Timing belt and Water Pump

Hello. Thanks for reading this.

I have a 1997 Honda Civic HX. It has 60,000 miles on it so obviously I don’t drive it a lot. According to the owners manual, I’m way under the mileage needed to replace the timing belt (80-100,000) but way over the age at which to change the belt and pump (the car’s almost 13 years old).

My two brothers tell me not to replace the belt and pump because as long as the car’s sitting in my garage there’s no wear and tear on the belt. My mechanic says consider changing it just to be safe rather than sorry. If it was last year at this time I would change it but it’s a $700 job and right now I’m unemployed so $700 is a lot of money, and it’s an expense I can’t afford unless it’s really, really necessary.

What do you think?

I’d really love to hear what you think.

Thanks so much for your guidance. I really appreciate it.

The timing belt is composed mostly of rubber. Rubber parts dry out and deteriorate just from sitting. Thus, the elapsed time guideline for replacement of the timing belt, in addition to the odometer mileage guideline.

I understand that money might be very tight for you right now, but when that belt snaps (not IF it snaps) without warning, the resulting damage to valves and pistons will likely exceed the book value of the car. Even if it sits most of the time in a garage, the belt could snap any time that the engine is started.

Also, incidents like this tend to happen in inconvenient places, at inconvenient times. If the belt snaps when you are on the highway, the engine will immediately die, and you will lose the power steering and will lose the power brakes after one brake application. If you are trying to dodge 18-wheelers while coasting with no engine power, no power steering, and no brakes, the outcome is…not going to be pretty.

I wouldn’t advise you to replace the belt and water pump unless it was really, really necessary.
It IS really, really necessary.

I own a '97 Honda that didn’t used to get driven much. When it was eight years old (in 2005) I decided to quit gambling and replace the timing belt, water pump, etc. My car had less than 60,000 miles at the time, but I know how important a timing belt is on a Honda.

My car, too, sat in a garage, and I understand why your brothers give you the advice they do, but I think you are making a HUGE mistake by not having the timing belt replaced on your Civic. That belt is now twelve years old. 12 years old!

If it breaks, which could happen any time, the engine will suffer internal damage, and the repair bill will be thousands, not hundreds, of dollars.

If you want to keep this car, which I’m sure you do, a timing belt replacement is absolutely necessary.

I suggest you call your mechanic and schedule it ASAP.

Ignore this at your peril. If that 12-year-old belt breaks you might need a new engine.

According to the Gates web site (large maker of timing belts) your motor is an “interference” type motor. This means when the belt breaks the motor will come to a sudden stop as the pistons run into the valves inside the motor. When this happens several of the pistons are damaged and you’ll need a new head and new valves too. In a newer car it costs $2,000 to 3,000 to repair.

If it happened to your car your choice would be to junk the car, find a used motor and have someone install it, or fix your motor. You belt was due for replacement about 5 years ago. The longer you wait the greater the chance it will let go and your motor will be severely damaged.

If the car is rusty and just about ready for the junk heap anyway go ahead and run it into the ground. If you feel the car is worth spending $700 dollars on to keep it on the road and dependable, then replace the belt. It could last another 5 years and it could break tomorrow. The only sure thing is that when it breaks you’ll need another car.

You’re on borrowed time. $700 may be a lot of money, but the price of fixing or replacing your engine when the belt breaks is a whole lot more.

Keep calling around for a better quote on the timing belt/water pump replacement. I paid half for the same work 7 years ago on a 95 Civic at the dealer.

$700 whether employed or not is a lot of money.