Sunday, April 26, 2009

Timing Belt Replacement - should I fire my mechanic?

I own a 2002 Honda Civic. Actually, technically, I don't own it, as its purchase predates my marriage. But it's the car we have, and I am in charge of its maintenance.

When I moved to Louisiana, my mother suggested that I get a "hoses and belts" checkup at her mechanic. About 6 months ago, when I finally got the checkup, my car had ~95K miles on it. After the checkup was finished, my mechanic suggested that I replace the timing belt, as "Honda usually suggests replacing these things at about a hundred thousand miles." (This is not really an exact quote, but it was words to this effect.) Blithely trusting person that I am, I agreed to do so. However, he did not have the time then, and I was supposed to schedule an appointment for it later in the month. However, I really needed the car for the next week, and it gradually slipped out of my mind.

It came to the forefront of my mind this week, and I decided to do a little high-quality research with my good friend Google about how necessary this approximately $800 procedure actually is. Turns out, it's quite necessary, but a quick check on Honda's website shows that the recommendation for changing a timing belt on my model of Civic is 110,000 miles.

Now, 110,000 miles is within 10% of 100,000 miles, so it might be described as "around" 100,000 miles. Six months later, though, my car's millage is still less than 100K. So, at my current driving rates, I am looking at 18 months between the time my mechanic suggested replacement and the time I actually need to replace the timing belt. So I am feeling a little gypped by his suggestion.

On the other hand, timing belt replacement recommendations change by model, and some of them are 100,000. So my guess is that he just recommends a timing belt change at 100,000 miles to everyone so he doesn't have to keep up on model numbers. My concern is that this "one size fits all" philosophy will apply to all repairs and maintenance recommendations he does for me hereafter, and I will get unnecessary expensive stuff done and perhaps not get necessary stuff done.

He's been my parents' mechanic for a really long time, and they are very happy with him. They drive luxury cars, though, not Civics, and I wonder if that makes a difference.

What do you think? Should I try to find a mechanic who seems a little more focused on the particular make and model of my car? Or should I just be grateful that he's not as bad as the usual mechanic stereotype and leave well enough alone?


  1. Um, depending on your driving habits, you should be good for at least another 6-12 months of driving...that's at least two-four oil changes down the line. Timing belts do wear out and need replacement, but I've seen, and driven, cars with waaay more miles and hadn't had a timing belt change done. The procedure is so expensive because of all it involves...taking the timing cover off, removing and replacing the water pump, the sprockets AND the timing belt, then reinstalling everything and re-doing the timing on the engine. It's a fair bit of work, which means a fair bit of money. That's prob. why he's encouraging you to have it done.

  2. My MAzda recommends a timing belt change every 60K miles. I am at 101K miles and will be replacing my timing belt tomorrow. It will cost less than $300 for the work, because I have a friend who has friends in a shop. SO I guess I'm lucky.