CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Timing Belt Dilemma

We own two cars-a 1990 Miata and a 2006 Acura RL. The Miata has 56,000 miles on it and is 21 years old. The Acura is 6years old with 45,000 miles on it. I was just told by the Acura dealer that I need a new timing belt on the RL( cost= $1350) because the “Rubber belt used tends to dry rot over time”. I told them this is ridiculous and apparently, Acura must use a much inferior belt than the Miata. The Acura dealer also said that, unlike the Miata, the Acura engine might be severely damaged if the belt breaks.
I will appreciate any and all comments anyone would like to make on this issue. Is the Miata belt that much superior to that of a $50,000 Acura RLs. Lastly, I've searched the Acura website as well as Hondas and of course my owner`s manual and can find nothing on this issue. Maybe my dealer needs an additional $1350 to make his budget for this year. Thanks, RON '.

If you wish to prove just how long the belts will last let us know how it turns out.

You can look up your motors and info on timing belts on the gates.com web site. Gates is a major mfgr of timing belts. Both of your cars have interference engines. The gates site will explain further, but if the belt breaks the valves stop moving. Then the pistons will hit the valves, locking up the motor suddenly. There will be damage to several valves and a couple of pistons and very likely the cylinder head.

I think you can imagine the costs to repair such a damaged engine will be a multi-thousand dollar bill. Most owners elect to find used motors and the cost of a motor swap isn’t cheap either.

The Miata is so long past due that it isn’t worth a comment. The Accura is a Honda and most Honda recommendations are to replace the timing belt every 7 years or 105K miles whichever occurs first. Your Accura is getting close based on time. The belts are rubber and if anything are better made now than in 1990.

I suspect you really don’t believe it is worth the money to replace the belts. So, just drive on and see how long your belts last. If one snaps you’ll understand why the estimate for repairs is so high.

While 6 years seems a little bit early for timing belt replacement on the Acura, you are absolutely incorrect about rubber not deteriorating over time. Have you ever found an old rubber band in a desk drawer, and then attempted to use it? If the rubber band is more than a few years old, it will have hardened and will snap when you attempt to expand it. In a similar manner, the presence of ozone and other airborne chemicals, combined with extreme under-hood temperatures, will harden and weaken a timing belt as it ages.

Unfortunately, this is just one more case of a car owner who fails to actually read and heed the car mfr’s maintenance schedule that is contained in either the Owner’s Manual or in a separate booklet with some type of appropriate title. If you will take a look at that maintenance schedule, you will see that Honda/Acura calls for replacement of the timing belt at a specified odometer mileage (probably 105k miles) OR an elapsed time interval (most likely something on the order of 8 years), with the proviso, “whichever comes first”.

I would strongly urge you to follow that schedule for all maintenance, but particularly for the timing belt, as failure of that belt will result in a HUGE repair bill in addition to the cost of replacing the timing belt. That is what Rod Knox was cryptically referring to when he gave his advice.

So, while the service writer is premature with his suggestion, he is not wrong.

Maintenance intervals are based on time or mileage intervals, whichever happen first. Look in your owner’s manual. Does it say “change the timing belt every 60,000 miles or six years, whichever comes first”?

Yes, belts and hoses age with time, but $1,350 seems a bit steep to me. Shop around for a better price. I think you might be able to find someone who will do this job for $500-800.

By the way, if both cars have timing belts that are overdue for replacement (based on their owner’s manuals), I would have both timing belts changed ASAP.

Shop around for a better price, and look for coupons in the paper and online for national chains that will let you take 10-20% off a total repair bill, then bring them both cars and have them put them both on the same repair bill.

You are dead wrong and then some in regards to your opinions about timing belts. All phases of it.

Your Acura is an '06. This means it was probably built in '05 and the belt manufactured who knows when before that. The belt is 6 years old and a timing belt is not only dependent up on mileage and age but there’s also other factors with the chief one being environmental conditions. Extremes of heat and cold age the belts and my feeling is that belt should be changed at the 6 years mark no matter what; especially so on an interference fit engine.

As a FYI, odds are the belts on the Miata and Acura are made by the same company. Many parts on all makes of vehicles are outsourced and I guarantee you that Miata and Acura did not manufacture those belts. The only difference is the ink stamps to make it more proprietary.

Of course, if you think it’s all a scam then motor on without worry.

“I told them this is ridiculous and apparently, Acura must use a much inferior belt than the Miata. The Acura dealer also said that, unlike the Miata, the Acura engine might be severely damaged if the belt breaks.”

I’m 42 years old. I go to the dentist every 4-5 years and have not had a cavity since I was 17. Therefore, regular trips to the dentist every 6 months are ridiculous and unnecessary.

If I end up needing 3 root canals next month is it because of lack of maintenance or poor quality parts?

Some people prefer regular maintenance, some just drive the cars until they break. It’s your car and your money, you decide.

All cars come with an owner’s maintenance schedule. Check it out. The change interval is based on mileage or time, whichever comes first. Your Acura very likely would need the timing belt changed in the near future if you want to maintain the car correctly. I wouldn’t take chances on such an expensive car unless you can afford another one.

However, I’d be more concerned immediately with replacing the Miata’s timing belt if it has never been changed. You’ve been very lucky with that one.

The change interval on a Acura RL is actually 8yrs or 105,000 miles whichever first. In your case go by time which means somewhere in 2013 change out your timing belt.

If Honda/Acura independent specialist are around call them for a quote also.

In addition to all the above, your Miata requires a new timing belt every 4 years or 60,000 miles. But the rubber compounds used in timing belts today are superior than those used in 1990 so it might be possible to get a belt for the Miata that would last for 8 years as well.

I have a 93 Toyota 4x4 and the interval is 60k and this is more commonly 90k now in new Tacoma’s. That 105k interval another respondent said is probably accurate (just call a few more dealers and ask, heck you can call them throughout the country to see if you get a consistent answer).

Some V6s have non-interference engines, that means when the belt breaks, the valves which then free float will not slam into the pistons creating terminal damage.

Your’s may be a non-interference engine, you have to find out. I had a Volvo where the belt broke, but it had a non-interference design and it did no damage.

They quote $1350 because there may be considerable labor to take off the stuff to get the belt. I do this myself in my Toyota and have done it 4 times because I like to challenge myself with this stuff and I have the tool that actually holds the timing cams, and I also have vocational training as a hobby.

You can probably get a good private shop to do it for less. They do these on Toyota’s like mine for about $400 bucks plus parts (a timing belt is not very expensive). While they do the belt, the water pump may be right there and if it has not been done it would be a good idea to do it because all this crap has to come off to do it if it fails.

The reference to the aging rubber band was good, and I would think would definitely apply to your Miata and perhaps less so to the Acura (meaning 6 years is not terribly long, but the point by the others is good).

One more comment, the dealer price should have included the water pump, cam oil seals and the balance shaft belt. A Honda dealer can do this service as well and may have a better price, but you don’t need it done until late fall next year at the earliest.

According to the Gates.com site the engines in both of the OP’s cars are interference engines.

Both cars have interference engines, which will be destroyed if the timing belt breaks. I think that you should get the timing belt changed on the Miata next week and the Acura the following week. While you’re at it, get the tensioners and pulleys replaced on both, and the water pump replaced on the Acura. It may make sense to replace the water pump on the Miata at the same time if it needs to be removed to replace the timing belt.

All you have demonstrated is that you are unable to find information on either a website or owners manual. Look in the maintenence schedule.

Since the OP appears to believe that rubber doesn’t rot it could be that nothing ever gets done.

Gentlemen, who cares? If the OP doesn’t want to do this, only he is going to have a problem.

One of Tom and Rays favorite quotes is " the cheapskate always spends the most". How can you justify 50k for a car and not 1k to keep it healthy. Iv’e seen 5 year old Honda belts break and it is ugly.

Quote from kriley: “How can you justify 50k for a car and not 1k to keep it healthy.” Unquote

It’s interesting that Honda uses a cogged rubber timing belt in their luxury car brand but BMW, Cadillac, Benz and Lincoln do not. Possibly Honda reasoned that a luxury car buyer would not mind paying for a new timing belt but they were obviously wrong in this instance.

"Gentlemen, who cares? If the OP doesn’t want to do this, only he is going to have a problem. "

The OP asked. People are answering.