How difficult is this job for a mechanic?

I have a 1988 Olds 98 with the 3800 V-6 engine. My car needs a cam sensor and interrupter replaced (check engine light and code reveal this is malfunctioning). My local mechanic said the timing belt (assembly) would also need to be changed since the front of the motor is basically off for the other repair. Yet, he said the job is labor intensive and declined the job – he gave me other mechanics, but no one has called me back. I have had many cars that I have had timing belts replaced – no problem. Is he just too busy for this job? He said it would cost around $500 with timing parts – I have the other parts already. The car is in exceptional shape – just over 40K original miles. Thanks for your advice!

Maybe he’s just got a backlog and is trying to send you someplace that might be able to do it faster. $500 for all of that work is a pretty good price.

Here’s the details on changing the camshaft position sensor. By the way, that engine utilizes a timing chain, not a timing belt.


So, why would he recommend changing out the timing? I think he said something like timing cycle. It was not belt that he said, but when I tried to remember, other people kept telling me I must mean “belt.”

i would suspect since you already have the parts, he doesn;t want to get involved in an unknown debate over warranty, parts guarantee and other issues. if you bought the parts from him from the get go he may think different, but, to each his own, especially since its his shop.

i would also suspect the timing belt “red flag” since tester is always right on with advice, the comment about having to replace timing belt is really making me wonder.

Given you are showing up with parts he is making less profit off the job and it may not be worth it. Especially if they are the incorrect ones.

The parts (cam sensor, interrupter) were a total of $30. It seems he may be overloaded and can probably turn several jobs with a higher profit during the time it would take to do mine. He did say he was short a mechanic.

If I recall, $500 was about what it cost me for the new chain and gears in my 3800. The balancer needs to come off and hope it is still good, water pump comes off, front cover comes off, then its a piece of cake. Its still quite a little work and some don’t have much clearance. I agree though its kind of silly to go to all that work of pulling the front cover off and then not replacing the gears and chain.

DEFINATELY change the timing chain and both sprockets. I worked on these when I was at the dealership back in the late 80’s. Those cam sprockets are known for shreading. Very easy job in the 98 Regency. Plenty of room. Crank pulley will just slide off by hand, timing cover removed, both sprockets easily removed, new chain and sprockets easily installed. A good 4 hour job.


He should not do it with your parts but if that is the reason he should say so. If a part breaks you would say it was his labor that broke the part and he would say it was your parts that broke.
Some independant shops will only do minor engine or upper engine repairs. Lower engine repairs are to time consuming for small shops.