Should I change the timing belt and water pump?
June 17, 2013 12:57 PM   Subscribe

My 2001 Honda Accord and I are about to move 800 miles away. Before I make that 13 hour drive, I took it to the mechanic for a check up. I like my mechanic, but he's saying this is my call: on top of other stuff I need to do, he's recommending - but not saying I need to - replacing the timing belt and water pump which were changed 7 years and 52,000 miles ago (in 2006 at 60,000 miles). I drive it a few thousand miles a year. It's $626.31. Complicating factor: I don't know how long it will take me to find a mechanic I trust in my new location. Should I?
posted by vegartanipla to Travel & Transportation (31 answers total)

Between me and my mate, we've broken at least half a dozen (though I never did break the one on the 99 Accord, just changed it out preventatively) mostly on Fords.

Road trip, I'd do it. Be drat the luck if they blew in a bad expensive place.

Good luck!
posted by tilde at 12:59 PM on June 17, 2013

Yes, that sounds like a good idea. I loved my Honda but had a bad time with water pumps so that may be coloring my answer and 60k is about right for the timing chain.
posted by agatha_magatha at 1:03 PM on June 17, 2013

I don't know, 52k is VERY early to do that. I have a 2000 Accord (basically the same model) and factory preventative-maintenance recommendation for the timing belt and water pump is 90k. I think your mechanic is either overlooking the fact that it's already been done once, or trying to squeeze you for extra cash. Do it if you feel like you really need to, but I wouldn't, personally.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:07 PM on June 17, 2013

I think Accords are interference engine designs, which means the timing belt really has to be changed preventatively; if it goes, the engine will be stone dead. 52k miles is probably not that much for a timing belt (well, I've owned a different intereference engine car so ymmv) but 7 years may be enough that it needs to be done. What does your manual so for the interval for changing this? Some quick googling (scroll down in that thread for clearer answers) suggests that it is 105k or 7 years, whichever comes first, for accords in that time frame. I would probably believe the mechanic on this one.
posted by advil at 1:07 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd change the belt at least. Rubber does degrade over time - it's not just mileage. And if it is an interference engine, you do not want to have one break on you.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:11 PM on June 17, 2013

I'll bet he's making the recommendation based on years, not on miles. Honda's recommendation (yeah, based on Googling, I'm not a Honda mechanic) for timing belts is 7 years or 90,000 miles and you have barely over half the wear on yours.

I think time-based replacement of anything that isn't exposed to sunlight and air is excessive.

If it were my car, I'd run it another 20,000 and then do the timing belt and water pump, and I would consider that conservative.

Change the oil, flush the radiator, and any external belts, but save the timing belt and water pump for when they're actually more than halfway through their service life.
posted by Kakkerlak at 1:12 PM on June 17, 2013

You aren't making an investment by not changing it, that's for sure.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:12 PM on June 17, 2013

Sounds reasonable based on the time since the last change (7 years), but not on the mileage (105,000mi) but it probably isn't a big rush, especially since your car is so low mileage. In a perfect world, you'd want to do this soon (depending on when in 2006 the change was done), but it is quite unlikely to be critical immediately. If you are pretty sure you want to keep the car for another three years, go ahead and get it changed, but if not, you might not want to make this investment.
posted by ssg at 1:14 PM on June 17, 2013

Yup, you're going to need to do it. I had one break on me...once.

Timing belt and pump are typically done together. Although I did mine at around 80k miles, so....take that for what it's worth.

I think that price is very reasonable.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:16 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had a timing belt break on me on a road trip once, and it totally wrecked the engine. In retrospect, I would have played it safe rather than pushing it. However, 800 miles isn't all that great in the grand scheme of car driving, so if your mechanic isn't pushing it at this point, then it's perhaps relatively safe. He's probably bringing it up because of the number of years, and it's a textbook response. You might just come right out and ask him what the chances are of it breaking any time soon, and go from there.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:18 PM on June 17, 2013

The price is good, but I wouldn't do it. Mileage interval is waayyyy too short and time is only now kicking in so chances are you will be fine. If wrong, the results do mean a new engine though. It depends on how much that 600 is worth to you. If that amount of money isn't a huge sum to you, won't make you miss out on anything and will give you peace of mind to change it, than do so. If that 600 means you will be able to move easier, or buy something new in your new home, than spend that money that way. Like I said, I would start saving some now, or set aside that 600 in a separate car emergency fund and ride it out for another year or two.
posted by bartonlong at 1:21 PM on June 17, 2013

I'd do it, but not so much because it'll break soon. More because the price you're getting is decent, and you're going to have to do it fairly soon anyway. So, if you're going to be doing it soon anyway, probably within the calendar year, why not get it done at the same time as the other stuff with someone you trust instead of having to take it back in to the shop at some later point for someone you're not familiar with? If you have the money freely available to take care of it, just do it and don't worry about it for another 7 years.
posted by LionIndex at 1:35 PM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

How long do you plan on keeping this car? If you are thinking of selling in maybe the next year, I'd skip it, and probably white-knuckle the whole 800 mile drive. If you are planning on running this car into the ground (I have a '93 Accord that is still going strong) then I'd do it now, with a trusted mechanic at a decent price. Buys you some time to find a good mechanic in your new town, and peace of mind on the drive.
posted by ambrosia at 1:45 PM on June 17, 2013

Response by poster: You guys are so helpful. Thank you! After reading the hive-mind's thoughts, I called my mechanic and discussed it further. He said it was a recommendation and post-'91 Accords should be changed out every 60K, but that if I am strapped for cash right now (which I am, due in part to moving) that he thought it would probably be fine to leave it for a bit.

So I told him not to do it. I imagine that I can be flaky and change my mind if I need to, so if anyone has further reasoning for replacement please let me know. (Though it may cost me a little more in labor later since right now he has to get into the car anyway for other stuff.)

They were changed in November 2006, so it's technically more like 6.5 years and 52K in. While I don't like the possibility of a dead engine, it sounds like that's kind of preemptive worry given that neither age nor mileage has hit the replacement recommendation yet and I'll likely be fine to do it in another year or two. Which would be a better financial time to do it (plus, it would set the clock later for any future replacements as well, if I'm fortunate enough that the car lasts that long - I do intend to drive it into the ground). I am kind of nervous that my own awesome mechanic won't be doing it, but I will need to find a different mechanic eventually anyway, right?
posted by vegartanipla at 1:48 PM on June 17, 2013

Best answer: In your circumstances, I would not do it. I don't know about other cars, but 52,000 miles is not a lot for a 2001 Honda Accord. Meanwhile, there's a small but real possibility that: (1) something will go wrong during the repair; or (2) something will go wrong after the repair (it is not unknown for recently replaced timing belts to fail).

If something goes wrong during the repair, it will delay or at least complicate your move and potentially cost you more money. If something goes wrong after the repair, like a defective belt breaking on you, you will most likely have already moved 800 miles away, so good luck getting your former mechanic to remedy the problem.

You probably should have the belt replaced within the next couple of years, but I don't think right before a cross-country move is a great time to do that. I wouldn't stress about it at all (again, 52k makes this far from urgent), and when you get to your new town, check out Car Talk's Mechanics Files for recommendations for a good mechanic.
posted by Mo' Money Moe Bandy at 1:51 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is a really tough one. I guess my value judgement would be based on how much do you expect to drive when you get there, and how easily and quickly will you generate the money to do this repair once you're there?

800 miles isn't that far. I thought this was going to be like a california to NYC move when i first glanced at it. I personally don't think you'd have any problems making that drive, and would do it in a second in your car.

The time to do it will arrive within essentially six months of you getting there though, and that's a great car you don't want to fuck up(As is basically any honda with 100k-ish miles on it, and especially in this totally fucked used car market).

So my question to myself wouldn't be do i need to do this to successfully navigate this trip without having mechanical issues, but rather "i'm going to need to do this service within a few months, will it impact me financially harder then or now?"

Focus on thinking about it that way. This is essentially like buying a laptop six months before you expect to go back to college Vs right when you're signing up/paying for classes.
posted by emptythought at 2:05 PM on June 17, 2013

post-'91 Accords should be changed out every 60K

This is simply not true (the interval is much longer for 2001 Accords) and you can confirm it for yourself on Honda's website. Always a good idea to check these things yourself.
posted by ssg at 2:08 PM on June 17, 2013

Be sure to ask your mechanic for a recommendation for a mechanic in your new area.
posted by davejay at 2:14 PM on June 17, 2013

Best answer: The timing belt broke on my Accord a few years ago and it was a disaster. Fucked up the engine and transmission. Doing it preventatively now is better than thousands of dollars in engine repair later.

Better safe than sorry.

This is poor advice unless you provide the age of the timing belt (years and mileage) when it failed. It's a piece of irrelevant anecdotal data otherwise likely to scare someone into an unnecessary expense if you just provide the drama without any of the facts.

56K and 7 years is REALLY soon for a timing belt change. It's incredibly early for a water pump change. He was probably giving you a 'belt and braces if you're worried' estimate and appears to have tempered that caution with the later phone call.

If you have a well serviced car (which it sounds like you have) and drive the car 'normally' (ie don't drive it like a race car) then I don't think you have anything at all to worry about for about 20K. At that stage, do some more focussed research on timing belt life in that particular engine.
posted by Brockles at 2:14 PM on June 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

To augment what advil said above: if the timing belt breaks while operating (under normal engine load) it can bork the valves up quite badly, and can result in needing (at least) a valve job. It's bad juju. They change the water pump at the same time at least in part because you have to take the bloody thing off to get to the timing belt. Sounds like you got to the right decision with your mechanic.

(I'm not an especially automotively-savvy cat, but I did own an Accord for 20 years.)
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:21 PM on June 17, 2013

Your mechanic can't predict the future. Seriously.

Yeah, you'll probably save yourself the $600 and make it fine if you don't replace it.

But if you don't, and it breaks, all the internal bits bang into each other and you need a new engine. Plus you're halfway between here and there, and now you have to get it towed to the nearest Honda mechanic, which because you broke down in West Kansas this means Omaha or Denver. And now you need at least a few days in a motel and a new engine.

This is what credit cards are for. Get it fixed, it's a no-brainer. The downside is really way far down there, the upside is like, not all that much in the scheme of car ownership and you're going to have to do it anyways. This is not a smart risk to take.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 2:23 PM on June 17, 2013

Get it fixed, it's a no-brainer.

This is a common response in preventative engine maintenance threads and it is incorrect. The answer is not to always replace, it is always to consider the published manufacturer guidelines. In this case it is 90,000 miles (based on a google search, but ask the dealer to be sure) and 7 years. I have never, not ever, replaced a timing belt on time alone when it has done just over half the recommended mileage.

It is overkill to replace the belt at this stage, not 'a no brainer'.
posted by Brockles at 2:31 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm with Brockles; your mechanic's recommendation is extremely conservative. I find all these comments to the effect that you should do it now because OMGWhatIfItBreaksInterferenceEngine kind of baffling. It's always an interference engine. We don't replace timing belts when their failure becomes potentially destructive; we replace them a little while before their failure becomes statistically likely. OP's car is not there yet.
posted by jon1270 at 2:40 PM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Make sure you leave plenty of time after major car work, before taking your 800 mile drive. Maybe even take a 1-2 hour shakeout drive in between.

I had a lot of preventative maintenance done the week before a driving vacation, and got to have the fun experience of that car needing (more) major repairs midway through the trip, likely due to the previous work.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:48 PM on June 17, 2013

Best answer: Timing belt after 52k miles is just super conservative unless there are other things going on with the vehicle or you're doing other work that includes the labor of accessing and removing the belt.

The owners manual lists it at as a 105k mile item under standard weather conditions.

The 2001 Accord Owners Manual (pdf):

"The timing belt and balancer belt
should normally be replaced at the
intervals shown in the maintenance

Replace these belts at 60,000 miles
(U.S.) or 100,000 km (Canada) if you
regularly drive your car in one or
more of these conditions:

In very high temperatures
(over 110°F, 43°C).
In very low temperatures
(under 20°F, 29°C)."

Is he possibly talking about the drive belts? Which is totally different, as that is a 60k mile item (and RIDICULOUSLY cheaper to service).
posted by iamabot at 4:46 PM on June 17, 2013

(Also a 60k change out for an f'n water pump, in a HONDA!?? What the hell, did it break ?)
posted by iamabot at 4:47 PM on June 17, 2013

Response by poster: I'm not super knowledgeable about cars (thus the question) but if, as googling leads me to believe, drive belts are the same thing as the A/C and P/S belts - he's definitely replacing those as well as the upper and lower radiator hoses. All those items were in his "you must do these" category.

The timing belt was in his "recommended but ultimately your call" category, and I believe the water pump was, as Emperor SnooKloze said, just an add-on in that most of the cost is the labor in getting to those parts and it'd suck to try to save $50 in not switching out both and then have to pay $425 later if the water pump decided to leak. There's no indication either have gone sour - apparently to even check is over half the cost so if you're going to look you might as well replace, according to my mechanic.

I was worried that the temperatures I'm driving in would lower the lifespan of the belt (Baton Rouge regularly hits upper 90s, with 100+ heat index) but it sounds like that's still within normal temperature range, so yay!
posted by vegartanipla at 5:05 PM on June 17, 2013

Yes, the water pump is just an add on for the timing belt job, since it's mostly the same labor.

If it was my car, I probably wouldn't change it. Timing belts don't really wear out, they just get old and brittle and fall apart. My first car was a sweet '78 Dodge Omni, and its timing belt didn't give out until 1992 and 40,000 something miles. Besides the broken spot, a good third of the teeth had fallen off. I've seen 7 year old timing belts with a hell of a lot more mileage on them, and they always looked fine.

My only hesitation would be whether a high quality belt was used, or a cheaper aftermarket alternative. And if there have been any oil or coolant leaks that could have aged the belt.
posted by gjc at 8:06 PM on June 17, 2013

I think time-based replacement of anything that isn't exposed to sunlight and air is excessive.

A timing belt is exposed to both air and heat.
posted by eriko at 6:34 AM on June 18, 2013

In this case it is 90,000 miles (based on a google search, but ask the dealer to be sure) and 7 years.

Not and, or.
105,000 mi/168,000 km/ 7 years
This two-page maintenance schedule outlines the minimum required maintenance. Service at the indicated time or distance, whichever comes first. (emp. mine) Use the Maintenance Schedule for Severe Conditions if the vehicle meets any of the qualifiers listed in the severe conditions schedule or if the vehicle is normally driven in Canada.

According to state and federal regulations, failure to do the maintenance items marked with asterisk(*) will not void customer's emissions warranties. However, Honda recommends that all maintenance services be done at the recommended interval to ensure long-term reliability.

o Inspect valve clearance (cold) Intake: 0.24-0.28 mm (0.009-0.011 in.) Exhaust: 0.28-0.32 mm (0.011-0.013 in.)

o Replace spark plugs for '01 model. Use NGK (PZFR5F-11) or DENSO (PKJ16CR-L11).Gap: 1.0-1.1 mm (0.039-0.043 in.)

o Replace timing belt and balancer belt (Removal:, Installation and inspect water pump.

(more elided -- EVO)
The timing belt was replaced 7 years ago. Honda says replace it after 105K miles or 7 years of service.

Therefore, Honda says "replace the timing belt now."
posted by eriko at 6:40 AM on June 18, 2013

Not and, or.

I understand that, which is why I said "I have never, not ever, replaced a timing belt on time alone when it has done just over half the recommended mileage."

Time estimates for a rubber belt are extremely conservative, mileage less so. 7 years for a rubber belt is not a long time in terms of possible degradation.
posted by Brockles at 7:01 AM on June 18, 2013

« Older What is the Comic Sans of Excel spreadsheets?   |   Name that SF short story Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.