Timing belt - only 10,000 miles?

I changed my timing belt on my Honda Pilot earlier this year. I know that it is necessary to change timing belts on Hondas as recommended as it could lead to sever engine damage if it breaks. Now, after 9,000 miles on a new belt, it suddenly broke on me and I’m facing big money for a new engine. The warranty only covers the cost of the belt - not the labor for installation, not to mention a new engine. I’m questioning if the work was done at all in the first place. Have you ever heard of a timing belt breaking so soon? Any advice?

The person who installed the belt screwed up. They could have put the tensioner on too tight. Or they didn’t even replace the tensioner.

I’d contact a lawyer. A reputable company would take responsible for their mistake.

I changed my timing belt on my Honda Pilot earlier this year.

I take this to mean you replaced yourself? Not a shop replaced it? If that’s the case unfortunately you are in for the whole amount minus the cost of the belt. Sorry if I am the bearer of bad news, please don’t shoot the messenger.

On the other hand if a shop replaced, it they need to be put on the hook for all related repairs.

It’s possible an installation error could have caused the belt to break.
However, there is missing information.
What year Pilot?
How many miles on the engine?
Was the belt only replaced or was the timing kit including tensioners and water pump used?
Any oil or engine coolant leaks in the belt case?

The odds of the belt being faulty are just about zero and a broken timing belt does not necessarily mean an entire new engine is needed; all depending.

Just to clarify. I had it replaced earlier this year at a reputable shop. I have been told by the same shop that it is now broken. They were speechless when I asked then to search their records to find that they replaced it earlier. I am dealing with customer service, but want info so that I can build a case without going the legal route - yet.

Is there any particular reason why you cannot or will not provide any useable info about the car?

sorry, here is what I think you need - it is a 2003 Honda Pilot. 120,000 miles. Everything related to the belt was changed as recommended, including tensioner. Water pump was not changed and not recommended for changing. There were / are no know coolant or oil leaks. Hope that helps.

It seems to me that the shop likely owes you an installed engine. Not a new one, but a rebuilt one. If you keep the same calm demeanor that you show here, you should get it. They may have insurance to pay for their errors. Also, their insurer will probably want an investigation before they pay out. This could take a week or two. They should provide a rental replacement, too.

a shop is liable for engine damage for how long? is this a state by state issue? length of time/miles for this repair? 3 months/3k miles? 12 months/12k miles? do some shops cover the repair cuz their nice? or is it the law?

Most of the time when a timing belt breaks on an interference engine there’s usually just valve damage. But there could be piston damage and other damage. I had a belt break on me once and the engine was interference…and had ZERO engine damage. I got LUCKY.

I believe Honda engines are interference . . . ?

As far as the “warranty” goes, many shops warranty parts and labor for 12 months

Unless the parts used were extremely inferior, my money is on a poor job

As @MikeInNH said, I think there’s a good chance you just need a head job

However, I believe the shop should eat %100 of the cost

Offhand, this sounds like a shop error but I just can’t be positive beyond all doubt.

Any one of several reasons could be behind a fairly new belt snapping. Water pump seizing or water pump shaft wobbling, failed timing kit component, harmonic balance going bad and causing the engine to lurch, or even the very remote possibility of a camshaft moving around too much. (A new pump should be part of every timing belt job although that can be discretionary.)

There’s also the issue of what kind of warranty the shop provides (miles/time) as that can vary widely and I’m assuming that the shop provided the parts originally.

Even if the shop does not stand behind this repair for whatever reason, they should be able to gladly and willingly tell you exactly WHY the belt snapped and point to the cause rather than blindly state the engine is damaged goods/need a new one.

Its sort of hard to understand how a new belt could break unless some other part broke or the belt was defective. The belt goes around a bevy of various pulleys. The crank pulley and the cam pulley(s) are the main ones. If their bearings failed, that could break the belt, but would indicate a bigger problem than belt failure. Like lack of oil.

But there are other pulleys involved too. If an idler pulley bearing for example just overheated and froze, and stopped dead in its tracks for some reason, I think that could break the belt. I’m not sure you could blame the shop for that happening, unless it is standard practice to replace all the idler pulleys and their bearings when doing a timing belt. I certainly didn’t do that when I replaced my Corolla’s timing belt. I didn’t even replace the tensioner, just verified it and everything else involved moved freely and when everything was all put back together it had the correct tension on the belt.

I think what I’d do in this case is take the car to another shop for their independent appraisal of the cause of this failure.

Having a timing belt break in relatively short order after a replacement is not all that uncommon a story. I’m not saying it’s frequent or “normal” but its not odd if…

As noted, the most common reason this would happen is that some other part of the system failed - water pump, tensioner, pulleys. Personally, I would never have left a 120K water pump on an engine getting a timing belt done.

In any case, it would have to be torn down to try to find out what failed.

The first thing I would do if I were in the OP’s shoes is check my receipt and their records to see if they purchased/installed the whole timing belt kit or just the timing belt. If they only replaced the belt, and not everything that comes in the kit, the shop that did the work is definitely negligent. If they purchased and installed the entire kit, they’re still probably culpable for the belt’s short life, but you’re going to have a harder time making a case against the shop and not belt’s manufacturer.

@Whitey, “If they only replaced the belt, and not everything that comes in the kit, the shop that did the work is definitely negligent.”

Well, that may only be partially true. Shops can only do what the customer is willing to pay for. I’d say about a third of the people that come in (grudgingly) for scheduled timing belt service choose not to replace tensioners, idler pulleys, etc. I can suggest, recommend, explain until I’m blue in the face about the wisdom of replacing all moving parts at the same time, but some people have the idea that they know better than I do and they’re not going to get “fleeced” by buying a bunch of add-ons to pad the bill. Anyway, my invoice would state “Customer declined water pump and tensioner at this time” to make clear who made the choice.

I also question the shop diagnosing t-belt/engine damage without noticing that the work was done 9 months previous. Any incoming car gets a check of service history at write-up so everyone is on the same page.

At any rate, unless someone can honestly determine the cause of the belt failure we’re all in the dark. Lets hope the shop has some integrity with their findings.

@Bry, can you post an image of your original invoice so we can see the details?

Question: What kind of shop would accept a “belt only” timing belt job?

Answer: one with low or no standards.

A real professional would refuse to do the job for a customer who insisted on only replacing the belt. Replacing the water pump is optional. Replacing the tensioner should not be optional.

This is like the difference between a shop that will let you walk in and say, “replace the starter” without doing any diagnostic work and a shop that will insist on confirming the starter actually needs to be replaced. Replacing a good starter only to have the customer come in and not be able to start the car is a no-win scenario for everyone involved.

Having professional standards makes the situation better for all parties, whether they realize it or not. A real professional would say, “I’m sorry, but I won’t do a timing belt job without doing it right.”

@Whitey, that’s a bit harsh. IMO it’s the shop’s responsibility to make recommendations about what should be replaced, but ultimately it’s the owner’s choice to do whatever he/she wants.

I would draw the line at doing (or not doing) work that would make the car unsafe, regardless of what the owner wanted. But choosing not to replace a water pump or tensioner, while perhaps shortsighted, is not a safety issue, and the mechanic who does what the customer wants in that case should not be accused of having low/no standards, IMO.

Just to be clear - the timing belt and tensioner were replaced. The water pump was not replaced, nor was it recommended to be replaced. The Invoice states: Timing Parts/Camshaft: remove and replace timing belt; Timing Belt Tensioner. (It lists a price for each part (belt and tensioner) as well as a labor fee of $400. Nowhere on my invoice does it say that a water pump was replaced or recommended and denied. At the same time I changed my alternator belt, which is probably unrelated, but it shows that they looked around, as I did not ask them to change that at first.

If anyone does determine that the water pump failed (e.g. seized) and that caused the belt to break then IMHO they would be on the hook to some significant extent. Other than that it is a head scratcher.