The Truth About Cars » Timing Belt The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:30:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Timing Belt Piston Slap: Such a Trooper! Wed, 28 Aug 2013 12:21:06 +0000

Keith writes:


I am facing a problem with little real consequence, just more looking for advice.  We have a third vehicle, one that isn’t really used much and was purchased for $1400 a couple years ago to serve as a backup when/if one of our primary vehicles was out of service (A 2005 Pahtfinder with 130k miles and a 1998 Rodeo 4×4 with 235k miles).  It’s a 1999 Isuzu Trooper 4×4 with about 190k miles on the clock.  Other than burning oil there really wasn’t anything wrong with it.  Everything worked and to be honest my wife liked driving it much more than her everyday car. 

That being said, after changing some dry rotted belts and hoses I decided to take a look at the timing belt to make sure it looked ok.  After pulling off the cover it was badly deteriorated.  I employed my father in law to try to change the timing belt.  Long story short, we were off on the timing and think the heads are now ruined.

I am considering replacing the heads (about $350 a piece online) but I have also seen longblocks on ebay for $1200 to $1400 as well with less miles than mine.  What is the better way to go with this?  A junk yard engine or just put some remanfuactured heads on the existing?

I know the heads are the easier fix, and this vehicle really isn’t anything we depend on, but it is nice having a third car.  I also am weary of buying a junkyard motor as there’s no telling how long it’s been sitting.  There is always the option of getting another craigslist car but I spent a lot of time finding a decent one and I don’t feel like scouring the dregs of Houston craigslist to find another decent deal.  If I replace the heads I may consider doing an in-car rebuild to replace the piston rings as well.  It’s basically just a weekend project car right now and my kids can learn a little while I work on it.

Sajeev answers:

I wonder what people outside of Houston think about a three car truck household. Such is the joy of living in the flyover states, in a gigantic cow town more diverse than New York City.  A land where all people enjoy the Body-on-Frame lifestyle!

Or not…but I digress.

I think you are on the right track, replacing the heads is the cheapest fix.  There’s (probably) nothing wrong with the short block after a timing belt fiasco: take a borescope (make sure it fits thru a spark plug hole, some cheaper models will not) and check the piston for cracks/holes.  I suspect the valves are messed up and nothing more.

Once the replacement heads are in your garage, get a complete gasket set too. This is ensures everything is freshened from the head gaskets all the way up to the fuel injectors and throttle body! Why not make the motor 100% sorted if you’re going to all this trouble?

You seem to like this rig;  it is a Trooper, after all. Go ahead and do it right this time.


As I mentioned on Monday, I am running low on reader-submitted questions. So start thinking of something fun and clever about your car, send it over…keeping in mind the information in the next paragraph.

Send your queries to 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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Piston Slap: Running Interference for Timing Belts? Mon, 03 Jun 2013 12:00:50 +0000

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 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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Piston Slap: The Anchorman Plays Valve Roulette Tue, 13 Sep 2011 08:05:42 +0000  

Stay Classy, Honda!


TTAC Commentator Anchorman33 writes:

Hello Sajeev,

Love TTAC, and the Piston Slap series.  I’m not a fixer, mainly because of time and space, but knowing a community like the B&B/TTAC is out there definitely makes me think about my automotive choices more than I ever did before.

I’ve got a 2006 Honda Odyssey that’s coming due for it’s 105k mile service.  I’ve had it for about the last 3+ years and done basic maintenance, to include changing the brake and transmission fluid about 10k miles ago.  don’t know when/if they had ever been changed before.  It’s been in at least two wrecks, rear ended before I bought it and not fixed properly – the driver’s side rear bumper has about a 6″ bolt holding it on; and side swiped on the drivers side about 18 months ago, fixed properly.  I  Overall it’s an ok ride,but definitely showing it’s age cosmetically and mechanically.  The current plan is to keep it for another 6-8 months and replace it with a new(er) van that’s a keeper.

The local independent shop (SoCal) is quoting me $1100 for the timing belt, water pump, radiator hoses, fluid and oil change.  Local dealer is saying $1850 for all that plus valve adjustment.  My question for you and the Best and Brightest is, how big of a gamble is it to just change the oil and hope the rest of the items can make it 8-12K more miles?  I obviously don’t want to blow up the motor, but I’m having a hard time swallowing that much cash outlay on an older than its age/miles would suggest vehicle that I’m planning on getting rid of in less than a year.  Thanks.

Sajeev answers:

I am 99% sure this motor is an interference engine. In plain English, that means if you don’t change the timing belt, you play a fun game called “Valve Roulette.” If you win, pass that repair bill to the next chump that buys your wagon. If not, the game will eat your motor and you’ll be out thousands for a replacement. I rather hate interference engines with belts (instead of chains), for this reason alone. And while I do love Hondas, especially the Odyssey, this is another time where a later model Ford/Chrysler(?)/GM minivan is a less stressful, much more wallet friendly alternative.  Then again, nobody blames you for avoiding Buick Terraza DNA in your ride.

But I digress. Is this game worth the risk? In my mind…absolutely not.  Pay for the fix, save all your receipts and put that baby on craigslist when its time to get a new van.  Mention the service history, mention the care and attention put into this vehicle.  It will sell, and the money put into the belt will pay off when the right buyer shows up. And they always do, in a hurry…all it takes is the magic of service receipts and a properly worded craigslist posting.

On the flip side, this van isn’t exactly in the best of shape. And timing belts don’t blow out immediately after they reach their intended service mileage.  If you think you’ll keep the miles down, feel free to forget about it and pass some bad vibes to the next owner.  It probably won’t hurt your karma, especially with the magic of trading in a vehicle to a faceless dealership. With any luck the dealer that eventually sells it (I suspect yours will go straight to auction) will have the belt serviced, but that’s not your problem.

Too many variables to know for sure, too much time to overthink them all.

Stay Classy, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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