By on June 3, 2013

Clint writes:

I usually buy vehicles that need the timing belt replaced. (Most people trade in or sell at that point for $ reasons). I do most of the work myself because it’s not overly complicated if you follow a manual. People at my office ask me about general car maintenance. When I ask about timing belt changes they always respond with, “Do I need to change that?” or “I have never changed that.”

At that point I ask for their mileage, it’s always way over the required service date. How many people that own vehicles experience these timing belt disasters? Most vehicles on the road are interference motors so I think the casualty rates are pretty high.

Sajeev answers:

Regarding casualty rates: if this was ten years ago, I’d agree with you. But thanks to events like promoting 100,000 mile tune-up intervals in Detroit Iron during the 1990s, the majority of mainstream machines switched to the chain. This list (grain of salt: it thinks Panthers have timing belts) might help explain the time period when everyone abandoned their belts for a timing chain.

Hell, even Ferrari uses timing chains now!

To your question: we will never know how many people experience timing belt/bent valve disasters, but the numbers are likely dwindling.  Impossible to prove, as car repair databases aren’t the well-organized machines seen in the healthcare insurance industry.  Can you imagine a HIPAA compliant local service station?

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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One Comment on “Piston Slap: Running Interference for Timing Belts?...”


  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Here’s a data point. I was running an experiment on a 1993 1.8L Mitsubishi 16 valve four cylinder past by seeing how far past the recommended 60K timing belt chnage I could go. It was non interference engine so I wasn’t worried about damage when the belt broke. I was curious about the margin of safey in the belt change interval. I got to 117K miles when the car was totaled in an accident in 2005. So I concluded that I could have doubled the recommended interval with minimal risk.


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