that they no longer recommend timing belt service on Subarus. They wait until the head gaskets fail and then replace them while the engine is out.

Sounds pretty reasonable

Exactly what does that include, besides the timing belt itself and the labor

At the very least, you should ALSO get the timing belt tensioner and idler replaced, as well as cam- and crank seals if they appear to need it. I’m no Subaru expert, but if the water pump is driven by the timing belt, it would be prudent to do it. Bottom line . . . you want everything under the timing belt cover to be good until the next time

Thank you guys!
So I haven’t actually gotten a quote from any shops yet I just read many people saying it shouldn’t be more then $500 for belt, water pump etc. My HOPE is putting the money into the repair keeps them going longer but in the case of my car being so close to 200k and the fact that my commute is 3+ hours (roundtrip) each weekday. I worry about putting money into something that almost dead. But who knows with these Subarus!

Fix one and replace the other . I would place more importance getting to work then trying to reach a mileage goal.

I was actually just thinking that. Since technically my wifes car made it 160k with the same timing belt, and mine is 105k on it’s 2nd belt. Then maybe we change hers and keep driving mine, in hopes it last till time to sell and replace the car.
I’ve actually been dealing with some other repair with my car after a bad pot hole hit. Had a real bad car shake at high speeds, shop said tire was busted. Got 2 new tires, still had shake, then they tell me ball joint was bad, replaced those still shake, Then they say it’s because it’s AWD it should have the same tires all around. So I plan to get 2 more and HOPE the shake goes away. Again all this on a 200k car that’s driven 120 miles a day. So if I can save a little more $ in skipping the timing belt on my car and it last a few more months till I’m ready to buy a new car then that’d be great.

if you hit a pothole with the front tire, you probably will also hit the rear tire? unless you drive sideways? you damaged tire, got shake. changed tire and still have shake. did you inspect rear tires? did you inspect ALL 4 rims for damage?

Very good point. I trusted the shop to think of that but I’ll certainly bring it up to confirm. Rims seem fine. I did also read that shaking car could be the timing belt but It only shakes at high speed, I would think if its the belt it would shake at idle as well. thanks

If a tensioner pulley or idler pulley fails the belt will quickly follow and on interference engines it’s wise to stay ahead of the factory replacing all the timing components.

And if the old belt is properly marked before removal and the markings transferred to the new belt a great deal of time can be saved in the swap.

Why wait , there are 2017 closeouts on many models with low interest for those with good credit. If I was driving that much I would look for the cheapest thing that would meet my comfort level .

True, but that is a longer term problem, with increased wear in the differentials. It should not cause shaking short term (in my limited knowledge).

For example, the spare is a smaller donut on my newer forester, and when in place the tires are of much different diameters, yet there is no shaking. Of course, you should not use this spare for any length of time, although, strangely, Subaru does not put any time limit on it’s use.

And yet there is such an hysterical insistence that all 4 tires are perfectly matched. That’s amazing.

Considering the outback, I need AWD, cargo room and pretty ok mpg and thought of that or a Honda CR-V Thoughts.

Which makes me wonder whats really wrong with it. Rims seem fine. Getting the 2 new matching tires this week to hopefully fix but could it be something else? Heavy shaking on acceleration at around 60+ mph. Thoughts engine bolts loose, but then it would shake during idle. Thought same for timing belt but same.

My thoughts on the list you provided all come back to the Subaru 2.5-liter engine defect that causes oil consumption and failures. The defect goes back many years and now even 2017 model year owners are reporting it. More here. So I’d skip the Subaru unless you are going to opt for one with the 2.0-liter or 2.0-turbo engine.

Need all wheel drive - really , most of the time a front wheel drive vehicle with good tires will be enough for commuting . When it is not hardly anyone is going anywhere anyway.