CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Timing Belt Replacement - What should I watch out for?

Just made an appointment to have the timing belt (and water pump) replaced on my 2002 Honda Accord (4-cylinder). Other than the belt and pump, what else will they likely be replacing? Some places I called automatically said they’d replace all other belts at the same time. At this place, I can’t figure out whether they’re going to do that or not. Is it standard to replace all belts with the timing belt? Or is that unnecessary? I don’t want to get sucked into something I don’t need - this is already going to cost me $750!

The timing belt, tensioner and water pump are usually replaced as one kit. IF the serpentine belt that drives the alternator and other engine accessories is worn, it should be replaced too. Ask to see if it is worn it if they suggest that too. The serpentine drive belt has nothing to do with the timing belt, but it also wears out.

The price quoted is reasonable. The average Amercian spends about $1100 per year on maintenance, repairs and tires according to the AAA. If you are trying to save by not doing regular maintenance you will end up with an unreliable and short-lived car.

Read your owner’s manual to check on what actually needs to be done . The dealer’s list is mostly to generate extra revenue.

IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY CHANGED THE AUTOMATIC TRNSMISSION FLUID, NOW IS THE TIME TO DO THAT. DON’ GO FOR A “FLUSH”, SIMPLE DRAINING AND REFILLING IS THE WAY TO DO IT.

Have the timing belt tensioner and idler replaced.
Have the crankshaft seal, camshaft seal and balance shaft seal replaced.

If You Can’t Recall Replacing The Other Belts Within The Last Couple Of Years Then Have Them Replaced. The Only Cost Should Be For The Belts. They Have To Be Removed To Do The Timing Belt, So You Shouldn’t Pay Extra Labor. It’s A Good Time To Renew Them.

CSA

I just had this done on our 97 Accord for the second time. For $735, the dealer replaced the timing belt, balance shaft belt, serpentine belt, front crank seal, front cam seal, valve cover gasket, water pump and coolant. He also replaced an oil pump seal for an extra $10 because it was leaking and he was already in there, that is not a part of the package.

As far as I know, the tensioner has not been replaced. I have always done this sort of work myself but the Honda crank bolt is very difficult to remove and requires a large (3/4" drive) impact wrench to break loose. I have changed many timing belts in many other engines and have never replaced a tensioner, and never had an issue as a result, so I am not worried about it.

I hope you checked at the dealer for this service as they often have the best deal on it. If you are at an independent shop, be sure the mechanic knows how to align the balance shaft gears or your engine will shake a lot afterwards. The rear shaft is tricky to align if you don’t know how, the gears are not marked.

Based on experience.

Keep Your Receipt!.

My wife had a 86 Honda CRX. She had the timing belt replaced at the dealer at the recommended interval. A few months later, the belt broke and the car tried to eat a couple of its valves.

The receipt was good enough to get Honda to eat the $2500 repair bill.

The job should include a new belt tensioner, timing belt, water pump, serpentine belt, and new coolant. If any other parts appear worn they should be replaced at this time. Any radiator hoses and clamps and heater hoses and clamps should be replaced if they appear either “soft” or are still OEM parts.

Get at least 3 estimates and find out exactly what they will do. Then you can compare the services offered. I had the timing belt and the usual other items done in September on my 2005 Accord EX V6 and the dealer had the best deal by far.

Also, how many miles on your Accord and has the timing belt ever been replaced before? It should be done at 105,000 miles or 7 years, whichever comes first. You are either late for the first change, or about on time if your mileage is over 200,000. This, of course, depends on when the first change was done.

When I replaced the timing belt on my Corolla, I replaced both drive belts too. It’s very easy to do while everything is taken apart anyway; the belts themselves are not very expensive, $10-20 each. Since the water pump is being replaced, now would be a good time to replace the coolant with a fresh 50/50 mixture too, unless that has been done within the past year already. Make sure the shop uses the correct coolant type recommended by Honda for your car. If you are having any other problems like with the AC or the power steering, it makes sense to have those looked at now too. If something needs replacement, it takes less time if done during this timing belt change-out.

I’d be less inclined than others posting above to change the crank/balance-shaft/camshaft seals unless they are actually leaking already. Do you notice oil leaking on the driveway? If not, I wouldn’t replace those. If the new seal proves to be defective or incorrectly installed, you may create a new problem rather than prevent one.

I would however replace the valve cover seals with new if the valve cover needs to be removed in the process, which I think is the norm for most cars.

If the old crankshaft seal, which may be fine now, leaks one year from now, it’s going to be expensive to replace it. Do it now.

True enough db4690. I should add that I didn’t change the water pump on my Corolla either, since it was working fine. And it continues to do so. Maybe this is just me, but I generally don’t change things out that are not being pulled out as part of the job anyway, unless they are already showing some signs of failure. But it’s absolutlely right that my water pump could have failed the day after I put everything back together, and I’d have had to do it all over again. Life is a gamble.

@GeorgeSanJose I NEVER changed the water pump on my 1995 Corolla. I changed the timing belt myself a few times. Each time the pump was fine. But I wasn’t paying for labor. If somebody’s paying me to do a timing belt job, I’d want to make sure than anything and everything under the cover gets replaced. That way, there won’t be any hurt feelings 6 months later.