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

Timing belt scam?

I am the second owner of a 1999 Toyota Sienna with 110,360 miles on it.

According to the dealer, the first owner had the timing belt changed in 2000. Is this possible, or even likely, or is the dealer trying to pull a fast one on me?

Why would someone change a timing belt after one year…and

How would the dealer know unless he was the one who changed the belt?

Possible if there was some issue(warranty likely) associated with the timing belt or its associated tensioners.

Whatever the case it is overdue.

Unless you can find record it was changed later, you need a timing belt. But you don’t need the dealer to do it, find a good independent and save some money.

When I had the timing belt changed on my 2000 Camry about 3 years ago the independent mechanic put a sticker on the TB cover showing the date and mileage. I think the other indy mechanic did so for the TB on my '99 Escort a year or two ago (too dark and cold to go out and look now). I expect that such a sticker is SOP.

The “Scam” is rubber timing belts themselves…Today, few Toyota engines still use them…Others will follow Toyota’s lead…

I’m wondering why that would be relevant to you and what aspect of it counts as a “scam?” What are you trying to figure out?

Your belt should have been changed at 90K miles. This is an interference engine - the kind that is wrecked by a belt breaking.

OEM Toyota timing belts come with a sticker to be placed on the timing belt cover to note the mileage and date of the timing belt replacement. They also come with a clear plastic sticker cover to protect the ink from the pen from dirt and oil contamination. I know, because I’ve replaced many Toyota belts with OEM from the dealer parts counter. If the belt was replaced, the sticker should be there.

The timing belt may have been replaced if it was removed due to a warranty repair. It is a standard practice to replace the timing belt if it was ever removed, even if before the recommended replacement period. For the labor involved to get to it, it is cheap insurance just to replace it.

What would the dealer be trying to pull. If your last timing belt change was 10 years ago, you are on borrowed time. If the OEM belt was changed after only a year, it was likely do to some sort of unique problem, not related to normal wear.

BTW you do not need to go to the dealer for a new belt. A local independent mechanic is likely to be as reliable and likely to be a lot cheaper than the dealer.

How could that claim possibly be considered to be a scam?
A timing belt that was replaced in 2000 is already overdue for replacement on the basis of elapsed time.

You really need to start reading and following the maintenance schedule that is in the glove compartment.
If this vehicle has been driven for 10 years without replacing the timing belt, it is very possible that other important maintenance items have been skipped also. Unless you have access to all of the vehicle’s maintenance records, you have to assume that no maintenance has ever been done.

I would suggest that you have the belt replaced a.s.a.p., along with everything listed on the 105k maintenance list if you want to keep the vehicle running without serious breakdowns.