Is it necessary to change my water pump while changing the timing belt?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

With 58,000 miles on my 1987 Ford Escort, the local Ford dealer recommends that I change my timing belt for $150. And "while they're in there," he says I should have the water pump changed for an additional $80. I like the car very much, and want to be sensible, but I'm not having any problems with the car. What do you think?

TOM: The dealer's advice is sound, John. I mean, I get suspicious too when a mechanic uses the phrase "and while I'm in there..." It's sort of like when the doctor says "and while I'm in there, I'd like to take out your spleen, your gall bladder, a couple of valves from your heart, and your left tonsil." But in this case, the Ford dealer happens to be absolutely right.

RAY: The timing belt should be changed every 60,000 miles. On 1981 and 1982 Escorts, when the timing belt breaks, the valves get bent, and the motor gets ruined. In 1983, Ford finally got tired of giving out free engines and changed that design, so that won't happen to your '87.

TOM: But when your timing belt breaks, the engine WILL stop running. And unless you're one of those adventurers who enjoys getting stranded, that's no fun at all.

RAY: The water pump should be changed along with the timing belt for two reasons. One, it takes almost no additional labor to replace the water pump once the timing belt is off. So it IS a case of "while I'm in there," and it's best to do it. Second, the water pump is DRIVEN by the timing belt in this car. So if the water pump seizes a week after you change the timing belt, you not only have to buy a pump, but you have to pay for the timing belt job all over again.

TOM: Plus the towing, the car rental, and the hotel bill.

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