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Squealing belt. Water pump replacement required?

I’ve a 1998 Toyota Camry V6. The belt squeals. Especially when I turn on the AC. Especially especially when it rains. It mostly shuts up after a dozen seconds or so, but it is getting worse. It also chirps on the highway every time the compressor starts up (I assume).

So, it is my understanding that once that starts, it can’t be fixed, it just needs to be replaced. Figured I’d look into the cost of getting that done somewhere around here in Boston.

The guy I talked to said $450 “because once you do the belt, you have to do the water pump and once you do the water pump you have to replace the coolant.”

Well, okay, I understand having to replace coolant if you replace the pump… But I don’t understand having to replace the pump on account of a glazed belt.

Is that kosher? Or is that meant to be a “So you don’t have to go through all that effort again when the pump finally does go” type thing?

Is this job easy enough that a moderately mechanically inclined person can do it? (I’ve done brakes and hoses and whatnot, but never a belt)

The belt shouldn’t be any harder then the brakes or hoses, provided you get it snaked around the pulleys properly. It would help to know the belt routing ahead of time, and double check it before starting the engine. It might also help to have a 9-year old with ‘tiny’ hands available.

There may be a sliver of truth to replacing the water pump with belt change theory: the new belt is smaller than the older, stretched-out belt, thus it’s tighter on the pulleys. In theory the tighter belt could make a water pump fail due to the increased amount of stress on the belt. Anecdotally, I’ve heard of this happening, but never directly attributed to a new belt.

The is no connection whatsoever between needing to replace the belt and needing to replace the water pump. That being said, the mechanic may be looking at your mileage and thinking that once he has that belt off, it is in your best interest to replace the water pump now rather than some time soon. Car have over 150k miles on it?

The coolant should be replaced every two years, so I’m betting that is overdue whether you replace the water pump or not. The coolant will be a very small fraction of this job, because you drain most of it pulling the water pump, so opening one more tap and getting the last of the water out is no big deal, and a gallon of coolant is not much $$.

Bottom line - if it was me, I would replace the belt myself and replace the coolant because it is probably time. If you are paying someone else to do the belt, then maybe now is a good time to do that water pump as well.

The water pump on this engine is driven by the timing belt, which is independent of the serpentine belt (which drives the A/C).

Any explaniation as to why people consult a mechanic get a answer they don’t understand (this is not hard to accept) but then walk away.Why won’t you pressure your mechanic to explain better? I know I do this with the doctor,I don’t quit asking questions until I am satisfied.Some kind of human psycology going on?

  1. If it isn’t work I’ve had done, or done myself, many times, I will always get a few opinions. It has saved me a bundle in the past. (particularly with exhaust work. I’ve saved over $1000 on a job because I got 5 opinions)

  2. This was a friend of a friend who is a mechanic. I didn’t know his qualifications. Didn’t immediately trust his judgement.

  3. I’ve seen more than enough attempts to swindle customers in the past to be wary of it in the future.

Oh? Good to know. Kind of renders the argument moot. Thanks!

Now we need to come up with a answer about what’s making the chirp noise.Or do you need any help?

The chirp is being caused by a worn serpentine belt that runs the AC compressor (once referred to as a fan belt). External and not the same at all as a timing belt that is internal like a timing chain that runs the water pump and cam gears. Wow I wouldn’t go to that mechanic for anything unless it was totally being misunderstood. But then why would he diagnose a timing belt for an AC compressor chirp. Wow.