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Is it really the time to change the timing belt?

I bought a Honda Civic 2002 with the current mileage of 38000, and took it to the Honda service center. They recommended me to change the timing belt because it is already 7 years old (according to the user manual – they recommend changing the timing belt either after 7 years or 100000 miles). The visual inspection looks fine, and the car seems to have been driven lightly by the previous owner. So I am wondered whether I should change the timing belt according to the service center, which will cost me $850. Or can I keep driving this car for another 2-3 years? Will it be safe, or should I be worried?

The belt should be replaced as the rubber drys out and deteriorates. You don’t need to pay $850 however, you can find a good independent shop (not a chain) and get it replaced for several hundred dollars less.

I would change it. It’s overdue, and the consequences of it breaking are dire. It’s just routine maintence.

1.7 liter engine, correct?

It is an interference engine. If your timing belt fails, it will probably do so much damage that the engine will be worthless, which would be a shame on such a young engine.

Should you replace it now? Yes.
Would I? Probably not for a couple of years yet.

I would do it myself. As I recall, there are several things that are normally replaced as preventative maintenance on this engine when you do the timing belt, which is why the job is so expensive. It is not rocket science, just takes a good manual, some time, and a lot of parts.

Replacing a timing belt is not walk in the park, to be clear.

$850 does seem high. Does that include replacing the water pump?

(according to the user manual – they recommend changing the timing belt either after 7 years or 100000 miles) whichever comes first!

Why do so many people stop reading before the end of that sentence?


What part of “whichever comes first” is unclear to the OP?

YES…on time alone.

And to second civicowner’s post, the job is not a walk in the park.

This forum has had several threads about timing belt changes gone bad recently.

This is one of the many “benefits” you get with a Civic…Ka-Ching! $850 please…

You can drive the car as long as you want. If the belt breaks it will be safe, but you’ll have to pull over to the side of the road and you won’t be going anywhere until the tow truck arrives.

If you keep driving it and the belt breaks it will cost about $3,000 for either a new or used motor, or to repair your motor. When the belt breaks the valves stop moving and in an instant the pistons ram into the valves and break or bend several of them. That means new valves, a new head, and sometimes more parts are damaged.

So, keep driving it if you are a gambler. Eventually the belt will break. The only question is when?

It should not be $850, even the dealerships I live near don’t charge that much. Could easily get it done in the 400 range by an independent.

I thought Hondas used interference engines, so if the belt breaks, the engine stops then and there. No coasting to the side of the road, just left lane, 80mph to dead in seconds.

I know at least 2 people with Hondas, and one with an Acura who forgot about changing the belt, and that was it for 2 of the 3 engines. My sister was the lucky one. She was stopped at a traffic light with the engine idling when it broke. The damage wasn’t as bad.

Rather than going by the simplified recommendation from Honda which was stated as 100k miles or 7 years, whichever is first, I will attempt to provide a reasoned answer. By the way, this recommendation from Honda must be kept simple or someone somewhere will get it wrong. It certainly would be possible to extend the belt life beyond the 7 years if certain conditions were met. I would not violate the 100k mile number.

100,000 miles in 7 years would result in a belt operating time of 2500 hours at an average speed of 40 mph and driving 14,285 miles per year if you were to hit both limits at the same time. Two of our cars have average speed readouts with our kind of driving which is where the 40 mph comes from. Having conducted accelerated heat aging tests on rubber materials in an engineering environment, I will state that aging of typical rubber compounds is nil at room temperature. From changing timing belts on my VW and therefore being able to compare new and used timing belts several times, I have formed the view that timing belts do not wear out, they heat age out.

38,000 miles at 40 mph average speed requires 950 hours. To be cautious, assume 38,000 miles at 20 mph average speed will require 1900 hours of belt heat aging time, still under the 2500 hours stated previously.

There are at least some unknown factors as follows:

  1. Add cooldown time after stopping the engine when the belt will spend some time still hot. Short trips with complete warmup will add to the heat aging time during the more frequent cooldown periods without adding miles. Warmup time after engine start is relatively fast so this offset can mostly be discounted.

  2. Your particular climate is a factor. A hot climate will add more total and more severe heat aging time to the belt; a cool climate less. If 100k miles and 7 years works in Mexico City, I would feel safe extending the time a little in the Yukon assuming that extreme cold is not also a belt life limiting factor.

  3. Engine idling time also heat soaks the belt without adding miles.

  4. Belts can occasionally break before the 100k or whatever mileage and 7 year or whatever time period for no reason that I know of and I have not seen one. Improper installation can be a factor but this is not likely from the factory. Water pump or idler pulley failure can precipitate a belt failure.

  5. The condition of the reinforcing cords of the belt is also not known. I would assume that this is mostly a function of engine revolutions which would be fewer than the number seen at 100k miles.

Conclusion: You can run a while more. Can’t say how long.

If your belt breaks you will ruin the engine. You’ll then have to find a used (junkyard) engine with “who know how many miles on it?” to put into your car. No mechanic I know ould put a used honda engine in your car without replacing the timing belt on the replacement motor, so you’ll do it anyway. Replace it now and happy motoring. You can do MUCH better than $850. Rocketman

Yup, 1.7L engine. They changed the timing belt, water pump, and the cover or something they said people should change when changing the timing belt.

Thanks a lot for a very insightful answer.


$850.00 is pure highway robbery !!!
Several Honda dealerships in my area ( N. Texas) are charging between $486.00 and $625.00 for a Civic “timing belt package” (this includes-timing belt, new (as opposed to remanufactured) water pump, p/s, alternator and A/C belts, a couple engine seals, and new antifreeze). Grab a phone a start dialing for a better deal.

What paper records about performed maintenance have you gotten from the previous owner ???

“They changed the timing belt, water pump, and the cover or something they said people should change when changing the timing belt.”

Just so that people do not continue to give irrelevant advice, I wanted to point out that the OP posted the above information at 9:26PM, yesterday.

I think that the OP is telling us, in a not very clear way, that he/she has taken our advice to have the belt changed, and that the job has already been done. However, the way that the post was written makes me a bit unsure of exactly what he/she is telling us.

Can “Hypotheses” clarify this for us?

A local Honda dealer here in Central NJ has been advertising a timing belt and water pump replacement for $389 - $75 extra for a tensioner .