Major Mechanic Failure -- VW Touareg Timing Belt

My 2004 VW Touareg just had its timing belt shred – causing major engine damage (est $4k to $6K).

The funny thing is that I had a dealer do a timing belt replacement 10 months / 13 K miles ago. Cost was $2500 – this is a major service item for the vehicle recommended at 110 K miles precisely because if it fails the engine damage is catastrophic. The diagnosing mechanic (not at the dealer) found a idle tensioner bearing had backed out of its threads, the likely cause of the belt shredding itself.

So how much responsibility should the dealer who replaced the timing belt take for this repair. They normally warranty their work for 12 mo / 12 K – but it seems to me that this issue goes beyond a simple parts and labor warranty.

If it matters, I’m in California

Did they replace the idle tensioner and/or bearing when they did the belt? If so, then I think you definitely have a case to make to VW corporate. If not, then you need to find out if that’s recommended to do when the belt is done (it probably is) in which case you still have a valid complaint.

Call VW corporate and talk about how upset you are that a car that’s only 6 years old is basically totalled because of a part that, had it been installed and replaced properly and on schedule, should never have failed, and how that’s going to make it very difficult for you to decide to buy another VW.

Thanks for such a quick reply.

The service invoice from the timing belt job lists a couple of “rollers” and “belt dampeners” as parts purchased. Whether any of them is the part that backed out is way beyond my pay grade. I specifically brought the car to a dealer for this service because I wanted to be absolutely sure that every part of the job was up to spec. – My current situation is exactly what I was doing everything I could prudently do to ensure proper maintenance.

Thanks for the advice on calling VW corporate.


It sounds like they replaced the idlers/tensioners and this is the proper thing to do when performing a timing belt job.
However, the tensioner should not have come undone. The only thing that would cause this would be that the bolt was either not tightened enough or it was overtightened, leading to pulling of the threads in the bolt hole.

VWOA, or corporate VW, has no responsibility or liability at all for a dealer screwup although they could stand behind this if it were caused by a defective VW OEM part. In this case, it sounds more like a mistake rather than a bad part. The odds of a bad part are about as close to zero as you can get.

I’m in agreement that you should contact VW’s regional office and present your case. Be firmly polite and it’s possible they may apply some behind the scenes pressure and coerce the dealer into covering this.

I’ve worked for several VW dealers and have seen VWOA step in for the customer a few times when an odd situation developed. One was caused by a piece of VWOA issued diagnostic equipment (not the tech’s fault) and another was a tech problem. That’s just a couple off the top of my head. Hope that helps.