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Timing belt?

My 1998 PAthfinder with 106,000 miles has a squeaky belt (?). My local garage can’t figure it out, they’ve replaced most of the belts, including the air conditioning belt, and nothing helps. the squak pitches up as the car accelerates. Dealer says we need a new timing belt and wanted over $1000 to replace it and a bunch of other things. I said no. Does this sound like a timing belt issue and can I get my local garage to fix it cheaper? It went a couple weeks without noise but it’s back, louder.

Well you should check your owner’s manual, but if you have a timing belt (I believe you do) rather than a chain, it needs to be replaced as a maintenance item like changing oil.

Failing to change the oil can destroy a motor and failing to change a timing belt before it breaks can also destroy a motor. Most cars with timing belts call for the change at about 100,000 miles or less.

No one can really check a timing belt because by the time you can see it, you have done much of the work required to change it, and looking at it may confirm that it is about to break, but most look fine five minutes before they break. If you have an “interference” engine, you are very likely to end up with serious damage to the engine if the belt brakes.

In short, replace the belt NOW. It may have nothing to do with the squeak. I hope the shop is planning on replacing the tensioner, because they last about as long as the belts and if they go, they often take the belt out. Also my money is on the tensioner for the cause of the squeak.

I don’t know what the prices are in your area nor the time estimate for your car, but don’t expect it to be under $1,000 and don’t try to skimp by not doing the water pump or tensioner. If you do you will be sorry.

Regarding the timing belt: It doesn’t squeak but it definitely IS TIME TO REPLACE it anyway. Nissan’s service plan has it due for replacement at 105,000 miles. The timing belt times the opening and closing of valves, which protrude into the cylinders when they open. If your timing belt breaks, some valve stems will remain inside the cylinders as the pistons come up to the top of their strokes, and they will collide, with very costly damage being the result. Often a replacement engine is the only solution to interference between valves and pistons.

If the shop mechanic is scratching his head about the squeak, it could remain a mystery until something else offers a clue.

I will add that, while the Pathfinder’s timing belt is supposed to be replaced at 105k, there is also an elapsed time value for its replacement–likely “every 8 years”, regardless of odometer mileage. So, if the belt has never been replaced, it is at least two years overdue, and is capable of breaking at any time, without any warning. In other words, the squeek is the least of this person’s problems.

When will people learn to open the glove compartment, take out the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, and actually follow that plan for maintenance?