Timing belt

I purchased a used 2004 Civic and had a mechanic visually inspect the belt. He said it looked OK. Is this a good way to tell health of the belt?

No it is not. Check the manual, it will give you a maximum miles or years of service whichever comes first. If the car is near, at or beyond either, get it fixed now, or you will cry bitter tears of regrette later.

You might be confusing the serpentine belt that drives the AC, alternator, and power steering with the timing belt. I have an '03 Civic and you can’t see the timing belt to visually inspect it without putting some labor into the job.

Even if he could see it, that won’t tell you much. I’d give a very low vote of confidence on a visual inspection telling you the belt is OK.

No. Timing belts often look perfect right up until the moment they break. Check the maintenance schedule for the recommended change interval. The belt is already six years, regardless of the mileage, and if it breaks the engine will be damaged.

I wouldn’t gamble on this.

No, it isn’t. When I had my first timing belt changed at 93,000 miles on my 1998 Civic, I asked to see the old belt that had been removed. It looked brand new. It’s a shame you didn’t have your mechanic put a new timing belt on while he had all of the other belts and the cover off. Much of the labor in the timing belt job is just getting to it.

If you don’t have clear proof that the belt has been changed recently, you should change it now. Inspecting it is worthless.