Such a small bolt such a huge disaster!

Three months ago I had a mechanic replace the timing belt. This past weekend my bar broke down on the highway and it turns out that a small bolt about half the size of my thumb broke off causing the new timing belt to come of its track and break subsequently destroying my engine. The mechanic says that, while the timing belt is new, the bolt that broke is original and was defective. At the same time he has agreed to, based on principal of the fact that his shop was the one who replaced said timing belt to split the cost of replacing the engine, either a new engine ($7000) or a rebuild. My question is one of responsibility here and whether or not that shop should have replaced the bolts holding the timing belt in place along with the timing belt when they did the original replacement or if this truly was some freakish occurrence and I should take this mechanic up on his offer. He has also offered to repay the original repair cost from three months ago ($1000) but I would still be left with a car without a working engine. Any suggestions?

You paid $1000 to have your timing belt changed by a pro and now you have $7000 of damages.

Everything else is hearsay.

This isn’t a coincidence. The “defective” bolt waited until now to give out?

There’s no defective bolt. Just a defective timing belt job. He probably installed something very wrong since the whole thing let go so quick. Have you seen this bolt? What bolt was it? What did it do? Why did it break? Was there even a bolt or are you just getting bamboozled with a bolt story?

The one thing that should be clear is that this mechanic is going to look out for his best interests, not yours.

I would insist on a replacement engine. This is what he has insurance for. If he refuses, take him to court and get a check to have another shop replace it. It’s a slam dunk. You have a receipt for a $1000 timing belt and you have a dead engine from a bad timing belt job. He can only claim it was a pure coincidence and that doesn’t have much traction at all.

Don’t be confused with all the non-facts. The offer is his attempt to cut his losses at your expense. And he will try to scare you by saying that if you don’t take his offer, you’ll end up paying for the whole thing.

For $1000 you should have had much more than the timing belt replaced including seals.

The typically charge for Subaru is around $400-$500.

A bolt like this doesn’t just break. It broke because he over-tightened it. If the bolt was defective it would have broke a long time ago.

This guy is trying to cover his ass, he screwed up and doesn’t want to take responsibility.

Let’s assume the worst case scenario and his screw up resulted in the destruction of your engine. Now it’s about being made whole. He’s offered to refund the cost of the original work that led to the engine’s demise. He’s also offered to split the cost of a replacement engine (new or used). You do not state the year of your car or how many miles were on the engine. Unless it was brand new, you’re only entitled to the depreciated value of the engine. Likely, splitting the cost on a new engine is fair. The value of the used engine would dictate what is fair depending on its condition relative to your old one. I suspect that if you had to seek litigation to resolve the issue, you would not come out much better than his offer. It seems fair to me based on the limited information provided.

There are lots of bolts involved in replacing the timing belt on a Subaru.

Which bolt broke?

There is no bolt, or bolts, holding the timing belt in place. The bolts hold other components in place, and they, in turn, hold the timing belt.

It might help if we knew which bolt broke. Or came loose. Did you see the broken bolt?

Very possibly it was an idler pulley bolt and I agree, it may have been overtightened. Ask if the mechanic used a torque wrench on the bolt as it critical to be tight enough to hold, not overly tight so as to break.

If this is the story, you may need a lawyer to go to work for you. No doubt the bolt was defective, the mechanic made it that way. It it was defective, then why did it last until he touched it?

This is one of the risks of using air-tools carelessly…Over-torquing small fasteners is very easy to do…

Cut your losses and install a USED engine.

It sounds like the mechanic is just covering his own butt.

I’m assuming the car in question probably has in the ballpark of 80 or 90k miles on it. If you take him to court, there’s no way you’ll get a new engine out of it. At best, you’ll be refunded for the original timing belt job and the cost of a used engine of the same vintage.

Expression among mechanical engineers: “An over-torqued bolt is already half broken.” In my gut I just know the bolt failed from over tightening with an air tool, as Caddyman suggested, but I guess that can’t necessarily be proved.

The mechanic seems to be as much as admitting that he’s at fault, since, if it was a defective bolt, it wouldn’t be the mechanic’s fault.

It’s true that the kaput engine wasn’t new anymore, so a judge might, in the spirit of “pro rata”, decide something like this: Say the engine has 50,000 miles on it. Let’s say you can document, through Subaru, that this particular model/engine averages 150,000 miles. A judge might make the mechanic pay 2/3 the price toward a new engine, and no charge for the labor involved.


You could argue that since you’re the customer, and therefore aren’t negligent of anything here, you shouldn’t have to pay a penny, and that since a used engine is too much of an
unknown quantity, then the mechanic should replace your engine for free, with a new, or possibly rebuilt unit.


One can never predict with certainty the outcome of a small claims suit. Since one in the hand is worth two in the bush, it might be more judicious to take the guy’s offer.

Decisions, decisions. Please post back!

I don’t know Subarus but there would be no way to use an air tool on my VW’s timing belt tensioner pulley bolt; there simply is not enough room. Being one bolt also makes it more likely that a simple wrench was used or the wrong torque value if a torque wrench was used. It’s a lot of work for a mechanic to get out the torque wrench or impact tool for one bolt.

Thanks everyone for the advice it has been a revealing day. To the guy who noticed that $1000 dollars is a lot for a timing belt replacement, you’re right I found out today that I was had royally and that this shop is notorious for overpricing repairs. The $7000 he quoted me (the price he was going to split with me 50/50) is also twice the price of a used Subaru engine, so in essence he is admitting fault but trying to arrange it so I pay for the whole ordeal. I have confronted him about having a third set of eyes and hands look at this problem and he agreed to tow it to the Subaru dealer and allow the Subaru mechanic to take the heads off and see if the engine is really kaput or whether some of the valves were bent and can be fixed. I am hoping to use the Subaru mechanic as a third party and use their pricing and suggestions as the basis for our negotiations. Everyone is correct, the mechanic accepts some blame here, there is no way to prove the bolt was over-tightened, and he is willing to work with me to make me satisfied but I discovered that extra-care is going to be needed to make certain this turns out Equal for both parties.