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Timing Belt for 2004 Subaru Legacy + Check Engine Light?

Several Questions…

What is the cheapest way to get a timing belt replaced for a 2004 Subaru Legacy? I was thinking about buying a timing belt at an auto part store and then bringing it to the mechanic to put it on. What is a good brand of timing belt?

I can’t find my 2004 Subaru owners manual and I was wondering if the check engine light would come on when the car has reached 90,000 miles.

The cost of the belt is the least of your concerns, it is negligible. The cost in a timing belt change is labor. Shop around for quotes, but also don’t give it to a shade tree that has never done a Subaru timing belt.

Timing belts are CHEAP; it’s the labor for properly changing it that costs money.

Gates makes good belts for all cars sold here that need them. Let the mechanic buy the belt; you will save no more than $20 by buying it yourself, and the mechanic will nix any warranty if it breaks!

The check engine light WILL NOT LIKELY come on, since this is a normal maintenance service, not an engine PROBLEM. If you buy a Haynes manual for your car, all the normal maintenance is covered in the first 2 chapters.

Other posters will likely recommend you change the water pump (if driven off the timing belt)and belt tensioner at the same time. If so, budget about $500-$600 and you will be good for another 90,000 miles. There is no need to go to the dealer for this, but make sure your mechanic knows how to work on Subarus.

The cheapest way is to buy the belt and other parts and install them yourself, but I don’t think that’s what you have in mind.

Replacing a timing belt is labor-intensive. The parts don’t cost much; the labor is where the cost is. You won’t save enough buying your own parts to make it worthwhile. Let your mechanic get his or her own parts.

With a water pump and a pulley or two you’re easily looking at $500-600, maybe more.

The CEL does not come on as a maintenance reminder. It comes on to warn you of a developing problem.

Your mechanic can figure out why the CEL is on while he’s replacing the timing belt.

The CEL does NOT come on automatically at 90k or at any other mileage.

If the CEL is glowing steadily, that indicates a problem that should be attended to as soon as it is convenient. Just be aware that the engine is undoubtedly using more gas and is emitting more pollutants than normal when the CEL is lit up. Also, one problem can cascade into a more expensive series of problems if the CEL is ignored for an extended period of time.

If the CEL is blinking, that indicates that the car should not be driven, except directly to a qualified mechanic, as the problem is fairly serious.

Many mechanics want to use parts they supply. The problem for them is if the belt you buy for them is not good quality and fails, who are you going to blame? You know the belt manufacture is only going to give you a new belt at best. Your mechanic should not be held responsible, and you don’t want to get in the middle of a he says, she says.

Unless the mechanic tells you otherwise, let him or her supply the parts.

Some mechanics make good money from the parts, but remember they are going to price out the total cost to you so if they don’t get income from the parts, they are going to add it to the labor changes.

You can save some money by puchasing a none OEM belt and there are some good quality manufacturers out there but it is hard to beat the one Subaru uses. Think about the difference in cost per mile of purchasing a OEM belt and another brand that have a 100k mile life span.

As others have mentioned the cost of the belt is a small part of the total replacement cost. It is also very important to go over the other parts in that area, like the tensioner, while in there to prevent other troubles later on. If something happens to that belt you will have some real bad repair bills to pay out in order to fix the engine. You really want an experienced Subaru tech working on this.