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Timing Belt vs Chain in '04 Honda Element

My Honda Element is at about 105K. I’ve been pretty good about following the maintenance schedule all along. Back at 92K the guy at the dealership warned me that I would be due for some pretty significant services just after 100K. One thing he mentioned was the timing belt. I had it in the back of my mind that it was typically recommended to replace the timing belt around 100K as a proactive step since waiting until it snapped would be catastrophic. But I have since read online that the Element has a timing CHAIN not a belt and that these typically last much longer and do not necessarily need to be changed. I also read that when a chain is in need of repair you can usually hear some noises that would prompt you to have it checked.

I am a wedding photographer so it is imperative that I take good care of my car–can’t have anything crazy happen on my way to the church! So I will go ahead and replace it if I need to. But I don’t want to spend that kind of money if I don’t have to. Sadly, I don’t really trust what the dealership tells me b/c I think they are out to make money.

The people on the Honda forum I visited were far more knowledgeable than I and the consensus seemed to be that this can wait. Perhaps for many, many miles. Any thoughts?

Gates doesn’t list a timing belt for the 2004 Element, which is a pretty good indication that its engine has a timing chain. Many Honda vehicles have timing belts, but not this one.

Timing chains normally last the life of the engine, which is one of the reasons many manufacturers who used to use belts are now switching to chains. It’s also one less maintenance cost for the owner.

You should not ever have to replace the timing chain on this vehicle.

One less thing to worry about.

Thank you!! That is exactly what I was hoping to hear. It only makes me distrust the dealership more when the guy they have communicating with me doesn’t know something as basic–and significant–as the fact that my car doesn’t even have a timing belt! I didn’t know it until I did some basic research but shouldn’t that be basic knowledge for these guys? :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks again for your input!

Do yourself a BIG favor, and confirm this via the Honda maintenance schedule in your Owner’s Manual.

If the engine has a timing belt, you will see an entry for replacement of that item at 90k or 105k miles.
If there is no notation for timing belt replacement at those intervals, then that is a very good confirmation that the engine has a chain, rather than a belt.

Just for future reference, you REALLY should be referring to that maintenance schedule whenever you have a question regarding how to maintain the car.

I deal with local independent mechanics and avoid dealers, who are no better, and apparently no more knowledgable, than independents. The service writers at the dealership often work on commission, so they sell whatever they can.

You can double-check by consulting the maintenance schedule in the owner’s documentation. There should be no mention of a timing belt.

Vehicles with timing belts have the replacement interval clearly listed in the maintenance schedule.

Yes–point well taken. I have consulted the manual in the past and have questioned some “suggested” services that were not indicated in the manual. Have saved myself some $ this way. I will indeed confirm with my manual. It is something that always seems to occur to me at a moment when I can’t act on it–like when I am trying to fall asleep at night or when I am actually driving! Then I forget to do it!

Again–appreciate everyone’s feedback.

Replaced cams in an '04 Element last week, they were driven by a chain.

Good to hear. =)

They also told me at the same time that I had a bad strut and they needed to order the part. I meant to call around for a second estimate. I haven’t acted on it yet and I just read a tiny bit about struts online and it sounds to me like this is another issue that would have made itself obvious to me on its own–I notice no symptoms. Are they screwing me? Is this something another mechanic could easily diagnose? (I don’t know any mechanics so I’d be starting from scratch (no prior relationship/trust) …does a place like Midas do work like this? I love pretty far from…well…everything! But there is a Midas a mile or two from the dealership.

Midas has a reputation for upselling in many areas, Kansas City being one. Your best bet is to get a couple of estimates from an independent shop, (general mechanics or suspension specialist), and go from there.

It would be best to get a second opinion and estimate (generally free) from someone other than the dealer.