Car Pay Diem
April 1, 2011 4:40 PM   Subscribe

'02 Honda Accord V6 timing belt/fuel pump. $$$ = :(

So I've got an '02 Accord V6, 75k miles. It looks like it's time for a new timing belt + fuel pump. The dealership says that will be ~1200$. Yikes. Trustworthy mechanic in town says about $800 which it better, but there are a bunch of other things that might as well be changed while they are in there. Tensioner, some other pulleys, seals perhaps etc. etc. That might bring costs up to near...$1200. Argh. So my question is, when is enough enough? The car has been a champ so far, and I don't see a reason it won't last a lot longer, but I'm only dealing with a sample set of one.

I've got perhaps too many options: Just the belt, belt + pump, the whole shebang. I'm leaning towards the peace of mind that come from paying a mechanic as much as they ask for.

The car is in fine working condition, but there are some superficial dents that would impact trade-in. All I care about is having an in-town car that can make a once-monthly trip from Champaign to Chicago and back (~2.5 hour highway trip).

posted by Dmenet to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
according to it says you don't have to replace the timing belt until 90k. What does your manual say?
posted by any major dude at 4:48 PM on April 1, 2011

If the timing belt on a Honda goes it can ruin your engine. 9 years, 75K miles sounds like about the right time to do it. The reason they recommend all the other stuff is that when it breaks, they have to take the timing belt off to do the repairs anyway, so by doing it all at once you save a boatload of labor in the long run.
posted by COD at 4:59 PM on April 1, 2011

A few things to think about.

1. At 75k miles yea, it's a good time to change the timing belt.

2. The fuel pump is optional but recommended because it's easily reached during the belt procedure.

3. It's a Honda and could possibly go over 100K if babied a bit.

My wife had a '96 civic 4 dr and had NO work done (except for tires/brakes/regular oil changes) until about 175K miles when it stared occasionally stalling. That was a $45 exciter module. At about 13 years old with 175K on it she still managed to sell it for $2500 because Hondas are really great.

For your purposes I think you'll be alright taking the inexpensive route or even putting it off for a while until you can more easily afford it.
posted by snsranch at 5:02 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, it's not the fuel pump they'll be replacing. It's the water pump. The water pump is a mechanical pump that bolts into the engine block that, when it's driven by the timing belt, circulates coolant through the engine. The fuel pump is an electric pump that's submerged in fuel in the fuel tank which does not generally require preemptive replacement.

Since there's a certain amount of labor involved in removing all of the components necessary to access the timing belt, it's really worth it to replaces the vitals while they're easily accessible.
If you don't replace the tensioner now, it could go bad in the near future resulting in too much slack in the timing belt which can cause the belt to jump and the engine would go out of time or not start. If you don't replace the idler pulley, the bearing in the pulley could go bad and cause damage or failure of the belt. If the seals aren't replaced, they could start to leak and the belt would be contaminated with oil. You get the picture.

It's very much worth it to spring for the little extras when you do the timing belt.
Also, age can contribute to timing belt condition just as much as wear. Like any rubber component, it can deteriorate equally from disuse just as much as from constant use. So, even if it's only got 75k, it's a 2002 so now's the time.

This car is a champ and $1200 once and a while is so much better than a car payment. And the resell value of an '02 Accord with a brand new timing belt, tensioner, water pump, and seal job is worth more than one that hasn't been maintained.
posted by Jon-o at 5:51 PM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I am almost sure the fuel pump is not located on the engine in fuel injected cars.

The tensioner is a must-replace with the belt. The water pump, if it is located in that general area. The serpentine belt, unless it is brand new.

Seals and other things really only need to be changed if they are leaking.

When is enough enough? When the repairs cost more than buying a better car would. And that's almost never true.
posted by gjc at 5:56 PM on April 1, 2011

Hey, Jon-o is absolutely right, especially about it being the water pump...NOT the fuel pump.

*so embarrassed for missing that detail!*
posted by snsranch at 6:12 PM on April 1, 2011

Yay! It's great to hear justification for spending the dough - I can swing the cost, but don't want to feel like the gamble won't pay off on an older car
posted by Dmenet at 6:19 PM on April 1, 2011

and yeah, it's the water pump, sorry for the confusion!
posted by Dmenet at 6:20 PM on April 1, 2011

I've had the timing belt and water pump changed on my 93 Civic but I also had new spark plugs and spark plug wire and the total came to about $1400 , as near as I can remember. I figured, like Jon-o says, that it was equal to only a few months payments on a new car. At that point, I hadn't made a payment in about 10 years, so wahoo! If the car has been running well and it had low mileage, why not spend the money for the piece of mind?
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:25 PM on April 1, 2011

Totally worth it. This car will probably go over 300k if you maintain it well, definately over 200k. Like Jon-o said 1200 every 7 years is way better than a 30k new car. I don't think i have ever boought a honda with less than 150k and they have been the cheapest car to own for me and the most trouble free even at that mileage. And none of mine have been a top of the line model like a v6 accord.
posted by bartonlong at 7:53 PM on April 1, 2011

Oh yeah, worth it. Just had the same timing belt, water pump, and all the other belts and miscellaneous bits changed in our 99 CRV, which, at just over 190k miles, is worth much less than your Accord. It's been such a reliable car with preventive maintenance that it was an easy decision.
posted by pappy at 8:07 PM on April 1, 2011

If you can afford this, it's totally worth doing. Those cars will go freaking forever if you stay on top of the maintenance. If you're careful, and don't hit anything, it's quite likely that that car will still be driveable in 2031.

My old mechanic used to say that the only reason he recommended Toyotas over Hondas was because if you lost the timing belt on a Honda, it would blow up your engine. If the mechanic is telling you it needs replacement, don't futz around, get it done.
posted by Malor at 11:08 PM on April 1, 2011

snsranch writes "It's a Honda and could possibly go over 100K if babied a bit."

The vast majority of cars, even "unreliable" domestic brands, are going to make a 100K if they get regular maintenance.

Dmenet writes "I can swing the cost, but don't want to feel like the gamble won't pay off on an older car"

It's almost always worth making these kinds of repairs to older cars rather than buying a new car. Even $1200 is only 2-4 months worth of payments and increased insurance on a new car and unless you are really unlucky you'll get that much use out of this repair if the rest of the car is in good shape. I did the same repair on my Caravan at 180K six years ago and it's still getting us around 100K later. I will be replacing it before the next scheduled belt change but only because the abused (by the people who owned it before us) body is starting to rust.
posted by Mitheral at 11:24 PM on April 1, 2011

Totally worth it, and $1200, including water pump and all the miscellaneous bits and pieces, is a good price.

Assuming you plan to keep the car another few years, it's a smart move.
posted by tgrundke at 4:57 AM on April 2, 2011

It's a Honda and could possibly go over 100K if babied a bit.

Possibly? A car, from any maker, going over 100k these days is pretty-much expected. Hell, we have an '01 Nissan that's approaching 375k.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:52 AM on April 2, 2011

I think the "over 100k" remark was referring to the belt, not the car.
posted by PSB at 6:06 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I own this car and love it. According to Consumer Reports if you do the scheduled maintanence it will make 200 thousand miles easy. I had the timing belt &c done when my dealer recommended (75 000).
posted by bukvich at 6:09 AM on April 2, 2011

The vast majority of cars, even "unreliable" domestic brands, are going to make a 100K if they get regular maintenance.

Totally, completely true. I have a nearly 20 year old Dodge with 233,000 miles that is going strong, and while it has needed a fair amount of maintenance, its cost per mile is way, way low.

Same thing with the 15 year old Pontiac @ 177,000 miles. Still goes like hell, and still gets over 30 MPG on the highway if I baby it.

If I had to give a reason why Toyota/Honda got a reputation for longevity versus the domestics, it would be that they *were* low frills cars in a time where the domestics were less so. They weren't trying to compete on top speeds and displacement and gizmos, they were competing on value. Why convert a car over to electronic ignition when the distributor is working just fine? Someone buying a $10,000 Civic versus a $8900 Cavalier was also going to take a little better care of their car.

I think that is less true now, but I can't prove it.

Dmenet writes "I can swing the cost, but don't want to feel like the gamble won't pay off on an older car"

It's only a gamble if you aren't all that committed to maintaining the car for a certain amount of time, and if you don't trust your mechanic. There are only so many parts on a car that can go bad. In my experience, major parts don't just break out of the blue. Might the transmission fail the day after you get the car back from the timing belt swap? Yes. But those chances are pretty low if there is nothing weird going on already. Almost every moving part on a car is subject to insane stresses and potential for wear. If something has lasted 100,000 miles already without shearing itself to shards, chances are it will keep working until something else affects it.

The other thing to consider is your maintenance approach. If you are totally "break/fix" about it, it will quickly appear to be a money pit. One example is vacuum hoses. There are tons of them in there. If one has gone brittle and you have to pay a mechanic $75 an hour to trace the leak down and fix it, chances are the others are bad too, and you are going to have to pay anohter $75 every time one breaks. The prudent solution is to pay a little extra and have them all changed when the first one goes. Maybe an extra $50, but it saves hassle and money down the line.

Another great example is suspension parts. They are all interconnected, and they all sort of wear out together. If one part has worn out to the point of needing to be replaced, you can bet the others aren't far behind. Worse yet, just changing that one part changes how the other parts are interacting with each other and causes them to wear out quicker, or exposes other failures that you didn't know about.

(With the above Dodge, I was throwing suspension parts at it at an incredible rate. Every time, I'd have to spend the labor to tear apart the front end to get to the part. The parts were cheap enough, but the hassle was annoying. Finally, I just said "I'll spend the $100 and replace all the wear items at once." Since then, no trouble. And as an added bonus, the car can actually take an alignment and have it stick, and is much easier to drive.)

The third thing to consider is replacement part quality. Despite what all the gear heads carp on and on about, for just about every car on the road today, the OEM parts that came on the car are better than the shit they get replaced with. If you *really* want a car to last forever, you have to buy factory replacements for the parts you replace. (With some exceptions here and there.) The $40 alternator from Autozone might work just fine for a while, but it is a rebuild. Even the $200 alternator from Napa is just not as good as the $500 one from the dealer.

The question is financial and statistical, with parts. $40 for a part that might have a 50% chance of needing to be replaced again in a year might be worth it if you can replace it yourself, and the OEM one is $500. But if you are paying a crap-ton of labor, it is probably worth it to use the factory part.
posted by gjc at 6:30 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Jon-o's mention of age being a valid, if not primary, consideration. Timing belts don't really wear out. There is almost no frictional stress on them. Because if there was, they would fail pretty much instantly (*). They are cogged belts (like a rubber chain). They fail because the rubber ages and instead of flexing nicely around all the pulleys, they start to get brittle. A cog here and there might fall off, increasing the tension on the other ones. And then one cold morning, one more cog pops off and that's all it takes for the rest of them to sheer off.

A 10 year old belt with 50,000 miles on it is much more likely to fail than a 5 year old belt with 100,000 miles on it.

(*) If you ever have changed one, and had to align the valvetrain, you'll know what I mean. The valves have very strong springs on them, and it takes a lot of torque to spin the camshaft. Worse still, it is a very "lumpy" kind of torque. You have to push really hard to get past the springs' tension, and then it basically pulls your arm off on the "downhill" half of the lump.
posted by gjc at 6:43 AM on April 2, 2011

Just want to piggyback on gjc's excellent comment for posterity's sake and clarify a point made above by COD.

If the timing belt on a Honda goes it can ruin your engine.

This is absolutely true. It is not, however, universally true. Some cars have what are called interference engines. If the engine in your car has an interference design, that means that if the timing belt were to break while the car is running (99.999% of the time) the cam will stop turning and your valves and pistons will come crashing into each other with phenomenal force, bending valves and snapping pistons. Thousands of dollars in repairs.

Most cars are actually non-interference designs. It is extremely important when buying a car to find out which one you've got. A non-interference design means a broken timing belt just brings your car to a standstill, but you don't have to buy a new engine. That link above has a list of some common make/models that are interference.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:03 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

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