I drive a 96 Accord that died yesterday on the interstate. The mechanics fixed the timing belt on it, but now they’re saying there’s something wrong with the motor head. I’ve looked around online, but can’t find anything by that name. Could someone please explain to me what it is?

They must mean the cylinder head…on the motor.
It houses the intake and exhaust valves which open and close in concert with the movement of the pistons.
The timing belt connects the cranks shaft to the cam shaft to keep that movement in ‘‘time’’, in sync with each other .
on many engines when the timing belt breaks you have pistons coming up when the valves are going down ( now out of sync with each other ) and they run into each other causing damage.

If the timing belt snapped while the engine was running, there’s a good chance that valve and maybe piston damage was done. The valves are in the cylinder head(s). I suspect that is what they are talking about.

You need new mechanics if they replaced the broken timing belt before checking for valve damage.

It just doesn’t get any cooler than Lemmy Kilmister and crew:

(Sorry - couldn’t resist. The others answered your question. But here is a more useful link: - the bar at the top is the cam shaft and the little things that look like they’re hanging down are the valves. The big things on the bottom are the pistons. Those are turned by the crank shaft. The timing belt - well, it keeps them in time).

I’m guessing they mean ‘cylinder head’, and that you may have bent some valves (an expensive problem). You have an ‘interference engine’, so when the old belt broke some valves in the cylinder head hit the pistons, and were bent.

What they probably said was " Motors Head."

The 96 Accord is an interference engine…And if the timing belt breaks there’s a very good chance you did engine head damage. Sorry to say that if you spent the $600 to replace the timing belt you wouldn’t be paying $2000+ to repair the engine now.

When and at what mileage was the timing belt last replaced?

the first time I’ve ever heard of a timing belt was yesterday, and I’ve had the car for 4 years (about 100,000 miles)

when they told me it was the timing belt, they said that there was a 30% chance that there was more damage, but that there was no way to know without fixing the belt. I take it from your comment that they were saying that to get as much as they could from a car-ignorant female?


It is entirely possible if you took your car to a chain operation that they have a crew with few tools and little collective knowledge or experience. Chain shops are notorious for paying their technicians very low wages, consequently running off the good techs and forcing them to hire people who like cars, know a little bit about them, and want to learn more and gain experience (or just drive everything out there). You may have ended up with a crew working on your car that has never had the experience to know how to diagnose bent valves without the labor involved in replacing the belt and trying to start the engine. When the timing belt fails on the highway on a Honda Accord, there is a 99.9% chance of bent intake valves resulting from the failure. Overall, it sounds to me like these guys weren’t necessarily trying to rip you off, they probably just don’t have the level of knowledge and experience you will find with some of the regulars on this site, or in a good, independent repair shop (ask friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations, or use this site’s “mechanic’s files” to find a shop). You might want to tell these guys that, for future reference, bent valves can easily be diagnosed by performing a leakdown test or by inspecting the valve lash (excessive valve lash is a result of bent valves). Either test takes less than a half hour to perform and arrive at a firm diagnosis, resulting in much less expense to the customer.

Other than the fact that a timing belt does not have to be replaced to determine if engine damage exists, I would stronly bet they did not replace this belt to run the bill up.
More than likely it was done out sheer ignorance and not thinking things through.

Thank you, ok4450, for providing the short version of what I was trying to say. I tend to ramble and rant when an OP suggests that a shop was trying to rip them off because they are female.

I don’t know about that, but it is certainly possible to determine if there is valve damage without replacing the timing belt. Also their percentages are way off. I think it’s more like there was a 3% chance the valves weren’t damaged.

I wasn’t trying to infer that, but rather felt like that’s what I was being told. Sorry for any offence.
Thank you for the thorough explanation. It was indeed a chain opperation (the one closest to my apt., and I haven’t lived in this city long enough to need anything more than tires and oil until now). I have since asked a friend where her family takes their car and am going there tomorrow.

Good luck & please keep us posted!

I agree with your comments and odds are they would have done the same thing to a male customer.

Doing something like this just grates on me. Another grating issue is a shop that replaces a timing belt on an interference engine and does not double-check their work before turning the key to operate the starter motor.
Some assume they did not err, hit the key, and within 2 seconds they have a damaged engine; all of which was very preventable by simply rolling the engine through by hand a few times and rechecking their work.