Timing Belt or Timing Chain?
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  1. #1
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    Timing Belt or Timing Chain?

    OK, I'm a little confused, we have a 2004 Passat wagon, it's not a diesel. It's coming on 100k miles, and we're starting to think about the timing belt. I'm not all that mechanically inclined, but it looks to me like there's a timing belt in this car, but when we bought it, the dealer told us there was a timing chain and we should think about changing it around 105-110k miles. Any suggestions? Do we have a chain or a belt? Thanks kindly.

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    timing belt and it should be changed around 85k miles

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    You do not say which engine is in your car, but both have timing belts that should be changed a while ago. The 1.8 should have been changed in the 70k mile range and the V6 should be changed in the 85k mile range

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    there are two common engines- 1.8T 4 cylinder, and a 2.8l 6 cylinder (and one rarer one, a TDI) in the US, although you haven't told us where you live; therefore, please open up your User CP and add the pertinent information - location, engine/model.

    you have both a timing belt and a timing chain. the timing belt is used to turn the cams from the crankshaft. the timing chain is used to change the timing of the cams relative to one another as the RPMs increase. timing chain failure, from what I have seen is rare; a failure in this area is usually the wearing of the shoe on the cam chain tensioner.

    the timing belt, on the other hand, is a wear item that you can not ignore. if it breaks or if the timing belt tensioner fails, the engine will continue to try to rotate on the bottom end while the top end (cams and valves) will fail to move. both the 1.8T and the V6 are interference engines, meaning that the pistons will hit the valves if this happens. you will break or bend valves (not maybe - you will) if the timing belt fails.

    it is best not to ignore timing belt replacement and other associated items that rotate in that area (tensioner, roller, etc). the 1.8T should have the timing belt changed more often than the 2.8. for the 1.8t, some here say every 60k miles, some say 70k miles, some say 75k miles. have the thermostat and water pump replaced at that time, as well.

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    Ok, thanks, we have the 1.8T 4-cylinder engine, the car was bought in the US (we split time between Canada and the US). I'm baffled, though, as to why the dealer told us to let it go to over 100k miles. Oh well. Any ideas as to how much this will cost (in the US)?

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    Which engine do you have?

    The 1.8t four cylinder has a timing belt up front that is known to fail right around 100,000 miles. Having the job done BEFORE it fails will save you a LOT of money. If it fails, the pistons will crash into the valves and wreck the head. This engine also has a chain at the back of the head. In the following video you can (briefly) see the toothed timing belt at the front of the engine and the chain at the back of the head.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnURA...eature=related

    The V6 engine has a similar arrangement with a toothed timing belt at the front of the engine and cam chains at the back of each head.


    Your dealer was probably talking about the timing belt at the front of the engine. If it's never been replaced, at 100K miles, you are now treading on thin ice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VWMTL View Post
    Ok, thanks, we have the 1.8T 4-cylinder engine, the car was bought in the US (we split time between Canada and the US). I'm baffled, though, as to why the dealer told us to let it go to over 100k miles. Oh well. Any ideas as to how much this will cost (in the US)?
    at a dealer, around $1000 USD. at an independent mechanic, figure $600 to $700.

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    OK, many thanks. One last question, almost all the mileage on our car is highway mileage, does that make a difference?
    Last edited by VWMTL; 02-14-2010 at 10:09 AM.

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    people have different views on that, regaurdless it is advised to change the belt at the intervals others have already recommended. its not worth putting it off, given the cost if it fails.

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    Indeed, When I got my 1.8T at 98K miles noone could tell me if my belt had been done or not. It was done the following day.

    After coming from an engine that didn`t really matter if the belt broke (no valve - piston contact) to one that really does.... I was taking no chances.

    I also think that irrespective of the type of mileage (Highway or Urban) that your car/engine has done, that same belt has still gone round that same water pump and that same tensioner and that same idler that many times. It really isn`t worth the risk.

    Trust me, if it`s still going now take that as a good will gesture from the man upstairs and work on the understanding that you`ve done VERY well so far!

    Not trying to scaremonger but......

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    Quote Originally Posted by VWMTL View Post
    Ok, thanks, we have the 1.8T 4-cylinder engine, the car was bought in the US (we split time between Canada and the US). I'm baffled, though, as to why the dealer told us to let it go to over 100k miles.
    It may be that he simply wants to sell you a cylinder head; or he has the official VW 105,000 mile recommendation stuck too firmly in his mind.

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    ^^ That number keeps coming back. There is a story that the units next to that number are a typo. It should be 105000 Km which is ~65000 miles. The 65Kmiles is more appropriate. I would not go past 75Kmiles on these cars. 1.8T and V6. No, highway miles are not shorter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by YetAnother20V View Post
    ^^ That number keeps coming back. There is a story that the units next to that number are a typo. It should be 105000 Km which is ~65000 miles. The 65Kmiles is more appropriate. I would not go past 75Kmiles on these cars. 1.8T and V6. No, highway miles are not shorter.
    There is no way it was a "typo". The 105K miles/168K KMs timing belt replacement interval on 1.8T and 2.8 V6 are printed everywhere, from owner’s maintenance manual to Bentley. It is simply the inferior quality from VW/Audi on the timing belt which can not even last 2/3 of the supposed lifespan. VW might be forced to use this 105K-mile interval because every other major Japanese manufactures have the 105K-mile interval on the timing belt at time. I just replaced the timing belt on our 98' Honda CR-V with 115K miles and the old belt still looked like new, not a single crack can be spotted. It is the indication to me that how Honda overdesigned this one of the most important parts, which lasted well over the supposed replacement interval.

    I believe, in addition to all other problems we have encountered, the inaccurate maintenance schedule on timing belt replacement interval alone is the indication of how irresponsible the VWoA is and I, for one, will not buy another new car from VW.

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    Wow, some interesting perspectives on this site, for sure.

    As to why the dealer told you what they did, that is exactly what they are supposed to tell you. If the manual says 105k, and the service advisor goes trying to sell the average joe a new belt at around 60% of that mileage, the service advisor is seen as a crook. If the salesman and the service advisor aren't on the same page, it makes both look shady. I've been a service advisor. Try convincing a customer holding their manual in their hand staring at the 105k recommendation that it really should be replaced nearly twice that often, especially considering the cost.

    As to VW making an inferior quality belt, that's just pure crap to be honest. Belts being cracked are typically a sign of age, wear, and operating conditions. Honda doesn't hold the patent on "special rubber trees" that produce rubber that resists cracking for twice as long. If you want to be mad at VW, fine, be mad at them for designing and producing interference engines, or ones that rely on a belt instead of a chain as the primary crank-to-cam timing device. Being mad at them for their rubber belts cracking and failing is rather like being mad at the sun for shining, or the grass for being green. It's just what they do.

    Keep in mind climate has a lot to do with it as well. Here in Arizona, you're going to get cracking in rubber products a ton faster than in say, Oregon or Washington. That being said, there's no way I would try to stretch a T-belt replacement interval just becaused I lived in a more rubber-friendly state (or province). It's just not worth the risk.

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    Change the full TB service right now. The TB, tensioner (use updated set) idler roller, water pump, thermostat, accessory belts; cam end seal, valve cover gasket, and maybe crank seal would be not much more while you're in there.

    The original tensioners were a wimpy ball-and-socket limp wristed design that can fail any time after 60k miles. The newer tensioners are much stouter.

    For the edification of all, the 105k miles interval was not something VW pulled out of the air; The great state of Californication decreed that everything related to the emissions of the car, including the timing components, had to last 105k miles. Why do you think all manufactures use that figure? The fact is, most TB equipped cars should be changed before that mileage. Many engines are non-interference, so a TB break would not be so catastrophic: (see noun, proper name, Mazda engines, for one).

    Personally, as an Engineer, I think engines should have chain driven timing if interference type; TB is fine for non-interference engines. Or, be like my old '75 Volvo which had timing gears (one being fiber, in case something stopped a piston) that were essentially life of car.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blitzkrieg69 View Post
    As to VW making an inferior quality belt, that's just pure crap to be honest. Belts being cracked are typically a sign of age, wear, and operating conditions. Honda doesn't hold the patent on "special rubber trees" that produce rubber that resists cracking for twice as long. If you want to be mad at VW, fine, be mad at them for designing and producing interference engines, or ones that rely on a belt instead of a chain as the primary crank-to-cam timing device. Being mad at them for their rubber belts cracking and failing is rather like being mad at the sun for shining, or the grass for being green. It's just what they do.

    Keep in mind climate has a lot to do with it as well. Here in Arizona, you're going to get cracking in rubber products a ton faster than in say, Oregon or Washington. That being said, there's no way I would try to stretch a T-belt replacement interval just becaused I lived in a more rubber-friendly state (or province). It's just not worth the risk.
    All belts are NOT created equal. If you ask the engineers designing and manufacturing the belts, they will tell you it is not just melting the rubber to form the belt. They are so much more compounds and technologies involved which will make big difference to quality and reliability on belts. Like tires, not all tires are lasted the same lifespan or have the same performance even though basically they all mainly made of rubber.

    That being said, we should also examine the real world experience on quality and reliability to the timing belts or any rubber and plastic parts from VW Passat. I simply just compare our 2001.5 Passat with 45K miles to our 1998 Honda CR-V with 118K miles and both were bought at new. The timing belt on CR-V lasted 115K miles and the old belt still looked like new. The CV boots failed at 31K/38K miles on Passat but the CR-V still has original. The plastic headlight lenses clouded on my Passat but they are crystal clear on my CR-V. The rubberize coating on the interior is peeling off everywhere on Passat but the interior is still perfect on CR-V. Windshield wiper rubber refill failed and replaced two times as many on Passat than the CR-V. If you still feel all belts are created equal because "Honda doesn't hold the patent on "special rubber trees"", these are just simple proofs that all belts and rubber/plastic parts simply are NOT CREATED EQUAL!

    If you go to Honda or Toyota dealers and ask when the timing belt need to get replaced, they will tell you it's whatever the maintenance schedule says, which is 105K miles on my CR-V. I have never heard any Honda or Toyota owners complain that the timing belt failed before the maintenance schedule. But who, on this PW forum, dare to say that our timing belt on Passat can safely last up to the supposed maintenance schedule, which is 105K miles?

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    Just as a clarification, there is not and never was a problem with Passat timing belts. The problems was with failing tensioners and failing waterpumps (post AEB). These components would fail and shred the timing belt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yrwei52 View Post
    All belts are NOT created equal. If you ask the engineers designing and manufacturing the belts, they will tell you it is not just melting the rubber to form the belt. They are so much more compounds and technologies involved which will make big difference to quality and reliability on belts. Like tires, not all tires are lasted the same lifespan or have the same performance even though basically they all mainly made of rubber.

    That being said, we should also examine the real world experience on quality and reliability to the timing belts or any rubber and plastic parts from VW Passat. I simply just compare our 2001.5 Passat with 45K miles to our 1998 Honda CR-V with 118K miles and both were bought at new. The timing belt on CR-V lasted 115K miles and the old belt still looked like new. The CV boots failed at 31K/38K miles on Passat but the CR-V still has original. The plastic headlight lenses clouded on my Passat but they are crystal clear on my CR-V. The rubberize coating on the interior is peeling off everywhere on Passat but the interior is still perfect on CR-V. Windshield wiper rubber refill failed and replaced two times as many on Passat than the CR-V. If you still feel all belts are created equal because "Honda doesn't hold the patent on "special rubber trees"", these are just simple proofs that all belts and rubber/plastic parts simply are NOT CREATED EQUAL!

    If you go to Honda or Toyota dealers and ask when the timing belt need to get replaced, they will tell you it's whatever the maintenance schedule says, which is 105K miles on my CR-V. I have never heard any Honda or Toyota owners complain that the timing belt failed before the maintenance schedule. But who, on this PW forum, dare to say that our timing belt on Passat can safely last up to the supposed maintenance schedule, which is 105K miles?
    Lets talk about paint, sheet metal and other stuff while we are at it.

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    For the record, I was a Toyota and Nissan service advisor for several years, and t-belt replacement was ALWAYS recommended at 60k.

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    Quote Originally Posted by javis20 View Post
    Just as a clarification, there is not and never was a problem with Passat timing belts. The problems was with failing tensioners and failing waterpumps (post AEB). These components would fail and shred the timing belt.
    Timing belt tensioner, like the timing belt, is also listed for 105K-mile replacement interval on Passat's maintenance schedule. Water pump is not listed for any kind of maintenance. It actually makes VW looked worse. The metal/bearing part, the tensioner or the water pump, which are so important to the crucial timing belt, can not last 2/3 of the supposed lifespan? By comparison, the old tensioner and water pump I took out from the CR-V during the timing belt replacement were flawless as far as I could tell. Added the perfect condition of the old timing belt, I had the feeling that I didn’t need to do this job until another 50K miles.

    In the way, VWoA lied to us and made us to believe that we didn't have to worry about the timing belt issue until at least 105K miles. I was hesitating to get our Passat due to the usage of the timing belt, as I have avlways been suggesting friends to get a car equipped with the timing chain. But the 105K-mile timing belt replacement interval, and the long-time loyalty to the VW (we bought two new VW's before) made us did the purchase.


    Quote Originally Posted by blitzkrieg69 View Post
    For the record, I was a Toyota and Nissan service advisor for several years, and t-belt replacement was ALWAYS recommended at 60k.
    For the record, most cars which are using crappy timing belt are having 60K-mile replacement interval on their maintenance schedule back to early 1990's. Most major car manufactures changed the timing belt replacement interval to 90K and then 105K miles on their maintenance schedule after 1995.

    I don't believe that you, as a service advisor, didn't look at the manufacture's maintenance schedule and ALWAYS recommended your customers to replace the timing belt at 60K.
    Last edited by yrwei52; 02-24-2010 at 03:56 PM.

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    Y'know, I'd almost bet money that all the timing belts are made by one or two different manufacturers, but mainly Gates. What's more, I'll bet that the materials used in all of them them are essentially identical and that the Japanese did not specify something different from the Germans or Italians or French or Americans or Koreans or any of the others. I can't imagine that VW timing belts are under that much more stress than any other timing belt. Are VW cams really all that hard to turn compared to Japanese cams?

    The tensioner was the culprit with the early timing belt failures and that has been updated. I was once told that timing belts are used because they are quiet compared to chains and especially gears...

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    Quote Originally Posted by klelmore View Post
    I was once told that timing belts are used because they are quiet compared to chains and especially gears...
    Cheaper, too.

    Y'know, I owned a Saturn (an inheritance) for a couple of months. Just for giggles, I looked up the timing arrangement - it's an internal chain, and the factory recommendation is a 100,000 mile replacement interval. Saturn forum members said less, as there had been problems with them, including a recall.

    If that's the case, and given the difficulty and expense of replacing a chain...

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    Quote Originally Posted by klelmore View Post
    Y'know, I'd almost bet money that all the timing belts are made by one or two different manufacturers, but mainly Gates. What's more, I'll bet that the materials used in all of them them are essentially identical and that the Japanese did not specify something different from the Germans or Italians or French or Americans or Koreans or any of the others. I can't imagine that VW timing belts are under that much more stress than any other timing belt. Are VW cams really all that hard to turn compared to Japanese cams?

    The tensioner was the culprit with the early timing belt failures and that has been updated. I was once told that timing belts are used because they are quiet compared to chains and especially gears...
    Part of the issues is the depth of the bends and belt flexing in both directions around the tensioners. Like breaking a wire by bending, the cord flex in both directions shorten the life of the belt.

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    In the UK on the 1.8 engine VW say 60k or 5yrs TB replacement

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frog View Post
    In the UK on the 1.8 engine VW say 60k or 5yrs TB replacement
    This is getting worse. This means VW simply just irresponsibly exaggerated the lifespan of their timing belt and tensioner by putting the 105K-mile replacement interval on the US maintenance schedule without putting “heavy-duty” timing belt and tensioner on their US market cars. Shame on you VWoA!

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    Quote Originally Posted by yrwei52 View Post
    This is getting worse. This means VW simply just irresponsibly exaggerated the lifespan of their timing belt and tensioner by putting the 105K-mile replacement interval on the US maintenance schedule without putting “heavy-duty” timing belt and tensioner on their US market cars. Shame on you VWoA!
    Seriously, did you think it was otherwise? How would they come up with a one hundred and FIVE thousand mile interval, if not to push it outside the (former) warranty period?

    Same with the transmission - "lifetime" fluid? The manufacturers of the fluid AND the transmission disagree. Simply a way to reduce the apparent cost of maintenance, as a sales tool.

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    FWIW, my dealer recommended TB service on my 2004 Passat 1.8T at 61,000 KM

    I had them do the first inspection of the belt, they said it was recommended to replace and that my serpentine belts had multiple cracks. I inspected both the TB (from top access panel) and the other belts myself and confirmed that the TB was fine but the other 2 belts did have cracking. I will have the TB, WP, Tensioner, Thermostat, Belts done this spring ~ the car will be 6 years old in my ownership (6.5 yrs from factory build date) and I think this is long enough for rubber belts to last.

    I think the issue with VW TB's is not the quality of the rubber TB, it's more likely the heat induced by the turbo and a marginal oil capacity affecting the lifespan. I've had Accords, the TB seems to be better protected from engine heat ~ but other mechanics could say better.

    If I have any beef with VW related to the TB, it would be the complexity of access.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yrwei52 View Post
    [COLOR=black][FONT=Verdana]Timing belt tensioner, like the timing belt, is also listed for 105K-mile replacement interval on Passat's maintenance schedule. Water pump is not listed for any kind of maintenance. It actually makes VW looked worse.

    For the record, most cars which are using crappy timing belt are having 60K-mile replacement interval on their maintenance schedule back to early 1990's. Most major car manufactures changed the timing belt replacement interval to 90K and then 105K miles on their maintenance schedule after 1995.
    You're full of so much bad information I don't know where to begin. First of all, I'm old enough to remember when service intervals on timing belts on my Japanese cars were relatively short i.e. 60k miles and the ones on VW/Audi were 90k or 105k. Timing belts in the VW/Audi cars were not "crappy" then, nor are they now. I think that they use CRP or Gates, just like other manufacturers use. They don't make their own timing belts. As previous posts indicate, there was a batch of bad tensioners on early cars that caused some failures.

    FYI, my father took his Acura in recently for a timing belt change and they too recommended doing the water pump. It's one of those "while we're in there" jobs on many cars, including the Passat. When my 2.0 Jetta received its timing belt change at over 100k miles, the pump felt like new. I replaced it at the second timing belt change I did at about 190k, but only because it is driven by a separate belt and can be accessed easily outside the timing belt process.

    If your Honda CRV is great then that's wonderful. Not everyone has this experience with them. My parents neighbor had a cylinder head failure at less than 50,000 miles. Honda CRV engines are notorious for engine failures due to head/valve problems. Look it up.

    As for your other miscellaneous complaints like headlights fading in the sun, have a look around at other Japanese cars like some of the Lexus models. I lived in Dallas until a few months ago and Arizona before that and I can tell you that this was one of my pet peeves regarding many different cars I owned, Japanese and European. It just happens. Some are more susceptible than others, and my older cars with glass headlights obviously didn't suffer from this, but didn't have paint that is as good as the Passat either. If you don't like what the sun does to cars, get the !@#$ out of Texas. It's not a nice place to live anyway!

    FYI, I also bought a 2001 new at Rusty Wallis in Dallas and I'm still driving. I will be changing the timing belt this year. Not because it's "crappy" but because it's made of rubber like all timing belts and it's 10 years old!

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    Quote Originally Posted by scotts13 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by yrwei52 View Post
    __Quote: Originally Posted by Frog
    ____In the UK on the 1.8 engine VW say 60k or 5yrs TB replacement

    This is getting worse. This means VW simply just irresponsibly exaggerated the lifespan of their timing belt and tensioner by putting the 105K-mile replacement interval on the US maintenance schedule without putting “heavy-duty” timing belt and tensioner on their US market cars. Shame on you VWoA!
    Seriously, did you think it was otherwise? How would they come up with a one hundred and FIVE thousand mile interval, if not to push it outside the (former) warranty period? Same with the transmission - "lifetime" fluid? The manufacturers of the fluid AND the transmission disagree. Simply a way to reduce the apparent cost of maintenance, as a sales tool.
    I agree with you. This could be just a sales tool since all other major competitors were moving up the timing belt maintenance schedule to 105K miles at time. But I just hate that our timing belt/tensioner can not live up to the expectation of 105K miles but other brands can.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yrwei52 View Post
    I agree with you. This could be just a sales tool since all other major competitors were moving up the timing belt maintenance schedule to 105K miles at time. But I just hate that our timing belt/tensioner can not live up to the expectation of 105K miles but other brands can.
    You are making a false statement when you say that VW's timing belt/tensioner does not go 105k but other brands can.

    Google is your friend. It took me just a few seconds to learn that Honda Accord engines, for example, have a belt change interval in the late '90s that was 105k or 84 months under "normal" conditions and 60k or 48 months if the car is ever driven in temperatures over 100F or under -20F. On the same page of Google results there was a tech question regarding a timing belt on an Accord that failed at 80k. You don't have to believe me, just "use the Google" and you'll find that there's nothing magic about VW timing belts. The belt on my friend's mid 90s Honda Civic wagon broke at less than 40k. These things happen.

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