Timing Belt Broke - Who's at fault?

I towed a buddy of mine home last night in his 2004 Chevy Aveo. It had quit running right in the middle of the highway, and he suspected the timing belt was gone. Well, on this Aveo you can peel back the timing belt cover just an inch or so…enough to see that yes, the timing belt was not there anymor

Here’s the thing though: it was replaced, as per recommendation, at 70,000 miles, just six months ago. It was not done at a dealer but at a reputable mechanic’s shop.

Maybe it was a faulty belt. Maybe it was the plastic belt tensioner that gave way. But he did the appropriate maintenance, and now’s he’s facing either a $2-3k repair bill or finding a new car. (And did I mention he’s pretty broke?)

Who should be footing the tab here? Is it GM, the mechanic, the belt manufacturer, or my (poor, unlucky) buddy? What do you think?

Certainly, a reputable mechanic warrants his work for 12 months or 12,000 miles.

Was it just the belt that was replaced? Or did the tensioner and idler pulleys (& water pump if that is driven by the timing belt) get replaced too?

If the mechanic recommended more than just the belt be replaced, but the customer preferred just the belt only, then the mechanic would be completely off the hook I think if one of the other parts caused the belt breakage. It’s also possible the replacement belt was defective. Unlikely, but worth considering. And its always possible the mechanic made a mistake during the belt replacement procedure. I guess some more investigation is required before a conclusion can be made.

Before blame can be placed, it has to be determined what caused the timing belt to fail.

If it was replaced six months ago at must have been installed correctly otherwise the engine wouldn’t have run that long. So I think the mechanic is off the hook.

I’ve seen timing belts fail because a camshaft seized up.

And since this vehicle is made by Deawoo, anything is possible.


I agree 100% with George

If the mechanic recommended the water pump, seals and tensioner, in addition to the timing belt, and the customer declined, and it was the tensioner that failed and broke the camel’s back . . . then your buddy has nobody to blame but himself

I’ve also seen situations where the belt broke soon after a timing belt replacement . . . because the shop is crooked and never replaced the belt in the first place

If I was your buddy, I’d physically inspect the belt, and make sure it’s not still the original manufacturer’s belt from 2004. Some belts actually have a date code on them, if that helps

GM is in no way liable

The first thing your buddy needs to do is look at the receipt

What did he buy?

What did the mechanic recommend?

Did your buddy decline the tensioner?

Thanks for the great replies, and I’ll post an update when I have some answers.

There was either a service bulletin or a campaign out on early Aveo engines, I think pertaining to early timing belt failure either because of the belt or the plastic idler or tensioner.

But that was a while ago and the car is now 10 years old, far past the original service interval for the first timing belt replacement. GM has nothing to do with this old of a car.

If the t-belt service only consisted of replacing the belt and no water pump, tensioner, etc, then someone either made a bad decision or wasn’t given the opportunity to make a bad decision. This can get tricky.

If everything inside the timing cover was replaced and there was a part failure, then the shop should be on the hook for replacing the faulty parts. Any collateral damage, well, maybe they will, maybe not. This can also get tricky.

Ultimately, your friend owns the car, he’ll be first in line to pay to have it fixed.

I just did some quick checking . . . apparently your buddy’s engine is interference

There may be valve and piston damage

Just giving you a heads up

Don’t be too shocked if you discover some damage when you pull that head

It’s an Aveo. There is definitely damage.

I had a friend with one of these. Plastic idler pulley grenaded, throwing the belt off. We managed to find just enough pieces to duct tape the pulley back together, reset the belt and run a compression test. It failed miserably. He had to dispose of that disposable car.

Look up the legal concept called privity of contract. If everything was replaced per the manufacturer’s suggestion and the replacement parts failed because it’s inferior, the technician is liable for the damage, even if the job was done correctly. The customer and the technician have a contract for the work to be done at the agreed price and one party, the technician, did not fulfill his/her end of the contact. The supplier has a contract with the mechanic, not the car owner, to provide quality parts. The consumer should not have to go after the belt supplier-that’s the mechanic’s business.

It could have been installed incorrectly also. You put a timing belt on too tight…and it’ll drastically shorten it’s life.

But first it has to be determined what caused the belt to break. Is this engine an interference engine?