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Honda Pilot timing belt frayed broke due to idle tension pulley failure

I am working with Honda dealership management because I had my timing belt changed at 102,000 miles and 25,000 miles later The belt broke and frayed while driving in heavy traffic at night on freeway leaving me stranded in the median luckily instead of in the middle of the freeway. Honda dealership stating that the idle tension pulley caused the fraying of the belt not due to poor workmanship by their mechanics. Cost is possibly $3000. I am asking dealership to consider assisting in payment because The day the belt went out The car had been serviced for a oil change. When I was called to be notified the job was complete I asked the service rep questions about the oil transmission and toldhim there was a noise in the engine could they please check it or did they check it which she replied no that I would have to make another appointment for that. So even if I would’ve made appointment the next day the damage was already done because that night is when the belt broke Is this part of Hondas responsibility is it reasonable for them to take part responsibility. Also if the idol tension pulley had been changed at the same time of the belt for probably only $100 it would’ve saved my engine. So this is all my responsibility not theirs?

Usually when a timing belt is replaced on a Honda engine, a timing belt kit is installed.

Here’s the one for your Honda Pilot.

This includes the hydraulic belt tensioner/idler pulley/water pump.

Just because you take your vehicle to the dealer for service, don’t think that you’re getting the best service.

Find an independent shop that treats your vehicle as if it’s their vehicle.


Thanks. Great feedback

The should have recommended the pully or better yet the full kit or at the very least informed you of the option.

Most reputable shops would replace this pulley and assorted other things, like the water pump, when replacing a timing belt. What parts typically get replaced depends on the engine. So you may have a valid complaint, at least to some degree. But if you balked at all at the price they quoted you, then they reduced the price by leaving some of that other stuff out of the job, then this problem would be entirely on you. So your remedies, if any, seems like it depends on what happened and what you said when you were pricing out the timing belt job with the dealership shop.

I don’t think you have much to go on with the other complaint, about them not checking the noise during the oil change appointment. A shop can’t stop all the other work they’ve promised to other customers b/c an oil change customer asks them to check out a new noise in the engine. Your option then is to either drive away, hope for the best, and make an appointment for a later date. Or to leave the car there and take a taxi home. Usually the former is the better choice, but in this case, apparently not. BTW, the noise you were hearing may have nothing to do with the timing belt disaster about to happen.

The problem with your car illustrates perfectly why the entire timing kit should be changed. This is a screwup on their part (in my opinion) although they will not likely admit to it due to corporate policy.

Tester is right about dealer service although independents can be touch and go also. The problem with dealer service when it comes to errors like this is that a number of those dealer techs buy into the corporate line about a car not needing this, omitting that, or what have you.
Mechanical common sense (absent in this case) should obviously mean a kit is used.

The manual says to change the belt at 105k miles and “inspect” the water pump. It makes no mention of tensioners or idlers (pure garbage) and “inspection” of a water pump is also pure garbage because it means nothing. The pump can be fine on Tuesday and failed on Wednesday.

You could try to drag corporate Honda into this and see if they will “Good Will” warranty the repair since technically speaking corporate Honda’s bad advice and their naive dupes at the dealership are the root cause of all of this.

I agree with oldtimer; if they’re going to cut corners at least present the options to you and put the ball into your court. This problem is not due to any fault on your part at all.

THAT…was not your fault. If the T belt service was done “Correctly” they would have replaced everything under the T belt cover… I do these jobs all the time and none leave my hands without everything being replaced…it is the only way to do the service properly and ensure longevity. In fact I have not had one single timing belt failure out of well over 300 T belt jobs performed. Not a single one…and I dont expect any. Im sort of a T Belt “Nazi” of sorts…but hey the results speak for themselves.

The only way this could have occured is as Tester stated…they didn’t do the job properly…but what is the dealeships version of “proper”? You start to get into semantics at that point. Never would have happened if they did the job correctly. This is awful…I hope no valvetrain damage was incurred which is a distinct and very real possibility…if so the costs would skyrocket and possibly eclipse the vehicles value in its entirety.

I would be raising Holy Hell… Good luck with that though…


I agree with everyone here, that the entire “Timing belt kit” should have been changed out.

You need to check the receipt from the timing belt job to see if only the belt was changed…or the entire kit. The service dept may already know the entire kit was replaced, and they are just pushing the blame back onto you.
If the entire kit was replaced, then it was their parts that went bad. This puts the blame back onto their field.

As far as the noise you asked to be checked out. I can understand both sides here. When you asked them to check the noise, they had already finished your car and it was parked back on the lot for you. For them to bring your car back in and put it on the lift…taking a mechanic (not an oil change flunky) away from his scheduled work would have disrupted the flow of the scheduled work.
You wouldn’t want to be the person who came to pick up their car at 4pm and find out the job was not done because of an unscheduled job slid into the mix…pushing your car to tomorrow.

Had you asked ahead of time for them to check out the sound, they may have had one of their better trained mechanic’s…with a better in tune ear…drive your car from the lot into the oil change bay. He may have been able to tell right away that there were big problems in the near future. He may have even skipped even moving the car and have the service manager call you to suggest they investigate the engine noise better the next day. He may have even suggested that the car stay there and not even be started to be driven into a work bay. They would push it in and pull the timing cover before doing anything.

Most oil change flunky’s couldn’t differentiate a timing belt noise from loose nut in their own noggin.

Check that receipt or ask them to print you up a copy from their files. See if it includes the idler pulley. If they did replace the entire kit, then you have some argument to get them to help with the bill.


What Model And Model-Year Is This Honda?

How Much Time Elapsed Between The 102,000 Miles And The Additional 25,000 Miles?

Has All Scheduled Maintenance Been Done On This Vehicle? Done By A Honda Dealer?

Thank you for the replies. I am getting a copy of the invoice sent to me because the invoice is in my car which the dealership is looking at. The service rep told me over the phone that they replaced the timing belt, drive belt, water pump, seals, cranks. So it sounds like the kit. There are part numbers on The invoice. Today svc dealorship manager is looking other damage and Checking valves I too am very concerned about damage to other areas although I do not have mechanical back ground.

Talked to corporate they say it is a dealership workmanship issue to work it out with them. The corprate rep said they would talk to the dealership and closed the issue. Asked to talk to management was told no. She was decision maker.

If these guys are now replacing the belt, water pump, and so on in an effort to determine whether or not any valves are bent in the cylinder heads then this just proves how mechanically misguided they are.

You do NOT have to replace all of that to determine engine damage. It’s easily checked without that expense IF you know what the hxxx you’re doing.
Trust me on this; many misguided mechanics honestly believe these things have to be changed to determine bad news. That is simply not the case.

Odds are they will call you next and tell you the cylinder heads are damaged (duh…) and it will cost you X dollars. They screwed up; pure and simple.

This is also another example of why I often state, with some disagreement, on this forum that the owners manuals and factory recommendations are not always what is best for your car in mechanical terms.

"If these guys are now replacing the belt, water pump, and so on in an effort to determine whether or not any valves are bent in the cylinder heads then this just proves how mechanically misguided they are."

@Joy4 now said, “The service rep told me over the phone that they replaced the timing belt, drive belt, water pump, seals, cranks. So it sounds like the kit. There are part numbers on The invoice. Today svc dealorship manager is looking other damage and Checking valves I too am very concerned about damage to other areas although I do not have mechanical back ground.”

I took that to mean that these parts were replaced originally when the belt was replaced the first time, not now in an effort to check engine damage


I made the same interpretation as CSA.

The way I read it (right or wrong) is that the belt only (per the owners manual) was replaced and the dealer is going in AFTER the fact to replace all of the things they should have changed on the first go-around.

Seeing as how any belt fraying would occur over time this might likely point to a poor labor installation job rather than the failure of a new part. The failure of a new part would be so rare that it’s difficult to give much weight to it.

Maybe the OP will clarify that part of it.

Addendum to the second paragraph. That belt fraying could also be due to a worn tensioner, idler, or water pump. I was just bringing up how a new belt could disentegrate so quickly IF new parts were used.

As I just learned with the timing belt fiasco on my Acura, it is SOP at Honda to only replace parts that they deem to be in current need of replacement.

I had to fight with them to get them to go back in and install the idler/tensioner pulleys because I had told them to replace them no matter what. They argued that the pulleys were in perfect shape and didn’t need replacement, guaranteed, but when I asked if their use of the word “guarantee” meant that if the pulleys failed the belt before the next timing belt change interval they would replace my engine, they said they couldn’t do that.

This led me to conclude that they will happily risk your money on stupid decisions, but when their money is on the line they aren’t quite so eager to make such definitive statements.

What they are doing is trying to pull business away from local shops. When the local shop quotes you $1300 for the job, it’s because they intend to replace everything that comes with the kit. When the Honda/Acura dealership quotes you $1,100 for the job, it’s because they intend to do less of a job. But they don’t tell you that until you’re picking the car up. and so you go to them because they have fooled you into thinking that they are cheaper when in fact they are more expensive because they’re doing less work for almost the same price.

You are in a pretty bad spot because the dealership followed standard operating procedure and you unfortunately did not realize that SOP was to do an incomplete timing belt job. You will probably be burdened with proving, likely before a judge, that their SOP is negligent, which would involve getting a non-dealership mechanic to testify as to what should have been done in the job.

The service rep told me over the phone that they replaced the timing belt, drive belt, water pump, seals, cranks.

The list of items should read thusly.

Timing Belt
Water Pump
Oil Pump Seal (If external pump equipped)
Balance Shaft belt (if equipped)
Timing Belt Tensioner
Idler Bearing
Front Main Seal
Balance Shaft Seal
Camshaft Seal

These items should be listed Front and Center…LOUD and PROUD…

What you listed in your post smacks of this not being done to spec… There should be no conjecture in what that service encompasses…None whatsoever. You replace everything replaceable under that T Belt cover…its pretty simple and not expensive Parts Wise. In the end you will wreck an engine over a 35 dollar part…how wise is that line of thinking?

Not seeing the tensioner listed nor the idler suggests they left those bearings and tensioner in the mix to try and survive another T belt service term…which is about 100K miles… Heaven help you if those bearings give up the Ghost during that time. Those parts should not be asked to deliver a service life of that duration…and that is not opinion.

They cut corners…its obvious and they should be embarrassed and trying to fix the issue IMHO.

Boy would I have an absolute FIELD DAY with the service manager…I dont come across or look like a “mechanic” whatever that is supposed to mean. Its a constant source of amusement for me when I have to school people… Things get real serious after I lay down a few lines of engineering or mechanical knowlege “talk”…their entire facial expression changes in an instant… Always enjoyable


“As I just learned with the timing belt fiasco on my Acura, it is SOP at Honda to only replace parts that they deem to be in current need of replacement.”

…or, alternatively, it is possible that the OP’s dealership recommended replacing the tensioners, and he balked at that additional procedure. There are many folks on this forum who say, “Don’t do more than the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule specifies”, and it entirely possible that the OP followed that dictum.

Most of us know that it is best to go beyond just the replacement of the timing belt, and to also replace the tensioners and the serpentine belt at the same time, but some people will refuse anything and everything beyond what is stated in the mfr’s maintenance schedule.

Only the OP knows exactly what transpired at the service desk…

I don’t think the tensioner was at fault in the first place. I have never replaced a tensioner even on vehicles that went over 300k miles and I have never had one fail. I think the problem is with the installation of the timing belt, which the dealer is never going to admit to. If the tensioner is not tensioned in according to the instructions in the factory service manual, it will damage the belt and the belt will fray.

I’d guess that the mechanic tightened the tensioner down after releasing the spring, but did not rotte the engine two full turns, loosen the tensioner to let the spring reset the tension and torque to specs. This would/could have left the belt a little bit loose.

I would recommend that you demand the dealer to give you the bad tensioner and have it checked by an independent mechanic to see if the bearing is indeed bad. If it checks good, you have them.

Thank you again. This is great information. I agree that they do have responsibility. Hoping that the dealership will be responsible. Most of all I feel lucky that the car did not stop in the middle of the freeway and I was Able to coast to the Median.

Ps. All maintenance performed by dealerships and this particular one servicing my car for 7 plus years. The preventative maintenance was done at their suggestion. They have worked on brakes replaced batteries lights oil etc

I went through my own problems with a similar issue, with a Saturn Vue (that had a Honda engine). Although I agree that the tensioner should be replaced with a timing belt change and that the dealer bears most of the blame in this case, most of the overall problem is due to Honda for the engine design. The design uses a relatively unreliable part you can’t reasonably inspect that, if it fails, will likely destroy your engine.