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Timing Belt should be replaced?

Mom gave up driving last month, on her 93rd birthday…so I have inherited her 2000 Toyota Camry LE 4 cylinder….with a Grand Total of 47,000 miles. (Mom was the original owner….purchased new in Sept 2000).
So the car turns 17 years old this September….and the timing belt has never been replaced. I have friends telling me a timing belt will last 100,000 miles, so there is no need to replace it. However, I also have friends telling me that timing belts get brittle with time….and therefore should have been replaced 8-9 years ago, and I am driving with the constant risk of being stranded when it breaks.
Who is right? Is it miles….or is it years. As you know, replacing a timing belt is not inexpensive so I don’t want to pay for unnecessary repairs….if there is in fact plenty of “life” in the current timing belt.

It is true the maintenance schedule for replacing the belt is specified both in terms of “mileage or time”. For your car, it’s very likely 100,000 miles or 7 years. The rubber in the belt does deteriorate with time.

The fact that your belt hasn’t broken doesn’t surprise me, because the mileage is so low. But given how far you’ve pushed the time limit, it’s in your interest to replace the belt very soon.


Those friends are apparently in the group of people who are unable to comprehend the verbiage in maintenance schedules that specify both an elapsed time value and an odometer mileage value, along with a “whichever comes first proviso”. I don’t know why so many people have a hard time comprehending that proviso, but I have observed that a huge number of people can’t seem to wrap their heads around that type of wording.

A friend of mine drives very little, and only for very short distances when he does drive. His Toyota maintenance schedule specifies that the oil should be changed “every 10k miles or 12 months, whichever comes first”, yet–for reasons that I cannot understand–he insists that only the 10k part of that specification applies to him. His car is now 3 years old, and the oil has never been changed. He maintains that because he only drives ~1k miles per year, he won’t have to do his first oil change for another 7 years! :confounded:

My friend is highly intelligent, and I know that he hears what I say when I tell him that he is slowly destroying his engine, but he is intent on focusing only on the odometer mileage specification, so if the OP’s friends are similarly confused, it doesn’t really surprise me.

This type of selective comprehension truly puzzles me, but it no longer surprises me.


I have observed that as well - and to take it further, it seems that they view everything as either one way or the other, with no in between, no color, no texture - everything digital!

And how many of those friends will contribute to the cost of major engine repair if that belt breaks?


The timing belt should have been replaced in 2007 and then again in 2014. It is way overdue. If you don’t get it done now, it will break while you are driving somewhere. Do you want to lose all power on the highway with a dump truck on your bumper? I certainly wouldn’t.

This is not an interference engine, meaning that when the timing belt breaks it will not destroy the engine. Still, it should be done no later than next week if you plan to drive the car regularly.

There are probably a lot of other age related replacements you need, like tires and other belts, but this I should a good place to start. One more thing: when was the oil last changed? That should be done annually on a low mileage car.

I guess I look at it differently.

The car owner has a choice:
a) Spend the big money to replace the timing belt every 7 years, or
b) Save the money and live with the risk of the belt breaking.

Both jd123’s mom and your friend chose option “b” above, and that choice saved them big money.

I’m not saying everyone should ignore the time (7 yr) limit with timing belts.
I am saying:

  • when someone owns a vehicle,
  • and they understand the choice to either minimize risk or to accept the risk and save money,
    how can we judge them for choosing a path different than what we’d do?

Is it any different than gambling in a casino?

Your owner’s manual says to replace it every 90,000 miles or 72 months. That’s pretty clear to me. I suggest that you do your maintenance as specified by the manufacturer (who ran tests on the durability of the involved systems) instead of as voted upon by your friends.

I am going to say Yes, there is a difference especially if the belt breaks in front of an oncoming freight train.


I don’t think we’re “judging”. I think we (at least most of us) are saying that we don’t recommend taking that risk. If someone does let their timing belt break, then they’ll be paying for not only a new timing belt (possibly at some random shop) but also a tow, possibly a hotel room, and possibly a rental car (if the job can’t be squeezed in immediately). In the worst case, they’ll also be involved in an accident when it happens, leading to additional costs. That doesn’t seem worth the risk to me.

But that’s not how it comes across. This forum has many posters who don’t return because they’ve been lectured or called dumb or stupid for personal habits that go well beyond the technical problems they came here for.

If someone understands the risk of not changing their timing belt, and they choose to not change it, then it’s us who are at fault for the holier-than-thou lecturing. Not them.


That does happen at times, but overall I think we’re generally helpful here. It is hard not to get frustrated and choose the wrong wording when a poster does something obviously dumb like never checking their oil and then complaining when their engine is damaged, for example.

Please re-read my post.
My maintenance-averse friend has not (yet) avoided timing belt service, and instead has chosen to ignore the oil change interval specified by Toyota.

I don’t think that his engine has a timing belt, but if it does I doubt if the engine will even last long enough to experience a snapped timing belt. I fully expect his engine to succumb to sludge and acid damage before a timing belt (if his engine actually has one) might snap.

OP: tires are another huge safety issue. If those are the original tires, they are 17 years old and dangerous to drive on. 6 years is considered the oldest that is safe by some manufacturers. Others say 10 years max with regular inspections …

Each tire has a 4 digit code on the sidewall somewhere. Such as 0203, which means the tire was manufactured in the second week of 2003. Note that it could be on either sidewall.

Old tires manufactured before 2000 would have a 3 digit code, such as 456, which means week 45 of 1996 (or 1986)

see <A href-“!3756!3!200245276957!e!!!tire%20date%20code&ef_id=WWS67gAAAdxk5067:20170722161651:s”>this Tire Rack page for more info.


Your “highly intelligent” friend is probably CHEAP as well!. I know countless people who cannot or will not comprehend that time is a factor in deterioration!. My Toyota only goes about 6000 miles per year, but I stick to the 5000 mile schedule for oil and filter. Short trips contaminate the oil very quickly!

Most consumer products (not just foods) have an expiry date for that reason. Industrial firms who have to keep rubber spare parts on hand use the time factor, after which any parts not used are discarded.

Your friends have never seen deteriorated rubber. Nor will they be the ones who end up stuck in the bad part of town when the belt breaks.

The timing belt and serpentine belt are way, way overdue.
A good inspection of the cooling system and the brake system are also due ASAP. Both contain rubber parts, and both are subject to age-related deterioration.

Be prepared for that belt to look almost like new when it comes out (my experience…not saying don’t change it).


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+1, +2 and more. I can’t upvote this enough. Driving on those 17 year old rock-hard tires in the rain will feel like you are on glare ice.

No, not probably.
Despite having more than enough money for creature comforts, he opted to not replace his dishwasher when it broke down. He washes his dishes–by hand–in cold water in order to save money. However, the result is that all of the hardened grease that accumulates in the drain means that he has to call in a plumber periodically, meaning that his “money-saving” strategy is anything BUT money-saving.

He refuses to buy new clothing or shoes. Even though I don’t buy used clothing, I suppose that it makes some sense if somebody is bound and determined to save money. However, used shoes (or as I refer to them, “dead people’s shoes”) will NEVER fit properly because they already conformed to the shape of the feet of the previous owner. Those used shoes may also carry athlete’s foot, or other fungal spores, and the result of his “saving money” by buying used shoes is that his feet are constantly swathed in band-aids and corn plasters, and he frequently has to visit his doctor as a result of nasty, recurrent foot fungus problems.

In this area, it has been 95+ degrees with very high humidity lately, but he refuses to turn on his A/C. That is fine–I guess–if he wants to sweat like crazy, but he also sees no need to bathe daily because “soap is very expensive”. :confounded:

A few years ago, falling ice cracked his bathroom’s thermal window. When he found out how much it would cost to replace the glass, he simply covered the window with cardboard and duct tape. The result last winter was that, on some days, his bathroom temperature was less than 50 degrees.

And, then there is his practice of buying the meat, vegetables, and fruit that are deeply-discounted and are destined for the garbage at the end of the day.
You guessed it.
At least once a month, he has terrible attacks of diarrhea that require medical attention.

I have no doubt that he may be shortening his life as a result of his “money-saving” practices, so it isn’t too surprising that he has chosen a NON-maintenance plan for his car that will shorten the life of that vehicle. And, because I have done his income taxes for him, I know that he could well afford to live like a normal person who is not impoverished.

Every so often, I say the following to him:
I don’t think that I could afford to save money that way.

Edited to add:
When I mention my friend’s frequently-bizarre money-saving strategies to my brother, his comment is almost always the following:
Well, you have to remember that you’re dealing with a whole heap of crazy with him and his chosen lifestyle.

Always heard there is a fine line between an idiot & a genius .

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