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My 03 Honda Civic needs a new timing belt. (Mileage is now at 71k and I've always heard this should be done by 60k, oops). I'm having trouble getting estimates because mechanics want to know engine size and specs. The owner's manual doesn't seem to have this info in an obvious place. What details do I need to know about the engine to get an estimate? And roughly how much should I expect this to cost? Are there other repairs I should have done at the same time?

Answers from the Automotive Experts

Amy Mattinat, Owner and Author at Auto Craftsmen Ltd Dear Maura, Why not take your vehicle with you to the shop when you are asking for an estimate. If they need any information they can find it on your Civic, and you can check out their operation at the same time. If you want to keep your Civic another 70k miles, you need to do a “Complete Timing Belt Job”. This will cost you anywhere from $800-$1000 dollars. It is a major investment in your car. 1. Why is it important to change your timing belt? Like any other part in your vehicle, the timing belt eventually wears out. If it breaks, your car will immediately stop driving. The recommended interval to change your belt varies from 60,000 to 105,000 miles depending on the year, make and model of your automobile. 2. What does a timing belt do? This flat, rubber belt with teeth, synchronizes valve and piston movement inside your engine. In some applications it can also run the water pump, in others the oil pump and in some cases both. 3. Free Running or Interference Engine? Why does this matter to you? In a FREE RUNNING Engine if your timing belt breaks, your car stops...period. You get it towed into the shop and get it fixed. You only suffer the inconvenience of your car breaking down unexpectedly. In an INTERFERENCE Engine if your timing belt breaks, the pistons and valves collide. This not only stops your car, but damages the valves, pistons or heads... and in most cases, completely ruins the engine. 3. Where is the timing belt? The timing belt is inside your engine under a large metal cover. This means you can’t see the actual belt when you open the hood of your vehicle. 4. What else is done when the timing belt is changed? Change the crankshaft seals and any other seals under the timing cover. (which vary from vehicle to vehicle) These rubber seals get hard and inflexible and should be changed now to avoid oil leaks which can ruin your new timing belt. Change the Idler & Tensioner Pulleys: Little ball bearing pulleys that the belt runs over. Their life expectancy is approx. 100,000 miles. Change the Water Pump. The water pump lies under the timing cover/timing belt. At 90,000 if it is not worn out, it will be shortly, and changing it now saves you money and less down time in the long run. Plus, if you have an interference engine and the water pump breaks, it will harm the timing belt which in turn will damage or ruin the engine. Change any accessory belts if needed. Alternator belt Power steering belt Air Conditioning belt Hope this helps you out! Amy Mattinat

Lori Johnson, Owner and Instructor at Ladies Start Your Engines Dear Maura, The crankshaft and the camshaft both have seals that keep oil in the engine. Because they are easy to get to when you do a timing belt, sometimes they suggest you do it at that time. I wouldn't bring it up to them, or they just might tell you that you need them. Just be aware that they may tell you that they're leaking and if they are it's a good time to do it. Lori Dear Maura, I would need to know the exact model of Civic to tell you the engine size, but if you open the hood, sometimes it's stamped right on the engine. I think all the civics that year had a 1.7 liter engine. Of course then you'd need to know if it had single or dual overhead cams. If you look at the engine and it says 16 valves then it's probably dual overhead cams. When you are calling around for quotes, they should really only need the year, make and model. They should be able to look up the information with that. I would recommend doing the water pump along with the timing belt. There's no extra labor involved, just the part. They are almost always done together. They may recommend a crank and camshaft seal as well. Your cost is probably around $400 or $500. Get the job done soon, you're driving on borrowed time. Lori

Patty Streeter,  at AskPatty.com Maura, Check out our expert answer!

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