Separating fact from fiction regarding timing belt changes.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

Thanks for your irreverent and uplifting oily and greasy
advice! My
question is one of timing. Timing belts, that is. I have an
Acura Legend,
four-door, midnight blue, with 110,000 miles. I have
received three
different opinions about changing the timing belt, and I
want you to
"disambiguate" them for me. I have heard: 1) It will break
when you least
expect it. 2) I've never changed mine and my car has
umpteen thousand miles
on it. And 3) It is a ruse to discover more things that
need to be fixed.
Please set me straight. -- Sam

RAY: Ah, Kemo Sabe. There is truth in all three of these

TOM: The timing belt WILL break when you least expect it.
And on some cars
-- including this and all other Honda products -- it will
crush your valves
and ruin your engine when it does break.

RAY: A small number of people get very lucky and go
"umpteen thousand
miles" on a single timing belt, just like some people smoke
cigarettes and
live to be 100. Can we explain it? Heck, no!

TOM: And some mechanics will suggest other work be done
when you're
changing your timing belt. The most common -- and most
sensible --
suggestion is that you change your water pump at the same

RAY: So the answer to your real question (please set me
straight) is yes,
you should definitely change your timing belt now. The
consequences for
your engine are dire if you don't. And it's worth changing
the water pump
at the same time because you're already paying for most of
the same labor.

TOM: Plus, since the water pump is run by the timing belt,
if the old water
pump seizes, it could break your brand-new timing belt. And
wouldn't that
frost your shorts?

RAY: Timing belts typically last about 60,000 miles. So if
you changed
yours at 60,000, you're due again at 120,000. If you didn't
change it at
60K, then you're 50,000 miles overdue, and you should drive
very gingerly
to your nearest mechanic.

TOM: And think about this, Sam. If the belt were to break
while you were on
your way to get it changed, then all three of the above
timing belt
statements could be true for you, personally: It lasted
umpteen thousand
miles, it broke when you least expected it, and now the
mechanic is going
to use it as an excuse to sell you an engine rebuild, too.

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