Seven timing belts in seven years...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

I read a recent column of yours in which you said that most timing belts are expected to last 60,000 miles. Help! I own a 1984 Toyota Camry, and I've had to replace my timing belt ANNUALLY. My car now has 108,000 miles and I'm on my seventh timing belt. I paid approximately $200 each time. Please advise.

TOM: Our advice is to get a new mechanic immediately, Pat. The one you have is either incompetent or dishonest.

RAY: Let's look at the issue of in?competence first. This is my brother's area of expertise, so I'll let him handle this.

TOM: Gee, thanks. There are only a couple of ways an incompetent mechanic can screw up a timing belt. He could over-tension it. That means he's putting it on too tight. Or he could fail to notice that some oil is leaking onto the belt from somewhere in the engine. That could also cause the belt to break prematurely. But after going through two or three belts, any mechanic worth his coveralls would get suspicious and start investigating these possibilities.

RAY: If the timing belts aren't actually wearing out or breaking, and your mechanic is simply sending out postcards--like you get from your dentist--that say "time for your annual timing belt change, Pat," then he's a crook. In that case, I'd not only find a new mechanic, but I'd write a letter to the state Attorney General's office of consumer protection, and the local Better Business Bureau. Good luck, Pat.

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