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Honda CRV Shredded Timing Belt

Q. I have a 1997 Honda CRV. It has an automatic 4 cylinder 2.0 liter engine. It has 102,549 miles on it. Saturday, while driving on the 405 freeway in stop and go traffic my car died. There was a couple of clunking noises, we pulled over immediately and within three seconds the engine died, the steering and brakes went and there was absolutely no power to the car at all.

I recently had read about an ignition recall and thought maybe that was the case. While waiting for a tow, we contacted a local Honda dealer and they assumed that was the problem also. After having the car towed to the dealer we were told it was the battery and that they would fix it and we could take care of the recall at our own dealership.

Within 20 minutes the mechanic told us the problem was our timing belt and that it was shredded. The first scheduled change for the timing belt on a 1997 Honda CRV in the state of California is 105,000 miles, so understandably I was very upset. This could have caused an accident if we had not been sitting in traffic at the time of failure. I decided since I was going to need to change the belt in another 2,500 miles anyway that I didn't mind paying for the belt if the dealer would be willing to meet me half way and cover any incidentals.

They said it would take until today or Wednesday to fix the car and they would let us know. This morning I received a call from the dealer telling me that I need a whole new engine at the cost of $7000.00. I don't believe that any Honda has ever needed a new engine at 102,000 miles. I know that a timing belt breaking can cause some damage (even extensive) to the engine but even if that is the case, wouldn't Honda be responsible for the repairs because the belt broke prior to the first scheduled replacement.

I follow the maintenance schedule in my owners manual because I love my car and I want to keep it for a very long time. Is it normal for things to break before their scheduled maintenance and are there other things I should worry about in the future. Who is accountable for the maintenance schedule accuracy? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

A. Any time anyone asks me how often they should change their timing belt I say 60,000 miles, some even sooner than that. I don't care what the book says or the state or anyone says. When I see a situation such as yours it, it makes me more even more adamant about this.

If you look in the owners manual you will see two maintenance schedules. One for "Normal Service" and one for "Severe Service". I discussed this in Transmission Service Intervals So I won't go into to much detail here.

Suffice it to say that no one in the world operates their cars under "Normal" conditions. If California says the timing belt has to be replaced at 105,000 miles, which I seriously doubt, they are taking it from Hondas "Normal" service schedule.

Now, since all cars operate under what can be considered "Severe" conditions, and according to Hondas Severe Service Schedule, the timing belt should have been replaced at 51,000 miles.

As far as who is accountable for the accuracy of the maintenance schedule, I don't think there is amy one person you can point to and say "He's the one". It is developed by the engineers who design the car in the first place.

Somehow I find it hard to accept that a whole engine is needed. I may be wrong, but you would have to show me the engine. It is very uncommon that there is major damage to the engine. 96% of the time all you need to do is replace some bent valves and away you go. An expensive repair, in the neighborhood of $1000.00, but a far cry from the $7000.00 for a new engine.

If the engine is, indeed, destroyed, other options are a remanufactured engine from a company like Jasper or a used engine from a junk yard.

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