By on September 13, 2011


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 [email protected] Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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35 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Anchorman Plays Valve Roulette...”

  • avatar

    Here’s my take on the timing belts from Honda and Toyota – they break from age more than mileage. This Odyssey is only five years old and has only 100k miles on it. It will definitely last another few years.

    Toyota doesn’t even recommend a timing belt change on their V6 engines at 100k miles unless you run the severe A schedule!

    Let me ask everyone online a question – have you ever heard of a timing belt failure on one of these Honda V6 engines? I have not.

    So my two cents of advice is to just keep driving the car and skip the maintenance.

    • 0 avatar

      The only case in which I’ve heard of them failing is either running them low on oil (starving the camshaft journals of lube) or doubling the service life of the belt.

      The mechanic in me feels if the engine has had regular oil changes and runs pretty smoothly, chances are very good it will go another 30-50,000 without risk of breaking the belt.

      The used car buyer in me would have an easier time deciding to buy knowing major service and maintenance work had been done when recommended. For you that could mean a quicker sale closer to the price your asking for a private sale.

  • avatar

    The third way is to skip all those nice services like water pump and hoses, and only change the timing belt. That’s only a few hundred bucks. Sometimes(way above my knowledge belt) the water pump is only being changed because the mechanic is already there, so bolting in new one is cheap in labor terms. I’m quite sure my suggestions here aren’t improving my karma.

    • 0 avatar

      As another Oddy owner – the belt replacement is probably the highest cost/labor intensive routine service item – do the belts/water pump/etc all at the same time, and have them check the motor mounts – the amount of work is the same, and if one is broken (likely is) replace them all…

      I did this last spring, ran about $1500 for a days worth of work – the amount of work just to get to the timing belt is mind-boggling on this car, so the rest of the items (water pump, accessory belt, motor mounts) is cheap labor wise. Once done you’re good for another 100K… next concern would be the transmission, which is the weakest point of the platform.

      BTW – Check the valves – some Honda’s have hydraulic tappets, but mine didn’t, and the valves where tight…

      • 0 avatar

        agree with the above… my (former) mechanic changed ONLY the belt… guess what broke a year later? the tensioner… i was extremely angry, to say the least… so the motor had to be opened up all over again… which could have been avoided by replacing a 50 buck tensioner… so, keep your good karma… do the maintenance… after all, how would YOU feel, if someone sold YOU a car which blew up its motor, a week after you bought it? again… the law of karma…

      • 0 avatar

        LOL… price out the two… You will find most dealers charge $300-500 for the belt… But will charge $1200-1500 for the belt, pump, hoses, and fluid… It seems that most dealers charge the FULL book rate for both jobs… Replacing perfectly good water pumps is PURE profit for dealers.

    • 0 avatar

      Timing belt tensioners also fail (typically after 100,000 miles), and they will take the timing belt with them when they go.

    • 0 avatar

      Mitch offers some of the best advice of the thread. If you have been servicing the fluids on this car regularly and it sound like you have, then skip all of the hoses and water pump and just throw a timing belt at the car. A quick Google will tell you if water pumps are a known or common problem for this engine/car.. If they are, then replace the pump… If they aren’t, save the money.

      Most cases this PM is not needed, and not recommended by the manufacture, they are replaced by dealers who use the FUD factor to just replace parts, “while we are there”

      To do just the belt can save you over $800 vs the “complete job” if you are only going to keep the car for another year… save the money

      • 0 avatar

        Doing the water pump only adds a 1/2~1 hour on the the bill plus the price of the pump, the other belts are the price of the belt only, so you will not shave $800 off the bill doing only the timing belt, $300-$500 depending on how proud the mechanic is of the parts he sells.

      • 0 avatar

        LOL… price out the two… You will find most dealers charge $300-500 for the belt… But will charge $1200-1500 for the belt, pump, hoses, and fluid… It seems that most dealers charge the FULL book rate for both jobs… Replacing perfectly good water pumps is PURE profit for dealers.

  • avatar

    Were your car one that had had an easier life, I would recommend doing the work and saving the receipt, to improve your asking price when you sell. But with the issues you mention that’s not going to happen.

    So I checked a couple of postings on the Odyssey club’s forum. The first ( had a poster with over 12,000 posts who says that it is an interference engine, and he has never heard of one actually breaking, despite many people waiting until 120k to ask about it.

    In this post ( another user with over 2000 posts says he wouldn’t worry about stretching the interval to 120k.

    I’m not advising you to wait, but it looks like people with experience might. You might want to post the question at the Odyssey club forum and ask them, though.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Ugh. Timing belt, interference engine – words I don’t like to hear in the same sentence. My 1997 Ford Escort (2.0 SOHC) had the belt break at 30,000 miles but it was also already 5 years old when that happened. My game of “valve roulette” went well, thank goodness.

    Change the belt and keep the recipts for good karma. The only thing that struck me as odd about the list was the valve adjustment, I didn’t that service was necessary anymore.

  • avatar

    I used to have a 2000 Odyssey I inherited from my grandmother in early 2007. Because my grandfather passed about 2 years after they bought the van and my grandmother was blind in one eye it didn’t get driven much. We drove it for 6+ months before I called the original dealer where my grandparents always had it serviced and they told me the timing belt had never been done. My new dealer strongly recommended I do it despite it not being due on mileage because it was almost 3 years overdue at that point, so I can tell you that the belt lasted 7+ years and 80k miles just fine. I don’t recall the whole belt/pump service being much over $1200 at our dealer, plus they rented us a car while the van was in the shop. I also don’t recall a valve adjustment being done either but it was an older model.

    I traded that van in on a 2006 Ody EX that just turned 100k so I too am coming up on the big 105k service. Our van however looks and feels near-as-dang to new as I have ever seen for a vehicle with 100k, which was one of the reasons I was OK with buying it as a one-owner local trade with already 88k on it this past November.

    The condition of your van doesn’t sound promising, but Oddities do have absurdly high resale value…unless yours is an LX model. Nobody wants to pay Ody premium for the entry model. You don’t say what trim your van is, but the neglect it received in its prior life that leads to its current condition leads me to suspect it is an LX. If it is I’d go with trying to offload it ASAP and get as much as you can as-is. If you have a higher trim model, especially an EXL or factory nav or dvd you’ll probably still come out ahead to do the service and recondition it properly. But if you do that, why bother selling?

  • avatar

    $1100 for 6-8 months is not trivial but it’s cheaper than the payments on a new one so go for it. If the 6-8 months turns into longer you’ll be glad you did. I too thought the “valve adjustment” sounded like a rip off but a little googling shows that many Hondas have adjustable valve trains so at that mileage it’s probably worth doing to avoid a burned exhaust valve.

  • avatar

    OK, let me add one more thing here. If your Odyssey was in very great shape, then you could do this timing belt service and try to sell it for more money. But:
    1. Most folks nowadays do not ask about timing belt changes anymore.
    2. You car sounds like it’s in less-than-perfect condition so you won’t get top dollar for it anyway.

    This belt will not break soon. If you spend the money on service now, you won’t recoup it when you sell the van.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Depends upon your plan to sell the car. If you plan to trade the car to a dealer, he’s probably not going to give you more money because you had the timing belt repaired . . . and the car sounds “rough” anyway, so expect small change in trade. If you plan to sell it on Craigslist, a knowledgeable buyer should be prepared to pay you for having replaced the timing belt.

    Obviously, if the belt fails and your engine blows up, you have lost big-time. But, it seems to me that should not be the only thing in your calculation.

  • avatar

    I agree with having the belt changed. The car isn’t in A condition, but it is a Honda, and with the belt change someone will find value(more$)in it.

    A caveat to the timing belt change topic, pullys and tensioners.

    What are the thoughts on having them done at the same time? A must?

    What about with the expectations of taking a car w/ 120k and a new belt w/ old tensioners ect. another 50k then to sale? Still necessary?

    I’ve never thought it necessary, neither did my mechanic, but it is the web and you can always find differing opinions on any topic.

  • avatar

    I’m going to point out that the Odyssey’s real Achilles’ heel is it’s transmission. If it’s been used for towing, and especially as you seem to indicate that the servicing on it has been a bit spotty, be aware that they do fail. I think the 05/06s are better than most, but beware of a larger bill lurking on the horizon.

  • avatar

    My opinion is to let the belt ride.

    For my 2006 EX-L the tab for changing the timing belt,tensioner, water pump, cam seals, serpentine belt and valve adj was $1,216 at Sierra Honda in LA area and the belt looked like new. I know it’s not always a reliable indicator, but close examination showed not a single crack, tear, break or weak spot in the belt. I’ve changed belts on 3 other Honda’s that also looked like new at the recommended interval. Honda builds a lot of extra life into belts and if your plans are to sell, I wouldnt spend the money, you wont get a nickel of it back.

    I would also recommend shopping dealers as this price varies wildly among dealers, even in the same ares.

    Another note, I bought mine new and plan on keeping it forever. It’s at 156k miles and runs like new.

  • avatar

    I replaced the timing belt on my 2004 Hyundai XG 350 last year (did it myself) mainly to preserve the warranty that goes to 100K. The old belt looked OK but was slightly stretched compared to the new one.

    I’ve replaced the belt in a 1.9L Escort twice in 200K miles, cheap and easy to do (myself) and gave me piece of mind.

    A friend lost his Nissan V6 when the belt snapped making a left hand turn in traffic. The accident wasn’t too bad but the valves hit the pistons. he lost power completely in front of another car that didn’t get stopped in time.

    So there is a safety element to making sure the engine doesn’t come to a sudden stop on you.

  • avatar
    George B

    Check your local Asian community for independent mechanics that do car service for all those thrifty Toyota and Honda owners. Got the timing belt and water pump replaced on a Honda Accord V6 for about $500. It was a slow day, so the mechanic even gave me a ride back to work.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep. Every decent sized town has a Honda specialist. A $200 box of OEM parts (belts, tensioners, gaskets, and water pump) from H&A and $225 for labor and I’m good for another 105K.

  • avatar

    I have a 2001 Odyssey, and I did my timing belt at 120K and it looked just fine. The timing belt on my 1997 Civic was also 20K overdue when I bought the car, for cheap, on Craigslist.

    Save yourself the $ and don’t do any of it save for your standard oil changes. You will never recoup the $, and most used-car buyers looking for a van that old are not savvy enough to ask whether the service has been done anyways. Of course you will be up front and tell them that it needs to be done.

    Pocket that $1200 and apply it towards your next vehicle purchase.

  • avatar

    You missed your chance for a good out with this POS when you didn’t take the cash to repair the sideswipe and dump it to a hacker rebuilder then. Do not make the mistake again. If you have the $1100 to do the timing belt you have the money to get the newer car now.

    People always talk about the low depreciation of Hondas but you are standing on the steepest curve of anything out there right now. In 6-8 months it will be worth less than it is now even with the $1850 service at the dealer.

    So when you add things up, depending on exactly how much you pay on the timing belt, anything else that needs to be done in that time, and depreciation it’s like having a $300~$400 a month car payment to drive a doubly wrecked van for the next 6-8 months.

    You could risk it but then you run the chance of popping that belt and needing a new engine. If you fix it you’ll be married to it for another 4, 5 or more years, or you’ll sell it as scrap, or maybe a fixer. Either way you’ll be in the hole big time.

    Start looking for that new van tonight, it will be cheaper in the long run to do in sooner rather than later.

    The Oddesey and it’s expensive maintenance and repairs has made everyone I know except for one guy who hasn’t crossed 60K yet, swear off buying another Honda.

  • avatar

    It doesn’t sound like you really like this vehicle much. So why put a lot of money into it? The popular opinion seems to be that the belt will last for the length of time you want to keep it. So save the $1000 and do something more useful with it – like put it toward a down payment for something new.

    If you do decide to get the belt done, make sure everything that the belt touches gets replaced. Tensioner, rollers, water pump, and any one time use bolts (does Honda use those? VW sure does). Because if the tensioner or water pump fail shortly after the belt job, you’re going to wish you spent the money to do it all at once.

  • avatar
    That One Guy

    Got the whole deal done at my Honda dealer for $650ish last year.

    Living in flyover country does have its perks.

  • avatar

    Why dump money into it OR take a risk driving it for 6 more months?? Its at a major service point, and if its rough, dump it now and put the $1100-1800 into additional down payment.

    And, this is a good lesson in why you dont beat up on a car. If you keep the cosmetics up, then spending money on maintenance is justified… people will buy a high mileage car thats in nice shape and has been maintained. Almost no one will buy a beater just because it had been serviced recently.

  • avatar

    This annoying timing belt issue is why I pass on Hondas/Toyotas and buy Nissans/Infinitis. Their engines have chains and will happily run beyond 200,000 miles with just regular maintenance.

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