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We should pay more attention to Automotive Timing Belts!

40 years ago most of us never even heard of a timing belt. Now probably 80 or 90% of the passenger cars we drive have timing belts instead of timing chains and gears. Everyone knows about changing the oil, rotating the tires, tune ups (although they’re almost a thing of the past) but few of use think of timing belts as a regular maintenance item.

The manufacturers’ recommendations vary. Some KIAs’ for example are 60,000 miles and some of the VWs’ I found are 105,000 miles (interestingly out of VW’s warranty or maintenance coverage). While all of these have the title “Recommended”, we have found that mileage is not the only criteria. Just like fan belts, age is a factor. My wife’s office is only 4 miles from home and she only drives about 6,000 miles a year so (just like a fan belt) the timing belt in her vehicle probably won’t last 10 years.

In KIA’s case, the engine warranty that I found is 100,000 miles and becomes void if the timing belt fails and you didn’t change it at the 60,000 mile service interval. I called a local KIA dealer here in Orlando and told them that I have a 2004 Rio with 82,000 miles on it. They asked if I did their recommended 60,000 mile service, to which I answered “no” and they recommended I do it now at a cost of $900.00! When I choked on the price they said the timing belt alone is $400.00 PLUS. You can find good independent garages that will probably change your timing belt for less than dealership shops will do them.

I’m using KIA as an example not because I believe they are not good cars. I did a quote last week on this (pictured below) 2004 Rio 1.6 liter engine that had a broken timing belt. My immediate reaction when I looked at cost was to try to find my customer a used head. I was shocked! Used heads for this engines bare (no valves or springs) or ones with broken valves: $395 to $450. Reported to be good heads (that probably need a valve job) : $500 to $700!!!!! This can also be the secondary problem if the bent and broken valves also destroyed the engine during the timing belt failure.

This is the cylinder head the customer brought us this last week.

Cylinder head damaged by failed timing belt.

We can repair this cylinder head with all new valves, seats, etc. Cost of this cylinder head repair would be $700, plus gaskets, head bolts, mechanics labor plus, plus, plus……

Finally, I called a customer who I’ve done work for probably 25 years now about failed timing belts and the damage they cause to engines. I asked him for a quote to replace the timing belt on a 2004 KIA Rio, 1.6 liter: $225 labor to replace the timing belt and tensioner. He also recommended changing the water pump while we’re there. Price wise, a timing “kit” from Advanced Auto Parts (11-14-2011) is $117.83 and a new water pump is $50.53. Add everything together, a new timing belt, belt tensioner, water pump, also allowing $50 for fluids and miscellaneous, you are looking at approximately $450 to replace the timing belt, tensioner and water pump.

So you see that replacing that timing belt just may not be as bad as you think. If you’re in the Orlando area, call, we’ll help before you need our services. (Toll free: 855-791-0132, Orlando: 407-730-9777). Or you can use our handy contact form to let us know what kind of cylinder head problems you may need help with.

Southeast Cylinder Head
1438 West Anderson Street
Orlando, FL 32805

Toll Free: 855-791-0132
Phone: 407-730-9777