Dear Tom and Ray:
You recently told another reader to replace her Toyota's timing belt at 60,000 miles. The owner's manual for my 1989 Toyota Cressida (with 60,000 miles on it) does not require replacement under normal service, but when you call Toyota's 800 number, they inform you that the car must be inspected at 60,000 miles and every 10,000 miles thereafter. It doesn't faze them when you remind them that the belt is INSIDE the engine. That's their story and they're sticking with it. Should I just change my timing belt at 60,000 and be done with it? -- George
TOM: I'd say yes, George. In our vast -- or half-vast -- experience, timing belts on engines of this vintage tend to break between 60,000 and 90,000 miles.
RAY: And when they break, one of two things happens, depending on which type of car you're driving. Either (A) the engine stops running and leaves you stranded, and you have to get towed to a garage and have the timing belt replaced ...
TOM: Or (B) the engine stops running and leaves you stranded, and you have to get towed to a garage and have the whole engine replaced.
RAY: Fortunately, Toyota owners are in the first category. But still, getting stranded is no fun, is it, George?
TOM: Besides, inspecting it isn't all that useful. It's very difficult to tell when the timing belt is going to break, even after you've looked at it. And each peek is going to cost you 50 bucks or so in labor.
RAY: So, if it were my car, I'd spend a couple hundred bucks and just change it now. Changing the timing belt early is kind of like filling up your gas tank when you've got a quarter-tank left. You could wait until you've only got a thimbleful of gas in there, but why not do it now and forget about it for the next 60,000 miles?