When should I replace my timing belt?

I drive a 2002 Chrysler Sebring LXI convertible. It has about 127,000 miles on it. I took my car to the mechanic yesterday for some preventative maintenance. For 3 years, the oil light had been coming on when I brake. I ignored it because it was coming on at stops and immediately going off when I started moving. It probably wasn’t a big deal because if it actually had been anything big my engine would have fallen apart by now. It had recently been coming on more often, to the point where as the car warmed up it would come on while coasting as well. So I stopped stalling and got it to the mechanic. He ran a pressure test and said it was okay. Not great, but okay. Which I guess is to be expected with a car this old. He replaced the sending unit, did an oil change with some thicker oil, and added some sort of additive. Seems to have worked; oil light isn’t coming on any more.

Anyway, while I was on the phone with him, he suggested I get the timing belt replaced as a routine maintenance task. He said that conventional wisdom is that you replace every 90,000 miles. I wasn’t sure if I’d done that, but I am pretty diligent about keeping up with the maintenance suggested in the owner’s manual. We didn’t do the timing belt change today.

When I got my car back, I checked the section on maintenance. It did mention replacement of the engine timing belt, but not at 90,000 miles. It suggested mileage ranging from 145,000 to 168,000, depending on the type of engine and the type of driving you do. So it looks like I have 20 to 40 thousand miles to go before I should get that belt changed according to the manual. I only drive about 7500 miles a year, so that will be a while yet.

I like my mechanic. He seems knowledgeable and honest, but I’m not sure on this one. Do I follow the mechanic’s advice or do I go with the manufacturer’s manual? I’ve heard timing belt replacement is a pretty costly job as far as preventative maintenance goes.

7 years is the max I would go on a rubber belt. I have not heard of anything longer than 90k miles. Driving shorter distances means you have to do things on time not miles.

I agree. Check further to see if it says xx,xxx miles or 7 years. Usually there’s a time limit. I would not trust it over 7 years unless the manual suggests longer. But 12 years is cause for concern.

Your mechanic is right. Timing belt is definitely due now, not debatable. Water pump is also part of this job. If you trust your mechanic there is no reason to stop now.

If that manual states 145k to 168k miles then that manual is horribly incorrect. The engine is an interference fit which means if the belt snaps the engine will suffer major damage instantly.

Owners manuals often have incorrect or ill-advised recommendations in them. When my particular model of Lincoln first appeared the owners manual stated that the transmission should be serviced with Dexron automatic transmission fluid. This egregious error was corrected the following year with the use of the word Mercon as Dexron is a General Motors fluid.

Even more ridiculous, the Dexron that Ford recommended was Type II which was obsolete when the manual was first published.

The maintenance schedule for the four cylinder show to replace the timing belt;

Normal service @ 102,000 miles/163,000 KM or 102 months

Schedule “B” @ 90,000 miles/ 144,000 KM.

The six cylinder has a timing chain, no belt.

I think you are looking at kilometers on the maintenance guide.

Thanks for the input guys. Nevada_545 made the best point and he’s probably most correct about me looking at the numbers and not seeing the units of measurement associated with them.

Funny I’d never heard of this timing belt thing before now and I always make it a point to check that maintenance schedule.

And… I just double checked the owner’s manual and it does indeed say “Replace engine timing belt” at 90,000 miles and 144,000 kilometers. Boy do I feel like a dolt. But that would certainly explain the disparity between what I perceived from the manual and what my mechanic says.

I’ve been following the stupid maintenance schedule based on kilometers for 5 years. No wonder I never noticed this before.

Ok taking a closer look at this thing, it looks like aside from the timing belt thing I didn’t miss much. It makes some mention of replacing ignition cables on 2.4 liter engines, but mine is a 2.7 liter. It also says “Replace drive belts.”. Is that something different?

It also says “check and replace, if necessary, the PCV valve”, but it has some confusing note about how this is “recommended by Chrysler but not necessary to maintain the emissions warranty”. So should I do that? The conventional wisdom I read on the timing belt is that ignoring that one is asking for trouble but word seems less clear on the PCV valve.

Hmm… says to change the automatic transaxle fluid and filter at 96,000 miles. Is that associated with the transmission? I had some transmission work done done a few years ago and that might have been included in there.

I’ve also heard it recommended (from the Internet, not from my mechanic) that you get the water pump inspected and replaced while you’re working with the timing belt, on the idea that you’ve already gone through a fair bit of labor to get to the timing belt and this is a substantial portion of the work involved in water pump repairs. What do you folks think?

And of course the inevitable question… what do you think this is gonna cost me? I’m gonna do it regardless, but I want some extra time to balk at the cost. I’ve heard timing belt replacement is labor intensive, but cheap on parts. I know this kinda stuff tends to vary based on geographic region, so I’ll just let you know that I live in Delaware.

The 2.7 liter V-6 has a timing chain, no maintenance is necessary.
The water pump is driven by the timing chain, at this age of the vehicle you should check the coolant and oil level/condition on a regular basis. If the water pump should fail you’ll need to catch it in time or the failure will destroy the engine.

The 2.4 liter four cylinder has a timing belt.


I’ll have to double check the engine to verify whether it’s 2.4 liter or 2.7. I can’t remember off the top of my head but I do know that it’s written clear as day in big bright letters right there on the top of the engine. I think I mentally mapped the engine type to something in the the manual once upon a time (as I recall the manual instructs you to replace the spark plugs within the first 75,000 miles / 120,000 kilometers on the 2.4 liter but the 2.7 liter waits until the 100,000 mile / 160,000 kilometer mark.

So just to clarify, you’re saying:

If this is a 2.4 liter engine, replace the timing belt.

If this is a 2.7 liter engine, there is a timing chain and I don’t need to change that.

The LXI convertible came only with the 2.7 V6 and Gates does not list a belt for this engine so Nevada is correct about it having a timing chain. There, now you know something your mechanic does not.

“Gates does not list a belt for this engine so Nevada is correct about it having a timing chain.”

That is true, but there is still the remaining issue of the OP either ignoring or not understanding the “either/or–whichever comes first” proviso for most maintenance procedures, and that can lead to a lot of avoidable repair issues as a car ages.

Over the years, I have observed an incredible number of people posting questions on this site who only pay attention to the odometer mileage proviso for maintenance and who ignore the elapsed time factor–which is just as important for some maintenance procedures.

There have even been a few people who did not seem to be able to comprehend the “either/or–whichever comes first” stipulation. I don’t think that this is such a difficult concept, but there have been lots of folks in this forum who just did not seem to understand the full meaning of those words.

The only V-6 that needed a timing belt maintenance is the 3.0 liter. The 2.7 liter does not require timing belt job because it does not have a timing belt.

Of course, for those engines that DO have a timing belt, the proper time to replace it is one day before it breaks!

I wonder about oil changes. 7500 miles is about 12,000 kilometers. @thrifty, how often do you change the oil?

I wondered about the same thing.
If the OP has consistently been looking at the km numbers and thinking that they indicated the mileage numbers for maintenance, this engine could contain a LOT of sludge at this point, and lots of other maintenance items might be very much overdue.

Although I hope that the OP is now clear on the miles vs kilometers factor for maintenance (and also on the elapsed time factor), it is very difficult to undo lax maintenance for over 120k miles.

I go by the manual. It doesn’t frame most of the maintenance in either/or terms except oil changes and something about flushing the radiator fluid. Some sort of flush I can’t remember off the top of my head.

Get the automatic transmission fluid and filter serviced every 30K

The manual is giving you really bad advice

Do NOT let anybody flush it . . . you may very well regret it

OP: fyi, the PCV on most cars is simple to test and inexpensive to replace. It’s function is to vent the crankcase so abnormal pressures and corrosive chemicals don’t build up. I replaced the PCV on my Corolla about 6 months ago myself, the part cost less than $10 and it took about 5 minutes to do the job. PCV’s don’t usually fail at your mileage, but when they do they can cause expensive to repair damage. I’d suggest to ask your mechanic to test it on your next visit.

You didn’t answer the question, except to say that the oil change interval is presented in both kilometers and miles. You got miles and kilometers mixed up before. If you have been changing the oil at 12,000 miles, you should change the interval to 7500 miles or whatever the owner’s manual says to do.