Timing Belt Replacement

I have a 2003 VW Golf with 50K miles on it. Recently, the dealer told me I need to install a new timing belt, so I started pricing the job. One place priced much lower, but they’re not replacing the water pump. Others priced higher and insisted that you have to replace the water pump. So, is this the time to replace the timing belt, and do I have to replace the water pump with it? Thanks much.

This is the time to replace the timing belt, assuming it’s indicated in your scheduled maintenance. In your case it may even be based on age rather than mileage. You’re due.

Some replace the water pump with every timing belt replacement, others do so with every other timing belt replacement. Since your mileage indicates mostly stop and go driving, it’s probably put much more wear on the pump than if it were highway mileage, so if it were me I’d definitely change the pump too.

Thanks for this answer. Actually, I do long highway trips and then leave it parked outside my house for days and even weeks. The higher miles are almost all highway. So, given that, could I skip the pump reasonably safely (knowing that nothing is ever guaranteed…)?

My recent experience was that my mechanic said he would check to see whether the water pump needed replacement when he was doing the work. He checked it out and said the water pump didn’t need replacement so he didn’t change it.

I suppose if you wanted to be extra careful, it wouldn’t hurt to change the water pump. You would be paying a sort of insurance and possibly preventing an expensive repair and possibly have peace of mind at a price.

Exactly. And I know that your mechanic’s practice is common.

The weakness to the theory is that if the pump is high mileage to begin with it’ll probably fail sometime between the current belt change and the next 60,000 miles (or whenever the next one is scheduled) and when it does it’ll take the belt with it…and the mechanic will be doing the same disassembly all over again. If it’s an interference engine it may even cause the valves and pistons to whack one another and you may sustain even more damage. Pump failure is not that predictable a thing.

When the belt is being changed, most of the work and cost that would be part of changing the pump is already being absorbed anyway. Many would argue that it’s always prudent to change the water pump when doing a belt change. Personally, I think it depends on the age of the pump and the mileage between scheduled belt changes. But I cannot argue with the logic of those that do them both together routinely.

Thanks to you both for the pro and con. I’ll try to let you know what my mechanic says, and what I decide.



Volkswagen and Audis are notorious for timing belt failures. They need to be replaced regularly (I replace mine every 70,000 miles). As long as the timing belt is out, the water pump should be replaced. It is only a few extra dollars (as mentioned earlier, the majority of the work is already being done for the timing belt replacement). Also, some of the earlier VWs were manufactured with a nylon impeller in the water pump. These are also notorious for breaking. The new water pump impellers are metal and much more reliable.

Yep. Had it done and the mechanic made a point of letting me know about the metal impeller in the new pump. Thanks for the suggestions and the update.