MotorHeads! Dire Need for Advice!

I know I’m treading a thin line with my timing belt. It is a genuine Honda part (as-is the water pump). Both parts have just over 100,000 miles on 'em. But, I want to trade the car (1998 CR-V) in prior to doing the replacement!

Can I get 10% more or (praying) 15%-20% more life out of these parts, maybe? Or, is it going to pop any minute now? And if it pops…how serious is this? Can you lose control of your vehicle, or do you simply coast to a stop…?

Worried stiff…

  • Jinx

I’ve had a timing belt break while driving. The engine just…stops. If you have power-assist steering and/or brakes, they will be become difficult, but manageable. I wouldn’t call it a “safe” situation, though, especially if it happens on the highway. It’s probably not going to break tomorrow, but it could. OTOH, it could last another 50,000 miles.

You’re now operating your timing belt over the plug-hole of the bathtub reliability curve. Yes, you are pushing it, but you’ll probably get away with it a bit longer. However, timing belts have been known to fail prematurely, and the consequences are expensive.

If you’re timing belt fails then your valves will probably impact the top of the pistons. This will bend the valve stems and trash the pistons, but your engine block and camshaft should survive. This shouldn’t be enough to seize the engine, so at least your driving wheels won’t lock. But if your car relies on energy from the engine for the brake servo, power steering or suspension then you’ll have useless brakes, steering and suspension (delete as applicable).

If you want to reassure yourself about the integrity of your drivebelt then give it a visual inspection. Rubber doesn’t last forever, and will eventually go hard and brittle. If your belt looks glazed, cracked or frayed then it’s time to replace it. If it looks pretty good then it’s probably unlikely to fail in the immediate future. Check the belt tension against the spec too.

With timing belts that have a recommended replacement interval of 60,000 miles, I’ve seen some fail right at 60-61,000 and some last well over 100,000. There’s really no way to predict when any particular belt will fail.

The recommended interval for your belt is 105,000 miles.

Most Honda engines are interference engines, which usually bend valves if the belt breaks. Mucho expensive. I don’t know for sure if your engine is an interference engine, but you can call a dealer (service department) and find out.

Aha! That’s why my Chevette (hey, stop snickering!) survived a timing belt breakage with no ill effects other than some lost time an $12 for a new belt.

According to this site the scheduled replacement for the T belt is 168,000 Kilometers or 100,000 miles for us 'mericans. If the T belt breaks (and they will) the valves will hit the top of the pistons. This will bend or possibly break the valves, possibly destroying the cylinder head. At the very min. you are probably looking at $600 repair and might if the planets are aligned wrong, and Mr. Murphy is in a bad mood a completly destroyed engine.
The word I use to describe a belt in this condition is marginal. It might break tomorrow, or maybe 10,000 from now. All I knmow is that it will break at some point. I left my crystal ball in my other pants, so I can’t get more specific that that. If you can’t afford to change the belt now, how are you going to afford the repairs when it breaks?
[Dirty Harry]
So do you feel lucky? Well do you?

I would be also, you are on the ragged edge

No timing belt is $12…I think you’re thinking of a rubber, drive belt. - Jinx

Actually, they are on older cars. The timing belt for my 84 Accord was about that much. Not that it did me any good since the valves were crushed. The car had about 220,000 miles on it when the belt went (it was the original one). If I were you, I’d shell out the money to get the timing belt replaced or sell the car immediately.

What Tuckerfan said. Besides which, this was back in the late '80’s. Lots of stuff was cheaper back then.

Just to add to GaryT’s post about interference/non-interference engines, you can find this information for many engines, as well as the recommended replacement interval, from the Gates Rubber company website (pdf file).

Unfortunately, I checked the file and it has not been updated since the '01 model year.

The other factor to consider is that anyone buying your car, or taking it in on a trade, is going to want to know if the belt has been replaced. If it hasn’t, and the buyer knows what he’s doing, he’ll deduct the cost of that belt replacement from the amount he’s prepared to pay for the car.

If it’s a dealer who’s taking the car in trade, of course, he can get the belt replaced for less $$ than you can, but it’s probably not a huge difference (i.e., it might cost you, say, $500 for the replacement, but if you don’t do it, the dealer will give you $400 less for the car).

I say, “replace the sucker.” Compared to the cost of repairing bent valves, or worse, it’s cheap insurance, and won’t end up costing you all that much more in the long run.

I recommend the advice to get it changed too. Having had one break in my Ford it really makes a mess. Valves bent, pistons damaged and the head had to be skimmed. Plus of course they have a knack of going at the most inconvenient times, mine went at 5 am on a lonely country road.
Even when fixed it was never the same after that.

The advice to change the belt now is not bad advice, and is certainly defensible. It would be my “official” advice to a customer. That said, the odds of the belt breaking soon are quite low. I’ve replaced quite a few timing belts at mileages ranging from near the recommended interval to several tens of thousands of miles past it. The great majority of them showed no signs of imminent doom. Getting 10%, or even 25%, more wear out of these parts is a realistic hope.

Just be aware it’s not a sure bet, and the potential consequences of “not lucking out” are severe. It’s like Russian Roulette, where there’s only a 15% chance of getting the bullet, but if you’re in that unlucky 15%, you’ll be 100% dead.

While some savvy potential buyers might ask whether it’s been done, I would bet that the great majority of them, including dealership salesmen, would never raise the issue.