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A 2001 Jetta with over 90,000 miles. We have been told it should have a timing belt replaced ($1000). Is it worth it? We have also been told by two different mechanics that it had the wrong plug and have paid $400 each time to have them changed.

I’m not sure what you mean by the wrong plug. However, yes, replace the timing belt, it’s worth it if you don’t want to have to replace the engine. If you replace the belt be sure the water pump is also replaced. Shop around on price, 1k seems a bit high.

Jettas need somewhat special care and you seem to have struck out on a good mechanic. The OWNER’S MANUAL is the authority on this, and will confirm that you need the timing belt replaced, probably BEFORE the 90,000 miles, or every 7 years. Most cars need to have that done at anywhere from 60,000 to 90,000 or every 6-7 years. Even if you had fewer miles the time factor would still dictate replacement.

Not replacing it will lead to VERY EXPENSIVE repairs. Like $3500 as incurred by my neighbor.

The timing belt should be replaced along with the water pump and the belt tensioner. They come as a kit. The price quoted must be the dealer price, an independent mechanic familiar with VWs car do this for about $700+ or so.

As for the plugs, any mechanic who can read should be able to select the right plugs. The owner’s manual has a specification for the plugs as well. You are either being played fo sucker or your mechanic is an illiterate moron. Both good reasons to change.

Whatever you do, get the timing belt changed NOW!!!

“Is it worth it?”

It is definitely worth it if you want to avoid spending about twice that amount for engine repairs when the belt snaps.
Not IF the belt snaps, but when it snaps–without warning.

And, of course, in addition to paying ~$2,000 to replace bent valves and damaged pistons, you would still have to pay for replacement of the timing belt. (Hmmmm…Let’s see. $1k now or $3k in a few weeks/ a few months. Which is better for me?)

That being said, the estimate sounds high to me. If you price this job around with some independent VW specialists, you should be able to have the timing belt, water pump, serpentine belt, and all belt tensioners replaced for a few hundred $$ less than that quote.

“it had the wrong plug and have paid $400 each time to have them changed”

Can you explain this one for us? Are you referring to the spark plugs?

You are on borrowed time.  I believe that original timing belt should have been changed at 80,000 miles.  If it breaks before you get it done it is going to make that $1,000 sound like pocket change.  BTW it is a very good idea to have the water pump changed at the same time as well as the tensioner.  If you don't you could end up paying all that labor a second time.  

Tell us more about this "wrong plug" thing.  What plug?  Who is charging you $400?

Get the belt done along with the pump and tensioner. It’s necessary maintenance.

I too am stumped by this $400 “plug”. Can you elaborate?

Yes, the belt needs to be replaced. If it breaks the engine will suffer significant, and expensive, internal damage.

$1,000 seems high for a timing belt. I’d check around for a better price.

Don’t know what “plug” you’re talking about so I can’t speculate on that one. I hope you’re dealing with a VW specialist, and not just a corner mechanic or a chain shop.

The car was likely built in 2000 so the timing belt should have been replaced about 4 years ago. If it breaks the damage will cost far more than 1000 dollars.

By plug and the use of the word “them” I assume you mean spark plugs. The price sounds high but could be about right depending on the type of plug and the area you live in seeing as how labor rates can vary so much from one part of the country to the other.

VWs do not need special care that I’m aware of. No more or no less than any other car out there.

I did mean spark plugs and it was true that two mechanics told us the wrong ones were in it. (Each one replaced them for $400). I also didn’t ask what the life of a Jetta is if we do the repairs–timing belt and water pump. I live in Las Vegas. Anyone know how to find a independent, competent, mechanic?

$1000 is high UNLESS this is a TDI, which you don’t mention. I recently had my timing belt & system replaced on my 90K '03 TDI, and this was about what I paid. They quoted around $500 for a non-TDI and about $900+ for TDI, if I remember correctly.

$400 sounds like a lot for new spark plugs. Are they especially hard to get to on a Jetta?