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When to replace the timing belt on a 2002 Mazda 626

The Owners Manual says to replace the timing belt at 105,000 miles for a 2002 Mazda 626. Mine has only 79,000 miles and the local mechanics want to change it now. They say the age of the car matters, and it should have been changed at 8 years. Should I believe them, or do they just want to do expensive repairs? With the water pump, etc. the job would cost about $1,200.

First off, $1200 seems a little expensive. Shop around. I bet you can find a better price. A 626 is a common car and lots of inde mechanics are qualified to do this.

There’s some logic in what they say. Anything made of rubber deteriorates with age. So you are probably safer if you follow the mechanic’s recommendation. It depends on how much risk yoiu are willing to take. And if your engine is an interference design or not. Do you know? W/an interference design, if the timing belt breaks, the valves will be damaged. And that is very expensive to fix.

About the only thing I can say is the experience I have w/a early 90’s Toyota Corolla. It’s a non-interference design. The recommended replacement interval is 60,000. I replaced mine at 100,000 – when it was about 8-9 years old, and the old belt still had plenty of life left in it. I could have probably got 150,000 miles on it if I had pressed my luck. I didn’t replace the water pump at the time, and the original water pump is still going strong at 200,000. I should say I drive the car mostly short trips and live where the climate is mild. I think driving long distances without stopping and in hot weather might wear the timing belt out faster.

One more thing to add: On most cars-- for example on my Corolla – there’s a way to inspect the timing belt without taking everything apart. The manufacturers often supply rubber timing belt inspection plugs. Ask you mechanic is it is possible on your car.

"They say the age of the car matters, and it should have been changed at 8 years. "

The vehicle’s mfr says the same thing!

If you don’t believe me, open your Owner’s Manual, and see what the folks who designed and built the car have to say on this issue. More than likely, it will tell you that the timing belt needs to be replaced at 105k miles or 105 months, whichever comes first. (105 months=8 years and 9 months)

“On most cars-- for example on my Corolla – there’s a way to inspect the timing belt without taking everything apart”

Please ignore that suggestion, as a timing belt can look to be in perfect condition and it can snap 10 minutes later. The only thing that timing belt inspection is good for is to see if the belt is in visibly bad condition before it even gets to the specified interval for changing it.

The only good news is that this engine is apparently not of the interference design, so when the belt breaks, there will not be catastrophic engine damage. However, if it breaks when you are passing a bunch of 18 wheelers, or crossing RR tracks, or driving in a bad part of town, or on your way to the hospital, or any number of other critical situations, you will be stuck with a car that instantly has no power steering, will very shortly have no power assist for its brakes, and is totally inoperable.
Personally, I would replace the belt…yesterday…but the OP’s tolerance for danger and inconvenience may be higher than mine.

The bottom line is that:
… the OP’s timing belt is seriously past due for replacement
and
…the OP really needs to look at the mfr’s maintenance schedule that should be sitting in his glove compartment.

Ignore the maintenance schedule at the risk of your wallet, as maintenance is invariably cheaper than the repairs that result from lack of maintenance.

If you do price compare, make sure the comparison is apples to apples. Some shops will price the timing belt replacement without water pump and without new tensioners. Based on the age of your car, it is best to make sure you get the full timing kit installed.

Gates website says this is not an interference engine and it does not have a timing belt driven water pump. The only thing you are risking if the belt breaks is suddenly coasting to a stop wherever you are. You will have absolutely no warning.

The car was probably manufactured in 2001 so the belt should have been changed a long time ago.
There’s also a few other factors to consider besides miles and time.

That would be the more extreme climate conditions (brutal heat and extreme cold) and whether or not oil/coolant or vapors from either of those two are present inside the belt case. Belt life can be shortened by any of the above.

yes time matters

+1; age matters.

Odd, isn’t it. The belt is considered too old at 10 years even if the mileage is low, but put it in the landfill and it’ll be there for a thousand years.

Thanks to all who commented. The local Mazda dealer’s service manager agrees with you, so it looks like my budget will have to stretch to include a timing belt replacement package ($800 at the dealer). Big expense for a car valued at about $4,000, but less than buying a new/used car.

By the way, the Owners Manual mentions only the mileage as a guideline. Fun, huh?

Agree that age is the determining factor here. And the cost should be somewhere around $850, including the water pump and tensioner.

BFslv50 wrote:
The local Mazda dealer’s service manager agrees with you, so it looks like my budget will have to stretch to include a timing belt replacement package ($800 at the dealer).

It’s worth pointing out that you had ten years’ warning to budget for this work.

I just had the timing belt replaced on my 97 Honda Accord yesterday. This was its second belt replacement, the first was done 8 years ago at 105 k miles, the car now has 183k so that 8 years and 78k miles on the belt.

I was going to do it myself, but I could not get the pulley bolt off. I used the Honda adapter for the pulley and a 36" breaker bar that I bent almost 90° trying to get it off. But I did remove the upper cover and I could see that the belt had a crack all the way across the outer coating between almost every cog and it had stretched so far that it should have jumped some teeth. I was scared to drive it to the dealer. BTW, the dealer replaced the timing belt, the balance shaft belt, the water pump and coolant, the cam seal, balancer shaft seals, crank seal, valve cover gasket and the oil pump seals, all for about $740.

I took pictures but at the moment I can’t find my card reader to upload them to the computer or I would post them here.

Bottom line, do the belt and ask the dealer if the belt change includes the crank and cam oil seals and a balance shaft belt if you have a balance shaft in this car.

Budgeting for something like this would be easy…if all those OTHER doggoned unexpected expenses wouldn’t keep popping up…

Quote from lion9car: “It’s worth pointing out that you had ten years’ warning to budget for this work.” Unquote

Did he? I often wonder how many people unknowingly buy a new or used car with a cam timing belt and later are loath to admit that they were not aware of that when they learn of the need and high expense for changing a timing belt. If a car salesperson was ethical enough to point out what is a major maintenance expense other than those commonly expected such as tires, a few sales might be lost.

“Gates website says this is not an interference engine and it does not have a timing belt driven water pump. The only thing you are risking if the belt breaks is suddenly coasting to a stop wherever you are.”

Both the 4-cyl and 6-cyl have DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder. If a timing belt failure occurs, the exhaust valves could strike the intake valves during the failure. Damaged valves could be the result and require a top end job in addition to the timing belt.

Shop around some more…You should be able to have this done for $500 or a little less…On your next car, you can avoid this by insisting on a model that uses a chain instead of a belt…