For Car dopers

I’m giving away my parent’s 1997 Mercury Tracer. It has 60,000 miles on it.
I’m trying to find the recommended Timing Belt replacement schedule, so I can tell the people who I’m giving it too how soon they need to replace it.

I can’t find the Ford documentation, but Gates says “inspect at 120,000.” This seems very, very long - almost 2x every other vehicle. If this is accurate, why this long interval?

Also, does this agree with the actual Ford interval?

According to this site, 120,000 is the correct mileage for replacement.

Just for time in existence and exposure to air, 19 years is pretty well past a safe replacement interval. The blurb on the front cover of that Gates guide suggests that your timing belt should have been changed three times by now.

Avoid Costly Engine Damage;
Change Your Timing Belt At
The Recommended Interval
Or Every 72 Months,
Which Ever Comes First.

I’d certainly suggest replacing it sooner than later, so it can be done on your (or your buyer’s) schedule, rather than breaking in the middle of nowhere, at night, in a rainstorm.

As for the seemingly long inspection interval, my WAG is that the 1997 Merc engine is a non-interference design, so you just stop moving if it breaks, rather than destroying the engine.

The Tracer engine is non interference, so if it breaks you’re stranded but no real damage.

I would replace it just because of the age. it’s a 20 year old car at this point, and timing belts degrade with both usage and time.

as for the interval, the recommended timing belt replacement interval on my SRT-4 (a sort-of interference engine) was 100,000 miles, but I did it at 90k.

Believe it or not, a lot of old timing-belt equipped cars just didn’t have a factory recommended change interval. I had an '86 Accord that had an interference timing belt, but looking in the manual you’d have had no idea the thing even had a timing belt at all. I guess you were supposed to let the dealership remind you and trust their judgement as far as mileage. (Although I note that at some point Gates switched from listing it as “no manufacturer recommendation” to the fairly conservative 60k miles. I guess that’s one way to sell more timing belts.)

Thanks for the info, everyone.
I’ve already put new tires and front axles into it, so since it’s not an interference engine, I’m just going to tell them to start saving up for a belt replacement.
Who knows - maybe it will last another 19 years…

no, it probably won’t. The likely failure mode for a belt that old is the crank sprocket shearing off a run of cogs off the belt when you go to start the engine.

You’re giving away this car, and fixing it up?? Why?

Oh, I forgot, can I have it? Please replace the transmission first.

Because we don’t need it, and my we have friends who do - and who are not as financially secure as we are. It’s a small gesture that will greatly improve their lives. Living without a car in Phoenix is not easy - this is not an easy place to get around by public transportation.