No matter how poorly you've maintained your Buick, you still couldn't be possible for a timing chain failure at 34k miles.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1997

Dear Tom and Ray:

My wife has a 1991 Buick Skylark which seems to be overly plagued by problems.
Most recently, at 34,000 miles, the timing chain broke. The car was towed to a
local Buick dealer. They said the cause was "poor maintenance," and they refused
to cover it under the warranty (which was about to run out). They also stated
"we've had experience with tensioner problems under poor maintenance
I disagreed on the poor maintenance. When they removed the valve cover to show
me the cam shafts weren't turning, I expected to see lots of old oil crud. But
there were only four or five semi-solid globs, all smaller than a medium-size
screwdriver blade. All the drain ports were very clean, and no crud was visible
on any of the parts. What do you think of their diagnosis? Chilton's manual
mentions an "old" and "new" tensioner. Was the old one a problem? -- Milton

RAY: Milton, you got a complete Fred Astaire on this one. A total song and

TOM: The problem was not poor maintenance. The problem was poor design.

RAY: Your repair slip tells us that you have GM's infamous "Quad 4" engine. And
our Buick source says they've redesigned the tensioner for this engine several
times, largely because they can't stop them from breaking. And, he added, this
engine has been nothing but trouble.

TOM: And no matter how poorly you maintained this car, it's almost impossible
for you to be at fault for a broken timing chain at 34,000 miles. They usually
go 134,000 miles -- at least.

RAY: So I'd get in touch with your Buick Zone Representative and ask if Buick
won't reconsider reimbursing you and covering this repair under warranty. Unless
they can prove that you've somehow abused this engine, I think you'd have a very
strong case, Milton. Good luck, and even though they tried to pull a fast one on
you, start by being polite -- it's much more effective.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter