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Is it just me, or does this seem a little...unreasonable

So it’s that wonderful time in my '06 Outback’s life when its due for the timing belt to be replaced. I contacted two indy shops that I’ve used for lesser maintenance items, and both recommended going to the dealer for the timing belt…I guess I should give them credit for their honesty, right? So I got in touch with two Subaru service departments, located about 10 miles away from each other, and this is what they had to say via e-mail:

Service department #1: “timing belt without water pump. 650.00, with water pump 935.00, when we do timing belt if water pump is not leaking, I would not do it.”

Service department #2: “The replacement of the timing belt usually is about $800.00 alone. The water pump and thermostat, and gaskets needed run just under $400.00. So I would say high end altogether would be $1200.00. With all of that being on the high side this does not include the tensioner or pulleys that could need to be replaced. If there is anything else that would need to be replaced now would be the time to do it. With everything taken apart its easier to get to and more cost efficient.”

Has anybody paid prices like these for a timing belt replacement? I certainly haven’t, and certainly don’t want to. I’m currently waiting on a call back from a third independent shop that I’ve never used but that was recommended to me by my brother-in-law, but at this point I’m not feeling too great about my prospects.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

IIRC, I paid ~$650 at a dealership for all of the services mentioned (including belt tensioners)–but that was back around 2000 or 2001. The quotes that you got do seem to be very high, but then again, this is 10-11 years later.

What I would suggest is trolling the websites of those dealerships to see if they have printable coupons. Very often, there are coupons for 10% or perhaps even 15% off on service, that are available on their own website.

If there are no coupons, then all I can suggest is trying to negotiate a better price.
I have done that successfully, and I am not even a particularly good “haggler”.

Incidentally, the '97 Outback to which I am referrring was the last car that I bought with a timing belt. I made sure when I bought my '02 Outback and my '11 Outback that I opted for the six-cylinder engine, which uses a timing chain. No more timing belts for me!

I’d say skip dealer #2. Way too high.

The other price (#1) is not unreasonable for a dealer. I’d want the water pump replaced whether it’s leaking or not. It just makes sense to do it while everything is apart.

Another option is to locate an independent who specializes in Subaru and let them do it.

I’m surprised your regular mechanics don’t want to do this. It’s not that hard. It makes me wonder if they’re properly maintaining your Outback.

I’m with McP on this, except that I wouldn’t read anything into their reluctance to do the job.

Get a quote from one or two chain operations. They won’t be as reasonable as an indy mechanic, but I got the timing belt and water pump (and all other belts at the same time) for about $550 with a coupon at a Goodyear company store.

Actually, I would ask them about labor costs - doing both at the same time should mean only one labor cost, so the additional cost for the water pump should just be parts. Or, maybe my 96 was cheaper to do for some reason.

It’s weighted more toward being just you. If the water pump is driven by the timing belt. you should want a new pump, if only for the clean sprocket or pulley that comes with it. Water pump failure would involve the timing belt which would mean paying twice for the same work.

The price may be $100 higher than I like it to be but it isn’t bad. The song used to say “you’re gonna have to serve somebody”. Sometimes you have to pay them to serve you. The independent guys that you have met don’t want to learn how to do the work. The only alternative is to let the dealer do it.

I know a guy who changed a head on his car and paid $100 more to get it done with cheap help. He didn’t want to do it himself but the dealer ran him off when he became too worried about the price of the work. After all: Why do the work if you know that the customer won’t be happy about it?

When the car (sorry, the job) was finished, it didn’t run right. He took the timing chain cover off and called me to check it out. The job looked good but when I saw a picture of the engine in the Haynes manual, I saw that the plug wires were on wrong.

Be happy that you are not him and pay the man.

Thanks for the comments.

@VDC, that was a good idea re: the dealer websites. The one that quoted $935 actually had some gradated coupons, ranging from 5-15% off depending on the cost of the service.

@mcparadise, I kind of see where you’re coming from, but these guys…I think they’re all right for what I have them do. They basically just do fluid changes when I’m too lazy to do them myself, and I always check things over myself afterward. They seem solid enough on that front.

@pleasedodgevan2, I’m not averse to paying extra for the pump…I follow the conventional wisdom that you do everything at once (belt, pump, tensioner, etc.) for the reason noted by dealer #2 in my original post. In fact, I was surprised the first dealer even offered up that they recommended not doing the pump if it’s not leaking. I guess I was just shocked that the job commands such a high price these days, and that there was such a difference between what it costs for just the belt and what it costs for the belt plus the pump and related items. The last time I paid for this job it was about $650, and that included everything. But then again, like VDC noted, that was about 6 or 7 years ago… That having been said, the $1200+ that dealer #2 quoted still seems insanely high to me…

Are $285 water pumps gold plated or what? Just for fun, call the Subaru dealer’s own parts department and see what they get for the pump alone. Then check some parts houses. The difference in price with and without the pump seems much too wide for me. The last time I did a Subaru was on an '03 Legacy. It was about a year ago. The tensioner kit wasn’t $285 from Autozone. It included everything but the pump. Wish I could recall exactly what I spent, but @ $935 the dealer will be able to make at least two boat payments.

I think the first quote is OK… for the timing belt. but to tack on so much more for the water pump is ridiculous. It seems they are quoting you for separate jobs on this, when the water pump should just be the part and a little labor since they’re in there anyway to do the timing belt. I’d ask them to break down the cost and see if you can get a better deal, or seek another dealer or independent shop for this.

Just to provide an epilogue… I heard back from the other indy shop (which, as it turns out, has some positive reviews here on, and they ended up doing the timing belt, water pump, and all of the other related items, as well as the driver’s side inner and outer cv boots (which I discovered were torn the day I before I took the car into the shop) and axle for just over $1200…the same amount the 2nd dealer wanted for just the belt and pump. So, kudos to Severna Park Auto for anybody out there in the Annapolis, MD area who needs a good indy mechanic.

Can you consider doing it yourself? Note as best you can, the tension on your old belt as a rough guideline. Then buy a Haynes or other repair manual with instructions for changing the timing belt, water pump and tensioner pulleys. If you have no tools, you can buy what you need and still come out ahead financially over the price you will pay other to do this work for you. If you are somewhat enterprising, you could even hire a pro mechanic to inspect your work.

Another route might be a tech school in your area that teaches auto mechanics and may need work examples for their students.

If you DIY, then you will be better prepared to buy another car with a timing belt. There is a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained by saving the money that others will extract from you if you choose to be helpless.

Comparing an independent shop’s price to a new car dealer service department’s price is entirely misguided. They’re completely different business models with an entirely different set of expenses.

That’s like comparing the cost of having the 14 year old kid next door mow your lawn against the price from a professional yard service. Huge amount of difference in the overhead.

And just to think I changed the water pump and timing belt on my '02 Escort about a month ago for under $100. and about 4-5 hours of my time.

Anyway to the original poster Haynes/Chilton’s manuals cost about $20-$30 and will give you detailed instructions on how to do this and almost anything else you’ll ever need to do the car. (very wise investment) My personal preference is Chilton’s because they seem to give more detail and more specifications.

"That’s like comparing the cost of having the 14 year old kid next door mow your lawn against the price from a professional yard service. Huge amount of difference in the overhead. "

True…but you’d expect the professional yard service to do a much better job then the 14yo kid…I’ve found independents to be on par or in many cases far better then dealers.

In Seacoast NH I paid $450 for a tensioner and timing belt on a 2005 Legacy GT(similar car generation except its turbo engine) by an independent who spent 20 yrs wrenching Subaru’s at a dealership.

The costs were 3hrs labor = $180 and the balance parts. I think he actually called me in less than 3 hrs stating done, so an experienced mechanic this is a cake walk working on the Subaru 2.5L.

Timing belt/water pump replacement isn’t that hard of a job on most cars if you have the tools, and if not familiar with doing them a repair/service manual. I’m no mechanic, but my cars very seldom go to a garage, probably less than 6 times in the past 15+ years and I have 6 cars to maintain.

MikeInNH 9:58AM Report "That’s like comparing the cost of having the 14 year old kid next door mow your lawn against the price from a professional yard service. Huge amount of difference in the overhead. "

True…but you’d expect the professional yard service to do a much better job then the 14yo kid…I’ve found independents to be on par or in many cases far better then dealers.

The flip side is that dealers routinely see cars all of the time in which the car owner or an independent shop with no specialized knowledge of the car or proper specialized tools have managed to make a right hash of the car as the Brits would say.
At that point the car owner is then expecting the dealer to sort it all out on the cheap and if the dealer can’t or won’t then the car owner often says they’re being ripped off.
This disease is not a rare one.