Timing Belt: Dealer or Independent Mechanic?



I have a 2001 Honda Accord with 150,000 miles on it. I was supposed to replace my timing belt at 105,000 miles. Should I go through my local Honda Dealer for $800 or find an independent mechanic I trust? (A friend of mine says she found one here in town through Car Talk that she likes.)


$800 seems reasonable assuming they are also going to replace the water pump, tensioner pulleys, cam & crank shaft seals, hoses, accessory belts, etc.

Shop around though! May as well invest your time before you invest your money.

Be sure to do this like, tomorrow! That belt could collapse at any time given it’s age and mileage. Ever seen the show on National Geographic channel “It could happen tomorrow!” Yeah…


There is no reason to pay the dealerships inflated labor and parts costs ever. When the warranty ended, kiss the dealer good-by…


Thanks! We have a lot of summer traveling (as in moving) to do, I don’t want to take any chances.


Timing belts are NOT special. Any good independent shouldn’t have a problem doing this.


Agreed! Get it done soon and shop around. Not just the belt, but the tensioner and idler pulleys, and the water pump should be replaced along with any associated seals. (the water pump is usually done at this point, because 150kmi is around its life expectancy, and its right there in front of the mechanic when they replace the belt. Otherwise, its normally hard to get to).


You’re welcome. My mom paid $600 to have it done on her Honda recently (at a family owned mechanic) and that included the whole shebang, which is why I encourage you to check out your friend’s mechanic too. Good luck.


I don’t know the Honda Accord. But, other models may be different. Toyota’s recommendation on water pump is when the timing belt is changed, to inspect the water pump and replace only if needed. My Sienna has 164,000+ miles, and when the timing belt was replaced, they said the water pump did not need to be replaced. This may have something to do with the coolant specified by Toyota, I don’t know.

Next, I am not the only person here who finds in his community that the good independent mechanics sometimes cannot get you in for days, and when they do get you in, often need to keep the car for several days. Someone else just posted the same thing.

So, I say it differently. If you can find an independent mechanic who can fix your car properly per your wishes, within the time you have to get it fixed, that is a good option.

Also, I happen to want original Toyota parts. Anyone who puts rebuilt parts on my car without my permission, which he is highly unlikely to get, will get himself sued. “Rebuilt parts are just as good as new and cheaper” is a bigger hoax than man-made global warming. In my nearly 50 years of driving, rebuilt parts have averaged well under 25% of the miles the original parts lasted.

Rebuilt parts are for someone who needs to drive a car another year or two, not a long term plan.

And, almost all independent mechanics I know are determined to use rebuilt parts.

I first learned this beyond any doubt with our 1988 Nova (Toyolet). At 95,000 miles, a CV joint went bad. The independent mechanic said, “We recommend rebuilt parts. They are just as good as new and they are cheaper. Ours are guaranteed 12,000 miles or 12 months.” At just past 12,000 miles it went bad again.

He said, “Um, sorry, we did have problems with that vendor. We have a better one now, and it will be guaranteed 24,000 miles or 24 months.” Just after 24,000 miles it went bad.

Between 95,000 miles and 165,000 miles, we put in 5 of those wonderful rebuilt parts, that were just as good as new but cheaper. They were the most expensive parts I could have bought, with all the labor costs. My son went out and bought parts at Advanced or Autozone, I forget, with a lifetime guarantee, and they went to the junkyard in great shape. The car was junked because he couldn’t find a new carb, and the $300 rebuilt ones he had to get every 15 months, which were also as good as new but cheaper, wore him out financially. He begged carb shops to rebuild his and they refused, telling him – the rebuilts ones were just as good as new and cheaper.

Also, at around 200,000 miles he had the motor rebuilt, and the rebuilder put in – a rebuilt water pump. At 248,000 miles it came apart and started banging. What a surprise!!!

This prompted me to look back at my car records and I realized I had over the years been converting good cars to junk by letting the indies install their wonderful rebuilt parts that are as good as new and cheaper.

For me, it’s brand new Toyota parts, and when I can’t get them, it’s time to junk this car.


What I can add is this job presents more chances to get things wrong than many acknowledge.


True enough. I had to perform a valve job on a Honda Civic in which the guy replaced the water pump only. He took the T-belt loose but did not replace it and assumed it went back just any old way.

He hit the ignition switch, the starter rotated the engine, and that was that; bent every intake valve in about 1.5 seconds.


“And, almost all independent mechanics I know are determined to use rebuilt parts.”

A good mechanic will use whatever parts you want and should be able to give you different quotes for OEM, rebuilt, or aftermarket. They can order parts from the dealer parts department just like anyone else and have them delivered to their shop.

But I do agree that there are a lot of bad independent garages out there, just like there are a lot of bad dealers. I’m just not convinced that a random corner garage is going to be any better or any worse than a random dealer.


Irlandes, if I lived in Mexico, I would feel the same way! Having lived in Afrcia (Nigeria), and in Asia, you have to be careful with aftermarket parts, since the quality varies a great deal. In Nigeria, the genuine brake pads for our Toyota van cost 4 times as much as the local stuff, but we went with the real thing.

In Malysia, which has very high import duties, the genuine parts make foreign car ownership unaffordable, so there is a native industry reverse engineering Mercedes, Volvo, BMW and other parts. The quality is quite acceptable, similar to US quality in the 60s, and 25 year old Mercedes and Volvos live out very long lives because of the low cost of labor.

In Mexico I would not trust anything locally made not to US or Japanese standards and without non-Mexican supervision and quality control.


I have a 99 Accord with 148K. Just yesterday had the timing belt replaced for first time at the local dealer in NJ. Total cost is normally $800 which also includes water pump, seals, drive belts, and coolant. Look for online coupon which got me a 10% discount so final price was $717. Parts were $265 and labor $453. They also gave me a free 25 point inspection. I would recommend the dealer since they know to do this whereas a local mechanic may tell you its not needed or may not know to replace it while accessible. Well worth putting my mind at ease.


Check independent prices also.

One benefit of using dealer is you get a 1yr/12k warranty on parts/labor. So if it snaps(very rare) Honda will cover the belt itself and the thousands of $$$ in damage to motor internals.

If a garage has not performed a Honda timing belt change something is really wrong as Accord has been top selling (#1 or #2) car for at least a decade.

Do it ASAP, 150k is the typically failure time according to a few mechanics who know Honda well.


Next, I am not the only person here who finds in his community that the good independent mechanics sometimes cannot get you in for days

I wouldn’t call that guy a GOOD independent mechanic. A good mechanic I use for jobs I don’t want to tackle…He only books 3 days ahead. I’ll call him up on a Thursday morning to book for a job on Monday. If he’s book for Monday I have to wait until Friday to call for an appointment on Tuesday. Never had a problem getting in when I needed to.

And, almost all independent mechanics I know are determined to use rebuilt parts

Any GOOD independent I’ve used would use what ever parts I wanted them to…including parts I bought. NEVER EVER had a problem.

There are good parts and there are bad parts. I’ve had very very bad luck in getting almost any part from places like ADAP or PepBoys. I don’t know of one independent mechanic around here who will buy from them either. There are some local auto-parts chains that carry much much higher quality parts that they all use. Good aftermarket parts can be as good or in some cases BETTER then OEM…GM ball-joints for trucks is a good example. MOOG makes a nice replacement part that is far superior to OEM. Also who would pay OEM prices for things like Shocks/struts or spark-plugs.

I have yet to have a problem with a good aftermarket or rebuilt part on any car I’ve ever owned.


Man, you had better do this right away. You’re living on borrowed time . . . too many miles and too long a time. The belt breaking will be expensive to fix . . . many times more than the few hundred you’ll pay to have it changed. To answer your question . . . go to the independent who does Honda cars, and $800 is a little high, but it also depends on where you live. Rocketman


Should I go through my local Honda Dealer for $800 or find an independent mechanic I trust?

 What if you find a local Honda dealer you trust? Would you go there?     Yes, dealers are typically more expensive but independent shop are no better or no worse than a dealer. It all depends on the integrity, wisdom and honesty of the people in those shops.