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Timing belt replacement after just 1.5 years?

I recently took my 2001 jetta in for some brake work. Dropped the vehicle off at the dealer with a description of what I wanted done, and got a call within an hour of leaving from the dealership. They told me they took a look at the timing belt, and that it needed to be replaced. I objected over the phone, and explained that I had the timing belt replaced 1.5years/less than 15,000 miles ago. The mechanic, over the phone, said: “that’s strange, its cracked now and needs to be replaced”. I was about to take a big road-trip, and needed the car operational. Reluctantly (and perhaps stupidly), I agreed to have the service done, but wanted to have the old timing belt left in my car so that I could see the “cracking”.

I picked up the vehicle after the service department had closed for the day. Sales rung me up for $2100 total for brakes and the timing belt service. Feeling a little dead inside, I opened the trunk when I got home, and looked at the timing belt. There is absolutely no cracks, pits, grooves, missing, or worn teeth.

I feel like I was taken for “a ride” on this service visit. Was I ripped off? What do I do now?

Now you know that the dealer will always recommend work even when unneeded and when called on it they will stick to their story regardless how unmerited it is. The question now is do you vent and gain nothing but ill will or find a shop you feel is more ethical and move on? You might get a refund if you press the issue but it is unlikely.

I agree with Rod Know that contesting this may lead nowhere but if I were in your shoes I would raise bloody hxxx over it.
First step is go in and have a sit down with the service manager. Be firmly polite and have the old belt in hand. Do NOT relinquish control of that belt to anyone. Ask for the return of all monies expended on that belt job.

If they refuse then contact corporate VW and again, be firmly polite while laying out what happened. Email them copies of the belt replacement charges on both occasions.
For what it’s worth, I worked for several VW dealers and corporate VW does NOT take this kind of thing gently. Much may go on between VWOA and the dealer to which you will not be privy but it’s possible that they may go in and apply the thumbscrews to the dealer over this.
Ask to meet with the regional rep when he makes his next round if necessary; with belt in hand of course.
The irritating thing about something like this is that it reflects on everyone in the dealer chain; guilty or not.

Lastly, belt tensioners and so on should have been changed. If they did not do this then they’re negligent to the nth degree and did a poor job anyway.
If push comes to shove, take them to small claims court. Based on the belt as evidence and depending on the tensioner scenario I think you have a winnable case; assuming the dealer did not try to settle it before the court date. Best of luck.

Many shops would have backtracked when confronted with the fact that the belt was just done. Not these jokers. Too bad for VW, they’re battling a history of bad service along with reliability issues.

Most cars you really can’t inspect the timing belt visually. Perhaps VW is different, but I think you got taken on this one.

Even if you can look at the timing belt…many times you can’t tell how bad it is. I’ve replaced timing belts with over 100k miles on it…and it looked as good as the new one I was replacing;

Some things are so egregious that they should be pursued and this is one of them.

Personally, I don’t know any mechanic who will go and remove a timing belt cover and rotate the engine repeatedly for free to perform any kind of belt inspection no matter how invalid that inspection may be. If they do, they’re grasping…

Not replacing belt tensioners, either then or now, is Strike Two or Strike Three depending on the point of view.

I agree that on the face of it, this appears like you have been scammed. Before you proceed to get a refund for what may have been work that was not needed, take the belt back to where you were told it was cracked and ask the people to show you the crack or cracks. Even before you do that, use a strong light and a magnifying glass to inspect the tooth side of the belt as follows: Turn the belt inside out so that the teeth are on the outside. Then pinch the belt a little at one place to form a tight loop and look for cracks at the bases of each tooth. Do the entire belt like this; it takes only a minute or two. It is possible that you might find a crack at the base of a tooth that is not visible unless the belt is pinched as described.

I just did this to two used VW cam drive toothed belts that I had saved. They did appear to be otherwise near new with approx. 60,000 miles on each and I was surprised to find a crack on one side of the base of one tooth on each belt.

Are you confident that the belt was changed 1-1/2 years ago and that you were not scammed then?

Let’s step aside from the did you need it or not… $2100??? For a tbelt and brakes??? I have a huge problem with that. What did they do to your brakes, coat them in gold?? Figure the tbelt job was $1000 at the most and at that price it’s super high, a brake job with rotors should not be more them $200 a corner and again that is super high. So even if they replaced all 4 corners and just killed you in price, and I’m talking badly. Your still at $1800,

Thanks everyone for the replies. I did the ‘pinch test’ described above, and still couldn’t find a crack. From what I had gathered, there is no reason to, nor is it particularly “on the way” to inspect the timing belt when replacing brake rotors and pads. This makes me wonder why I was called and suggested a replacement in the first place.

The dealership that changed the belt 1.5 years ago I trust, and am confident didn’t scam me. I had multiple successful service visits with them, and my family has bought several vehicles from them in the past. I can’t see them tossing that business out over a timing belt. However, this is my first time at this new dealership. I recently moved. With the great experience I had with the previous VW dealer, I think I was too quick to trust this one on their service recommendations.

They charged around $1250 for all four corners of the brakes. Rotors and pads. They also replaced an ABS sensor. I’ll have to look up how much they charged for that…

From what I had gathered, there is no reason to, nor is it particularly "on the way" to inspect the timing belt when replacing brake rotors and pads.

I had and exhaust leak on my 90 Pathfinder some 20 years ago. It was the donut gasket between the manifold and the exhaust pipe. My normal guy was real busy at the time (needed done before I went out of town), so he suggested I go to the dealer since the only place he could find one was from the dealer.

Drove over to Team Nissan in Manchester NH. I told them EXACTLY what I was there for…nothing else…20 minutes later the service writer comes in with a $2,000 estimate. Which included timing belt and cam seals. I had replaced the timing belt 2 weeks earlier…and the cam seals were fine. I asked the service rep to show me…We went to the garage and the mechanic said he couldn’t…it was his gut feeling since he saw some oil on the radiator hose (I had spilled some oil when I changed the oil earlier that day). He even admitted he didn’t check the belt…The ONLY reason they suggested I needed a new timing belt was because their service records didn’t show my Pathfinder in there for any service. In fact the whole list (which included new brakes , oil change…etc…etc was because my vehicle didn’t come up on their system as having any service. Needless to say I didn’t get the service done…never went back there and even drove 20 miles past them when I bought my then new 98 Pathfinder.

U have 2001 car. ALL shops look at ur mileage when u pull in and ALL assume u have had NO service done. U got screwed. U cannot get unscrewed. U know little about cars and assumed the dealer was being honest when they told u ur belt was worn when in fact it was fine.

Alex, consider this ripoff as tuition in the school of life.

There’s no need to go to a dealer for non-warranty work.
Click on “mechanics files” above (or yelp.com) and find yourself a good independent mechanic.
That’s what I did recently.

They charged around $1250 for all four corners of the brakes. Rotors and pads.

Man, I’m in the wrong business.

U have 2001 car. ALL shops look at ur mileage when u pull in and ALL assume u have had NO service done. U got screwed. U cannot get unscrewed. U know little about cars and assumed the dealer was being honest when they told u ur belt was worn when in fact it was fine.

First, he knows about cars. He already knew how to check the belt for wear.

Second, the dealer told him they saw cracks. This wasn’t a mileage-based recommendation.

And third, because it happens to be a pet peeve of mine, the word is “you.”

“And third, because it happens to be a pet peeve of mine, the word is ‘you.’”

I’ve been grimacing every time @Stoveguy posts:

I do own VW’s and is one of the few brands or maybe the only one that allows for a visual inspection of the timing belt.

@circuitsmith I suppose we should be thankful that they’re not typing in advanced leet, which will truly make your eyes bleed.

Still, it’s annoying. I don’t even use those abbreviations when texting people. They’re pointless now that text messages aren’t so character-limited.

Which engine do you have? If you have the 2.0L gas AEG motor, I’m curious how much labor they charged you. I just did a timing belt/water pump/tensioner job on one and it took less than two hours.