Will Vicky's Volvo self-destruct if she doesn't shell out $600?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

You guys always make me laugh! And now I'm desperate for some car advice I can trust. I have a '98 Volvo V70 with 112,000 miles. A mechanic just told me I'm on borrowed time, as I have not changed the timing belt. He said it should have been done at 105,000 miles, and could break and screw up the engine at any time. Also, he said I should replace the water pump, as it would save the labor cost later on. I am afraid to drive the car at all ... the quote was $600, which I just can't do right now. I am a widow, so I don't have a "hubby's car" to drive instead. Thank you for your time, and keep up the laughs! -- Vicky

TOM: Unfortunately, Vicky, your mechanic is absolutely right.

RAY: Your timing belt should have been changed by now, and if it breaks, your valves are going to be crushed like the ice cubes in one of my brother's pineapple-salami breakfast smoothies.

TOM: He's also right that you should change the water pump. That pump is run by the timing belt. So if the pump seizes, that can also break the belt. And you'd hate for that to happen after you went through the trouble and expense of installing a new timing belt. So, we always replace them both at the same time.

RAY: The same goes for the timing-belt tensioner. That's a cheap little device that keeps the belt tight enough. If that fails, your engine's a goner, too. So, be sure your mechanic replaces the tensioner as well.

TOM: Unfortunately, this is one of those times when you have to get creative and come up with some cash somehow. This might be the time to pull out the old credit card. Or a new credit card.

RAY: Or if you've been a longtime customer of this garage, maybe they can put you on some sort of payment plan where you can pay for the parts upfront, and then pay off the labor over a few months.

TOM: Right. With fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies as interest.

RAY: Or maybe you have a kid who can help you out, in exchange for keeping the lid on some embarrassing naked baby -- or high-school -- pictures?

TOM: But you're right not to drive the car until you fix it. If you think $600 is a lot to come up with, imagine having to come up with $3,000 to rebuild the engine. Good luck, Vicky!

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