Timing belt tensioners--Honda 1.6 liter engine

I’m the same guy who posted a question last week under the title, “Do I need a new water pump when my timing belt is changed?”

Several of you mentioned that I should replace the belt tensioners at the same time, but two of the six shops I called were pretty straightforward in saying that this isn’t necessary. One is a general all-models shop, the other a Japanese car specialty shop that’s been around for 20 years.

I’m willing to spend the extra $100-$125 for the part, but I’m curious to see what y’all think.

Much obliged,


Ask these shops who are feeding you this bogus information if they will also put, IN WRITING, that they will pay the entire bill for any engine damage up to and including a complete new engine depending on what happens when the timing belt gives up due to a failed tensioner.’

Maintain eye contact at all times and I think you will likely see shifting eyeballs, mumbled retorts of “Well, that’s not really necessary”, etc.

People who have tensioners fail (and these can come on pretty quickly once the hard coating of the bearings wear through) will likely disagree with these guys also.

I revert my advice going with the minority. Go with the majority.

From my own experience of wife’s car and my old one:

I owned two Honda’s with timing belt & 1.6 and never changed the water pump or tensioners on either. They were sold running perfectly at 190k & 225k.

There are 2 ways performing a repair; the correct way and the backyard, halfway method that involves a bit of prayer and luck.

Anyone who recommends not changing the tensioners, or water pump, is recommending the latter.

you already answered your own question. a majority of the shops said… change them. only one third said don’t change them.

go with the majority.

my personal feeling is that since they are in there, why not change the moving parts that are involved. the cost is minimal (compared to the whole bill) and the potential for disaster is huge if they do fail.

A Japanese car specialty shop that has been around 20 years and they’re dishing out bad info like that? Not to mention the general specialties shop?

Every single month millions of timing belts are changed; some by the correct method and the other by the wing and a prayer method. The majority of those millions may not suffer a problem due to not changing the tensioners or water pump.

However, a substantial portion of them will; either while the car owner has possession of the car or when the next owner comes along.
So the question stands; Just how lucky do you feel?
And if a water pump or tensioner or idler goes out are you prepared to cheerfully smile and say no harm, no foul while absolving the shop of any responsibility for this even thought they gave you bad advice by telling you this does not have to be done.

Sorry, but no way on God’s green Earth is skipping this the proper repair in any way, shape, or form.

When replacing a head gasket why not skip inspecting the head surface and milling?

Why replace both struts when only one has failed?

Why not replace only the badly worn brake pads and shoes? (And no one should laugh about this one. I had a service manager who insisted on “only replacing the individual pads and shoes worn the most” on a Subaru.) Moron.

Why replace the accumulator or drier when replacing an air compressor?

Carry it over to your home. Why lay down new felt paper and 5 nails per shingle when roofing the house as recommended? Skip the felt and use 3 nails. No harm, no foul. At least until the next windstorm.

Add 3 or 4 more electrical outlets to a room without upgrading the breaker box. The house won’t burn down will it?

You might also consider reading through this cut and paste below from a pro repair site; something which these shops are apparently not doing.

Timing belts have a limited service life. That?s why belts should always be replaced at the vehicle manufacturer?s recommended mileage interval. But a belt change alone may not be enough because the majority of belt failures are actually caused by faulty belt tensioners and idlers. These failures can result in major engine damage and expensive repairs. Consequently, the new timing belt you?ve just installed may fail after a few thousand miles if the tensioner or idler is worn or loose.

The eccentric idlers and/or pulleys that are used on many OHC engines to maintain belt tension also have a limited service life ? which in some cases may be less than that of the belt! Their lifespan depends on their location, operating temperature, load, engine rpm and other environmental factors. Most tensioner and idlers have a design life of around 2,000 hours, which may be the equivalent of 40,000 to 60,000 or more miles of service depending on how the vehicle is driven. Unless these components are also replaced when the belt is changed, it could lead to premature failure of the new belt.

Tensioner bearings are “sealed for life” and are not serviceable. So there?s no way to clean, inspect or relubricate the bearings when a timing belt is changed. Over time, the grease inside breaks down and oxidizes, accelerating bearing wear and increasing the risk of a bearing failure or seizure. And the hotter the operating environment, the shorter the lifespan of the grease and the bearings. The location of these components under the timing belt cover prevents them from receiving much cooling, so they tend to run quite hot.

(A 125 bucks sounds pretty darned cheap to me when compared against the price of a new cylinder head job at the very least or a complete new engine in a worst case scenario.)

And you’ve talked to SIX shops and 2 were straightforward in dismissing this repair?
These 2 shops should be avoided because they obviously have no clue.

Ironically enough, I was just researching the same thing for my Civic and came across this thread. When I called the dealer for an estimate, I asked if they thought the tensioner should be replaced and the service advisor said no. He said the Civics don’t have problems with them, and if I was driving a V6 Accord, Pilot, or Ridgeline then I should get it done. This guy also asked if I had the 4 or the 6-cylinder Civic when I first called.

I ended up having the work done today by a local shop that had some decent reviews online and they were able to get it in today. This may warrant a new thread, but I just picked it up and there appears to be something wrong. When idling and accelerating, I hear a rubbing sound from the motor. The car as a whole sounds different under acceleration as well, almost like a whining noise when I am on the gas. I brought it back to the shop, but their last tech had just gone home, I am bringing it back tomorrow morning. Any ideas what I should have them check? The one manager thought may be it was a pulley. The other thought it was rubbing against the belt cover. I can’t explain the overall “whine” noise under acceleration though. Here is what I had replaced today:
timing belt
water pump
camshaft seal
crank seal
drive belts
a bad lower motor mount they found while digging in for the belt

Any ideas would be great, maybe this could be useful for Lindee since I also have the 1.6L engine. It is the SOHC VTEC 1.6 with an AT.

A rubbing sound could very well be a belt scuffing against the belt cover. Possibly the belt cover is not installed correctly, bolt left loose, etc.
A whining sound from the timing belt is often caused by someone putting too much tension on the belt.

And here we go again. You never, ever, no way, no how, and in any way, shape, or form put any faith at all into what a service advisor says. Only about 1 in 10,000 of them have any mechanical experience and credibility.
The others blather their way through each day spouting BS to cover up their lack of mechanical knowledge.

What they told you about Civics not having problems with them is utter bunk. The model of car has zero to do with tensioner life and odds are this guy is saying this stuff simply because he’s probably seen a few other models in which the tensioner has failed and through sheer luck simply has not seen a Civic failure - yet.

Brought it back in this morning. They said it had too much tension on the belt and now it sounds normal again, if not smoother than before (fixing the motor mount helps). They also installed the valve cover gasket I asked them to replace yesterday that somehow didn’t make it on the list. Hopefully with all that stuff taken care of, I should be good to go for a while. If Lindee is wondering, the whole deal cost me about 900 here in Northern VA. I also got them to throw in an oil change and a rotation while I was in there.