TIMING BELTS - How long did you go before changing?

wilcoxwilcox Member Posts: 582
edited April 2014 in Saab
The recommendation to change timing belts at 60,000 miles has been around for decades.

Service advisers have been know to quote it in their sleep!

Certainly belts of the 90's last longer than the old-timey belts of the 60's and 70's....?

What's your story?


  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    My old '80 Volvo 240 has a timing belt with a non-interference engine. Timing belt replacement interval is either 45K miles or 60K miles, depending on whether you go by the owners manual or the separate maintenance booklet.

    I changed the first belt at 57K miles, the next at 122K. That belt broke at 161K miles (only 39K miles and about 3 years after installation). Inconvenient, yes, and also totally unexpected.

    Luckily, it happened in a decent neighborhood in Baltimore where I was able to find a phone easily and have it towed to a Volvo dealer.

    The 3rd belt (to replace the one that snapped) was installed in 1990, and shortly afterward the Volvo was demoted from its primary status as family vehicle and turned into a commuter. I finally elected to have the belt replaced a month or so ago at 232K miles. That is, it went 71K miles and almost 11 years!

    So far, my '97 Camry has gone over 69K on the original belt.

    My '98 Frontier has a timing chain.
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    Saav V6 - every 30k - or else!
    Volvo 960 - every 70k
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    It's not 60K for every car out there.

    Honda called for 60K replacements until 1990 when it went to 90K. For 1997 and up models, it's 105,000.

    I think Toyota went to 90K in 1997.

    Last week, an 1991 Civic was towed in with a snapped belt. The car had something like 130,000 miles on it. No engine damage, but the guy got stuck in the middle of one of our floating bridges during rush hour traffic...not a good thing.

    Personally, I don't want to think about myself or my wife getting stranded because I want to push the manufacturers reccomendations.

    But...we are all different, I guess.
  • wilcoxwilcox Member Posts: 582
    dpwestlake - What does the "or else" mean? It must be a very high performance motor or something. fwiw, the Gates Rubber Co. site recommends Saab V6 being changed at 35,000 miles.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,326
    ...on an '88 LeBaron turbo. Recommended interval was 60,000 miles. We were really pressing our luck, but it was a non-interference engine, so I guess it wouldn't have been THAT big of a deal if it broke.

    The car didn't live long enough to see another timing belt change, though. Just about every component except for the transmission was shot by around 110-115,000 miles...and even the tranny was leaking!

    Just about everything else I've ever owned has had a chain. Even my 2000 Intrepid has a chain, although I didn't know it when I bought it. It still has a recommended interval of 105,000 miles.

  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    The timing belt is a weak point in the Saab. It should be changed at 30k. Saab covers the first 3 changes for free.

    If the belt breaks is is about $5000 to repair the damage. Bent valves, cracked heads, etc.
  • wilcoxwilcox Member Posts: 582
    That's strong justification for learning some mechanic skills.

  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    Nah, Saab pays for the first 3 changes. Just get rid of the car before 120k.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    My friend and I both had 88 Integras. I did the timing belt change as called for at 60k miles. He didn't. For about a year and a half, I had to hear from my wife about wasting money (more than $500 bucks) on a timing blet change...

    Then at about 80k, my buddy's belt broke and bent those valves to the tune of about $1,200 bucks. I didn't look so foolish for spending the money after that!
  • bittoo106bittoo106 Member Posts: 6
    I got my timing belt changed at 98000 miles, The belt looked brand new. I am sure it would have gone another 60k.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    Really? 35,000 miles and Saab actually pays for the first three? Is this correct?

    Wow! You would think they could come up with a better design or something/
  • nygregnygreg Member Posts: 1,936
    My 92 Camry 4cyl asked for a change every 60K. I went 80K before the first change and another 100K before the second change. Both belts were in good condition when changed. My new Outback asks you to have it checked at 90K and replaced at 105K. I can live with that. Considering that belts break within a range of data, the manufacturers need to be on the cautious side so I expect that the average will last longer than recommended. However, do you want to take that chance? I did, but will probably not going forward.

  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    Only the V6 had a timing belt, the fours have a chain. They dropped the V6 from the 900/9-3 and are using a different design V6 in the 9-5.
  • newcar31newcar31 Member Posts: 3,711
    The reason why some companies recommend the timing belt to be changed at 105,000 is because of a California law that states something about car companies not being able to require "major" services to be performed before a certain mileage. For instance, some cars recommend that you replace the belt BEFORE 105,000 miles unless the car is a California car.
  • lngtonge18lngtonge18 Member Posts: 2,228
    My mom's first 86 Accord went 105K before she changed the belt. Reason being that my dad didn't realize it needed to be changed because it was their first car without a chain. Apparently they were lucky since it was supposed to be changed at 60K. On her 92 Accord they changed the belt at 92k and 180k. Both times the belt looked perfectly fine. The water pump wasn't replaced until the 180k change and it was still working properly. The belt in my 84 VW GTI broke only about 15K after it was changed because they didnt replace the timing belt tensioner pulley and its bearing froze, causing the belt to be shredded. Thankfully, the engine is a non-interference design so it didnt hurt anything. It just idled funny and wouldn't start the next day.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    Ingtonge18 makes a good point that the belt tensioner can cause valve timing to change or the belt to be ruined. I have changed a few tensioners but usually do not. Parts and labor cost for a tensioner replacement are modest but only if it's done at the time of the belt replacement. Does anyone have enough experience with this to suggest whether or not it's worthwhile to replace the tensioner when the timing belt is replaced?
  • gslevegsleve Member Posts: 183
    I've done many many timing belts and have changed the tensioner most of the time however if the person is dead set against it I'm not responsible, this situation is similar to wher the water pump runs of the timing belt many persons opt not to replace it, however such a choice is a bad idea, while you're in there it's only sensible to replace these parts given there use over time invariably they will go when you least expect it.

    If you're going to do the job logic will tell one to do it right the first time spend the xtra $ for the replacements
  • hmpowerhmpower Member Posts: 20
    I had an Acura Legend, they recommended changing it at 60,000 miles, but I let it go until about 110,000...definitely testing my luck according to the schedule, but it worked out for me, and when they pulled the belts, they said they didn't look too bad...now my Honda calls for it at 105,000, maybe manufacturers were just being overly cautious with the lower mileage intervals in older cars...but like anything else, if you go beyond what is recommended, and it breaks, you're on your own.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    Driving down the freeway with bald tires.

    Will you get a blowout? Probably not.
  • alchemy2alchemy2 Member Posts: 6
    I recently had our timing belt fail at 110K (original belt) on our 95 Plymouth Voyager 3.0V6. The dealer wanted to replace it at 60K although the manual stated to check the TB at 100K. Luckily the engine is non-interference and no damage occurred. Water pump was also replaced at the same time.
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    On Volvo's 2.9L I6 the manual says to replace the timing belt at 70k. After a $5k bill due to a timing sprocket failure on my Saab V6 I decided to take this one seriously.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    Changed a timing belt on a '91 Passat last month. And all the intake valves. And the intake camshaft. And the intake camshaft sprocket. We ignored the divots in the pistons. Dealer estimate was $3,000, I managed to do it for $1,800 (aftermarket parts). The belt had just over 100K on it. You pay your dime and you take your chances....
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    You are hearing stories where people push their luck and get lucky. As Alcan said, there are those who don't. I have one vehicle in my garage where they didn't. Asked at 90,000 miles when it should be done, I told them it should have been done already. They just said "well, it is still working". It went at 100,000 miles. Cost - $2800.
    How much did they save to get that extra 10,000 miles? LOL!!
    Oh, by the way, it would have been about $250 to replace the belt. So you decide, do they put those intervals there for you to think they are just trying to get your money, or is there really something to it?
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    Gsleve makes a good case for tensioner replacement. I started replacing water pumps with timing belts years ago; as soon as I encountered my first timing belt. Since tensioners usually provide an audible warning, I haven't always replaced them - but I'm having second thoughts. Alcan, is it your practice to always replace the tensioner on a timing belt job - or does this depend on the engine model?

    I have learned to distrust belt appearance as an indicator of condition. A name-brand belt with 30 K-miles on a Chrysler 4-cyl was recently found to be stretched so much that the tensioner couldn't reach it to apply tension. No cracks or visible wear - this overstretched belt looked great.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    I usually recommend replacement of the water pump, tensioner (if spring loaded), and crank/cam seals, depending on what has to come back off to access them if there's a failure. Then it's the customer's call. But it's always the same old story. Replace the peripherals and you're trying to jack up the bill by replacing parts unnecessarily. Don't, and have something fail later, and you did shoddy work. C'est la vie. LOL

    P.S. You made a good point about belt stretch. I've had to replace lots of serpentine belts because they'd stretched beyond the adjustment range of the tensioner.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    You bring up a good point. It's always smart to look around and replace questionable items when you are "in there" already.

    But, as you said, this drives the price up.

    To the average customer, cheap is good but when the water pump fails three months later, that same guy will be upset because you didn't change it.

    When I ran a shop, I once tried to save a financially strapped customer a few bucks on a clutch job by reusing her old throwout bearing...it looked good. BIG MISTAKE!!

    It failed six months leter and she raised so much hell that I got to do the job over for free.

    So much for doing favors!
  • mrdetailermrdetailer Member Posts: 1,118
    Don't forget a time element for those who have low mileage cars. Did you know that 85% of belts fail after 4 years. Replacing them every 4 years avoids the problem. I'm tired of the towing.

    I had 2 belts replaced in the last 4 years because the tensioner wasn't replaced. It only would have cost another $50.00. In both cases they said it appeared fine when the belt was changed. Next time I'll change the tensioner when I change the belt, whether it needs it or not. I would especially do this on an impact engine.

    If it's around 100,000 miles I'll also change the cam seals from now on. My Mazda at 90,000 had no cam and crankcase seal leaks. Now at 115,000 it does. I just got an estimate for the repair. $236.00. Of that only $30.00 for the seal parts and $40.00 for labor. The rest is for the @#$% timing belt removel to get to the seals. The belt is also swollen with oil so I'll just replace it again too.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    You are exactly the kind of person to put forth an appropriate perspective on this issue. Not financially motivated, not brand loyal, no axes to grind. Just a couple of lessons from the school of hard knocks. Please folks, when it's time for service get ALL of it serviced. Thanks for the post, Mr D.
  • eharri3eharri3 Member Posts: 640
    I believe the recommended replacement interval is 60 thousand miles, I had it done a the dealer for just under 200 bucks at 65K. I take frequent 2 hour trips during which I would rather not be stranded, and need the truck to least at least another 5 years without major repairs beyond scheduled maintenance. I have no inclination to take my chances with that sort of thing. Had the fan belt or serpentine belt done at the same time.

    Currently at 71K, all dealer maintenance every 5 thousand miles, feels like it could go another 100K.
  • fivespeedfivespeed Member Posts: 42
    That statement is misleading.

    It is too generalized.

    It implies that in the fifth year of service, the probability of a timing belt failure to occur is 85%...even though the mileage is below what the manufacturers specifies! I said "implies"..

    IMO, changing low mileage timing belts out every four years is as useless as changing oil and filter every 2,500 miles on an everyday use vehicle.

    Actually the more often one lets "billy bob" the mechanic loose under their hood the greater the probability screwing up something else.

    Although several things were touched upon in that post, I'd like to focus on the "changes" mentioned. The clowns that changed out mrdetailer's belts w/o tensioner replacement probably messed-up more things up than they repaired (if the truth be known). You guys know this could very well happen...not everyone is "Mr. Goodwrench".

    Call this statement a "medaphor" if you want....but in the real world it is true. The more things are monkeyed with in key system areas, the greater exposure there is to screw-ups. That's likely to be true about...say 85% of the time, No?

    As far as timing belts go, my '91 Mazda went just over 6 years and 82,000 miles before I voluntarily had it replaced.
    My ASE mechanic specialized in Japanese vehicles. That was a plus IMO. The old belt was worn, didn't look that bad to the naked eye. Fortunately, the car sustained no accidental "injuries" during the operation.
    Wish I could say that for other repair experiences.

  • eharri3eharri3 Member Posts: 640
    Personally, the way I see it, I have trouble finding logic in investing so much money in a car but then rolling the dice when it comes to repairs that could keep it from becoming a 3 thousand pound hunk of useless sheet metal. Question for those of you who let it go beyond the recommended interval: Do you at least have it checked for wear regularly, or is the philosophy just "out of sight, out of mind?"
  • fivespeedfivespeed Member Posts: 42
    I have not checked the timing belt on my current car. It's getting close to that time. AT least there are no weird noises coming from that area.

    Do you?
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    If you own a car with a zero-clearance or "interference" engine (where the pistons will hot the valves when they're open) changing the belt is MUCH cheaper than repairing the damage if it breaks. For a Saab V6 the cost is at least $5000. My neighbor had one break on his Audi A4 and the bill was over $3000.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    A timing belt isn't going to make any noise before it gos.

    You'll only hear it's Swan Song when it snaps.
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    I didn't hear any swan singing...just a loud bang. It did feel like I hit a swan though.
  • fivespeedfivespeed Member Posts: 42
    No audible indication before breaking? Come on...you're pulling my leg.
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    Actually, the belt didn't break on mine, one of the aluminum sprockets did. The sprocket on the inside cam on the front head shattered. I was doing 70 mph on the interstate at the time. When they took it apart the belt was still in 1 piece.
  • fivespeedfivespeed Member Posts: 42
    It wasn't the timing belt that broke, it was metal fatigue? Was it caused by too many timing belt replacements? Or was it suspected to be another mechanic screw up? Or was it just poor materials quality to begin with?
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    I bought the car used with 39k miles. According to Saabs computer system the belt was never changed. In closely examining the broken sprocket it looked like it was a flaw in the casting. judging by the color of the metal some of the cracks had been there a while. To Saab USA's credit they did pay for 2/3 of the repair cost (basically they supplied the parts and I paid the labor) even though the car was out of warranty.
  • randyt2randyt2 Member Posts: 81
    miles before I changed my timing belt on my 90 Accord LX. It ran well and had no problems, when I traded it in with over 150K miles.
  • mrdetailermrdetailer Member Posts: 1,118
    This wouldn't be true in my case. I have lived in the same area for 10 years and have been lucky enough in the last 3 years ago to find mechanics who specialize in each of my cars. I found that if you ask a dealer about someone who has recently left to set up their own shop that you get consistently good repairs on the cars they specialize in.

    Mu Subaru mechannic said I know the timing belt needs to be replaced. It's 75,000 miles, and I found that the CAM seals usually don't last beyond 100,000. Yes it cost me more immediately, but at least on one car I didn't have to do the same repair again. His foresight saved me about $300.00.

    It's just that after 100,000 miles cars need more repairs. If I can save labor costs by a preventative repair when they are doing another I'll do it. Recently I had a repair to replace strut mounts on one side due to an accident. I paid to have the same thing done on the other side, and replaced the struts since it only cost $5.00 more in labor to put a new one in. The car rides like it is new.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    While the 4 years may not be totally the case all the time, you said
    What about low mileage engines?

    You do realize that time can take its affects on the timing belt? Heat, oil, water, acids and other things have an impact on the timing belt the same as hoses and fan belts.

    Funny, alot of folks don't think twice about replacing an alternator belt that looks cracked, but mention the timing belt and they start to squirm.
  • bburton1bburton1 Member Posts: 395
    Had one to break on an 80 accord-not a sound-no valve damage either. Will replace timing belt on a 97 accord I4 at 119K-simply because have to get in then to get the free plug wires, distributor rotor, plugs and oil change before the 120K limit on that recall. Would have tried for at least 150K-just do not want to make an extra trip to the dealer.

    Can you imagine throwing in an oil change with the recall-was told it had something to do with pollution-the govt strikes again.
  • eharri3eharri3 Member Posts: 640
    If it is no big deal. IF not I don't understand why you'd risk a relatively new car that probably has another 100,000 good miles in it just to see how far you could push the envelope. How much does the new timing belt cost you? Sometimes I forget how expensive it can be for some people because it only cost about 192 for my Ranger.
  • fivespeedfivespeed Member Posts: 42
    Intresting you should mention the time factor. Earlier today I was chatting with a friend at work and we got on the subject of Toyotas. He has a really nice '93 Corolla (it has wheels, appearance upgrades, etc). He takes good care of it. It sits outside all the time though.
    We got on the subject of timing belts. He indicated that his Corolla was just now reaching 60,000 miles....belt has never been changed. I'm guessing that belt is eight years old... If it were me, then I think I'd seriously consider a change sometime soon!
    He also mentioned another person we know who got 105,000 miles on a 91 Corolla before the belt broke in year 2000. No additional internal damage incurred, however his wife was on the Interstate when it happened.
  • eharri3eharri3 Member Posts: 640
    It's not just what it affects when it breaks... it's also where it breaks. I'd sure hate to end up stranding myself or someone else who is driving my vehicle or have it break at a dangerous time to pull over because I wanted to put off spending the money on preventative maintenance.
  • xcarnutxcarnut Member Posts: 81
    I had an old 82 or 83 Corolla that the timing belt broke in '92 at about 88K.
    It just depends I think more on miles than the age. On the Corolla I was accelerating to 55 in 2nd or 3rd from a nice curve and it snapped. No damage to internals. I just put the car in neutral and coastes off the freeway on to an off-ramp when it finally stopped.
    On my '82 Supra couple of teeth got chewed up at just shy of the 60k replacement. Though I drove it around for a couple of days like it.
    Its one of those things they could go longer but how much longer is always a debateable subject.
    I figure if the manufacturer recommends at certain miles or time its probably from some engineering team who spent some time doing calculations of an avg. life span of the meterial spec'd and the stresses the engine will place on the belt based on the design of the specific motor and whole lot of data to come up with that magical number.
    If on a Honda it is 105K and not 100K its probably cause engineer spent the time for Honda to do those calculations and based on the mfg. experience came up with the magical number of 105K instead of 100K. Saab engineers calculated 30K and not 35K probably the same reason that Honda, or Toyota or any others come with their cars numbers. After all it is the companies reputation is at stake and it is in their best interest to come up with an correct number. IMHO Mechanics and dealers on the other hand have nothing to gain by giving long intervals between the changes.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    I have nothing to gain, as a mechanic, from someone going longer intervals.
    See, I work fleet. Meaning, I get paid from my employer to keep their vehicles running and avoid down time. One time where I don't replace something like a timing belt and the vehicle goes down, the cost of towing, lost time and extra costs to my employer is going to make me look bad.
    You lumped mechanics as a group by your statement and that isn't the case.
  • xcarnutxcarnut Member Posts: 81
    Well what I meant by the mechanics was more towards, the general practice of many NOT all to recommend early changes. Your point is valid in it should be done as preventive maintenance in a fleet situation.
    My point was as an individual consumer staying with the manufacturer recommendation is sufficient for vast majority of commuters. This is not to say go beyond the recommendation. Just not to have it done at 60K blindly if the recommendation is at 90K or 105K or whatever is the requirement for the speific motor.
  • sirradsirrad Member Posts: 7
    I've had a 84 Prelude where the timing belt broke on me middle of the highway. It cost a couple grand to repair that that. It broke at 98K, ironically a couple of weeks after receiving a 96K service notice which included timing belt change. That sucked. Changing the timing belt would have been around 150 bucks at that time.

    On my 90 Accord, I replaced the belt at 155K after 7 years. No signs of excessive wear or stress.

    So go figure.

    I think however the recommended changes should be considered if you want peace of mind. Definitely if you are not the only driver of the car, and is shared with family members, all the recommended maintenance would be a good idea just to be on the safe side.
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