I just bought a used 2003 Mazda Protege with 94,000 miles on it and took it to a mechanic for an inspection. They didn't find anything wrong but said that my timing chain needs to be replaced, and if it isn't it could break and do serious damage to my engine. The bill for a new timing chain and installation and everything would total over $1000, and I definitely can't afford that.
Is it true that the 03 Protege has to have the timing chain replaced at 90k miles?
Is it even a timing chain? Or a timing belt?
Where could I get it replaced the most inexpensively? A dealer or a mechanic?
Any advice or knowledge would help, thanks!
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The 2003 Protege has a toothed timing belt, not a chain. Changing it is a major job and should only be done by a competent mechanic. I'm looking at the maintenance schedule for my '99 Protege 1.8L, and the prescribed interval is every 60,000 miles. There is also a caution that belt failure may result in serious engine damage.
You should know that the doomsday scenario is very unlikely because the Protege engines are "clearance engines", which means that if the camshaft gets decoupled by a belt break, the pistons do not rise far enough to hit the open valves (unlike some other makes) having "interference engines", where pistons WILL collide with open valves, and the resulting damage to valve stems, pistons, connecting rods etc. can scrap the engine !
You should see if you can trace the service history of your car though, because if it had been serviced per schedule, you ought to have (120 - 94) i.e. 26,000 more miles to go before belt replacement is needed.
This service involves more than the belt; gaskets, seals, idler pulleys, tensioners, oil change and filter, retiming etc. etc. are all part of the job. Material alone is about $250, and the job is labor-intensive, so $750 to $1000 is unfortunately in the right ballpark. Sorry, but I hope you find info which buys you the 26,000 miles at least.
First -- find a new mechanic. Cheap does not always equal inexpensive. Even if your timing belt is the original, it might last another 50,000 miles. If you have it replaced, the new belt might break tomorrow. Mean Time Between Failure statistics are valuable, but not perfect. If your belt does break, your engine will die immediately -- but that is probably the worst thing that will happen. Usually, when a timing belt fails, it losses cogs and your engine will jump time and run very rough. That is a more common failure than outright breakage.
NightSwimmer's dead right, though I've not heard of a timing belt infant mortality not associated with improper installation.
Here's a case where going to an authorized Mazda dealership makes sense. The work is a bit tricky, it's vital to the well being of your engine, and the money involved is considerable, so if you do encounter trouble you'll want to have a serious warranty to fall back on.
wow, $1000 for a timing belt? i am so glad i do my own work.
the work isn't incredibly hard, it is just time consuming. the best way to learn how to work on cars is to fix something that isn't broke. if you feel uncomfortable, don't mess with it. i would check with another mechanic first though. that price seems high.
The job is expensive because it's part of a fairly major task group corresponding to that service interval (60,000 mi.) Since you have the cover off for the belt, seals, gaskets, idler pulleys etc. are either inspected or changed out (maybe tensioner too, I'm not sure), and the two accessory drive belts (alternator, water pump, air conditioner, power steering pump) are replaced at the same time.
I've seen the timing belt replacement kits advertised on E-Bay, you can check there.
I just picked up a used 98' Protege and had my friend who sells Mazdas to ask a Mazda certified tech. about replacing the timing belt. He actual said that they almost never break-they just get worn and jump a tooth or something and the engine starts running rough.
And he did reiterate what a couple have said here-if it does actually break completely it will not cause catastrophic engine failure...the engine will just die immediately. Not quite sure why. He actually reccommended that if the engine was running fine (it was the 1.5L), don't even worry about replacing the belt.
Some high compression engines with domed pistons have very little clearance between the top of the piston and the cylinder head valves. When a timing chain or belt breaks, the cam stops turning and the valves remain stationary. At the same time, the crankshaft continues to turn and therefore the pistons continue to rise and fall within the cylinders. This can allow a piston to crash into an opened valve and bend it. This is obviously a very bad thing.
You should have your belt inspected at regular intervals. If it is in good condition, your tensioner is also in good condition and there are no oil leaks from your front seals, then you probably don't need a new belt. If your belt does lose a tooth and jump time, then it should be repaired immediately. You will damage your catalytic converters and oxygen sensors by driving with incorrect valve timing and incur much greater expense than you would from performing required maintenance.