Timing is Everything For Timing Belts

​Q. I have a Nissan Maxima and was told I should replace my timing belt and water pump. I have owned the car since it had about 42,000 miles on it and have been good about keeping the oil changed. Other than tires and brakes it has not needed much service. It has 122,000 miles on it now and runs fantastic; I don't understand why I need to spend $800 to have this work done when I am not having any problems?

A. I am glad to hear that you have had such good luck with your Maxima. My advice would be to replace the timing belt if you want to keep having good luck. If you wait until you need one (the belt breaks) you most likely will be spending over $2,000 to do the belt and repair the bent valves.

A timing belt is made out of rubber and over time it deteriorates to the point where it can break. Most manufacturers have a maintenance interval ranging from 60,000 miles to 105,000 miles. Your Nissan is overdue; how overdue depends on the year of the car. The reason you will want to replace the water pump at the same time is to save money. You have to take the timing belt off to replace the water pump so it makes perfect sense to do it while the belt is already off. You are saving almost all the labor and your water pump will most likely not make it until the next timing belt interval.

We have a car in the shop right now that had this happen. The timing belt broke and when it did, the engine crashed and damaged all of the intake valves. It is an expensive repair and could have been avoided with a little bit of preventive maintenance.

It is a good thing you have been good with your oil changes but there is more to good maintenance than just changing the oil. I would encourage you to take a look at the owners manual and see what other services should have been done along the way. The big mileage intervals on your Accord will most likely be at 60K, 90K and 105,000 miles.

I am quite sure Nissan calls for the transmission fluid, engine coolant and brake fluid to be changed somewhere in those intervals. In addition, the spark plugs should be replaced and the valves adjusted. Your Nissan has been good to you and there is no reason why you can't drive it to 200,000 miles or more, but you will need to step up a little on the maintenance. When you do the math you will find that in the long run it is really inexpensive.

Q. When I'm driving and it's cold outside, I feel cold air on the left side of my head while the heat is on almost at the highest speed. When I turn it down a little, I still feel the cold air on the left side of my head. What do you think the problem is? It's a 2006 Pontiac G6 GT Coupe with 44,000 miles. It does not have dual zone heating, and warm air is not coming out of the vents.

A. The first thing you want to take note of is the temperature gauge on the dash. If your engine is not heating up to operating temperature then not only will you have poor heat, but you will be using more fuel than you should be.

Generally on a newer car like this when the engine is not heating up properly you will have a "check engine" light on and a code stored. If the engine is getting up to operating temperature and you don't have proper heat then there must be something wrong with the heating system in the dash.

Some possibilities are a bad control head, blend doors stuck or broken, plugged heater core or a bad heater control valve. If the air is switching properly between the different modes on the dash and you are just experiencing a temperature problem then I would focus first on the last two items. I expect an experienced technician would get to the bottom of this fairly quickly.

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Douglas Q&A
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