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Seattle Subaru Timing Belt Done Right.

So your Subaru is due for its timing belt.  Your owner’s manual states replace the timing belt at 105k for most models produced after 1996.   Most will call around looking for the best price and not having any idea it’s really not the same as shopping for a TV or a mattress.  One shops timing belt replacement may differ greatly from the next and there is a right way and a cheap way.   Ask questions beyond just the price, what does the service include, what kind of parts are being used?  There is a difference and in the case of auto repair the difference usually shows up after the warranty on the repair is over.  Understanding the repair should last fairly close to the amount of time the original part lasted is just as important as understanding the lower priced service may represent a lower value obtained.

The timing belt has a big job to do it must keep the camshafts spinning in time with the crank shaft.  This is so the valves open up at the proper time in the combustion cycle in correlation with air and fuel coming in, compression and spark exploding the mixture and the exhaust valves opening up to release the leftovers.  At the same time the timing belt needs to turn the water pump and be able to self adjust in current models.  Over time the rubber stretches out above the tensioner’s ability to keep it tight under all load conditions and just like your tires the rubber belt will age, wear and crack and ultimately could break.

A worn or stretched timing belt can cause performance issues as well as increased fuel consumption, not in miles per gallon but in miles per tank.

Every vehicle manufacturer provides a warranty so long as the maintenance is done, every car company also has a breakdown of vehicle maintenance such as 30/60/90k service with a clear break down of what should be inspected and replaced at particular service intervals.  But what is not understood is it does not look good to list a lot of items to be replaced.  Meaning if you are Subaru or any other car company it doesn’t pay to be truly honest of all of the potential service needs because your car will be perceived to cost more to own than the next and a lot of people make buying decisions based on cost of ownership studies provided by JD Powers, and consumer reports to name a couple.  Subaru and every other car maker leaves it up to whoever is servicing the car to inform or “sell the customer” on items not listed in the maintenance booklet.  This is nothing new to the industry but is one aspect of maintenance if not done correctly can have some serious ramifications.

There are many different levels of parts quality, some shops will gravitate to the lowest cost part and as long as its new and lasts the standard warranty period of one year that’s all that matters to them.   Next the skill level of Techs can vary greatly as well.  If you are calling around for the best price on a service you really need to understand there may be a difference in the quality of the service your Subaru will receive having the timing belt done isn’t nearly as good as having it done completely with quality components by Technicians that really know what to look out for on your Subaru.

We approach this the right way, service your Subaru so there are no problems later by doing the job complete so there is no reason to go back in one or two years later.  We offer a lower price than the Dealer service department but in some cases will be priced higher than a tire store offering a timing belt replacement.  This is going to be a typical situation across the country, independent Subaru repair shops will typically be lower priced than a dealer service department but more expensive than “John Doe’s auto” and that is typically because we know the right parts to use and take pride in offering the best service possible.  John Doe may not realize the green idler pulley is going to fail, or that there is a service bulletin pertaining to the timing belt tensioner and bracket.

The timing belt should be replaced at the 105k interval but the procedure to replace the belt is more complex than just replacing the belt.  Part of the timing belt replacement procedure is to remove the timing belt and inspect the timing components.  If after inspection any or all of the timing components are found to be questionable they should be done.  This includes the timing belt tensioner, timing belt idlers, water pump, and cam and crank seals.   The large expense of replacing the timing belt is the labor but once the Technician is behind the timing covers there are a lot of things that can be done to limit forward going ownership costs.  We hear all the time about the dealer or another shop replacing the timing belt and leaving a tensioner to fail at a later date.  This first picture shows what can happen when a timing belt tensioner is left to chance.  This tensioner was ignored by a Dealer service department in another state only to fail 6 months later and the cost was significant as the timing belt came off and valve train damage was done.  What could have been done for $152.00 or so (depending on the dealers mark up above list price) Turned into a $2000.00 valve job plus the cost of the tensioner, damaged timing belt and the time without a functioning Subaru.

Subaru Timing Belt Tensioner

The idea of replacing the timing belt only and thinking the tensioner or idlers are going to last another 105k without any issue is a gamble.  I am not suggesting that every part needs to be done every time but in the case of the timing belt tensioner it really is a must replace in my opinion or you are just inviting a problem.

This is a picture of a first generation 2.5l that need to be inspected as part of a quality timing belt replacement procedure.

Subaru Timing Components

You can see that there is a lot more to a timing belt than just the belt, all of the components that are located behind the timing covers and that can affect the life of the timing belt all need to be inspected.  Notice the way the timing belt is putting pressure on the water pump (the part with the hose attached on the right)

Subaru Timing Components

These are the components of a second Generation 2.5l The idler on the right has been superseded to the one in the middle but can still be used.

Next is a picture showing the difference between the O.E. Timing belt idler and one made by an aftermarket parts company.  The original part used and the one superseded by Subaru call for a double bearing type idler and this one shown in the picture is a far cry from a part that “meets or exceeds” original parts manufacture.

Subaru Timing Belt Idler

Subaru Timing Belt Idler

No matter how you look at it, the parts in the two pictures above are not of the same quality and if you aren’t careful you could end up with the green one and worse for the same price as the one next to it.  If it lasts the warranty period but not much longer it will cost more to correct it a second time.

There is no need to sacrifice quality when saving money.  A good independent Subaru repair shop can save you money over a higher priced dealer service department and do much more for less.   That is what we offer at All Wheel Drive Auto, complete repairs you can rely on.

Here is a Video of what we typically encounter when we remove the timing belt and inspect the timing belt components.

About the Author

All Wheel Drive Auto is a unique independent Subaru service & repair facility. We combine years of dealer experience with a local neighborhood shop atmosphere. We use Subaru parts & test Equipment and have the expert knowledge to fix it right the first time.

Comments (165)

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  1. [...] Seattle Subaru Timing Belt Done Right. – Seattle Subaru Repair [...]

  2. Mark says:

    If the Subaru tensioner is not properly adjusted when belt is replaced can this result in damage to main bearings?

  3. robert allen says:

    Timing belt and tensioners, head bolts,and your good gaskets may cost ? I guess I need the best products.
    Rebuilt heads, and what will I need for the cams ?

  4. John Bauman says:

    I just purchased a 2001 Subaru Outback with 175000 on it. I’ve been thinking about replaceing the timing belt, but wasn’t sure of the importance after reading your posting I will be doing it in the real near future, I only wish you were in my area. With the info you provided I will know the questions to ask.

    • Susan Dunkin says:

      Hi:

      I bought a used 2002 Subaru Forester in December 2010 with 109K. I currently am at 112K and only after purchasing the car for 6,500.00 plus tax (CT) I began to hear such things as the timing belt needing to be replaced at 60K or so. I bought the car without a mechanic to look at it as I did not have one I trusted and needed a car immediately and told I could trust this guy. So far I have found out that he did not tell me I needed a Knock sensor (I replaced, the need for replacement immediately of the timing belt (which I assume is a belt and not a chain). I now learn that there are many things that I should ask when replacing the timing belt (tensioner, idlers, accessory drive belts and water pump). Is it all accurate regarding the need to replace all, the appropriate milage to replace the timing belt and how will I even know if the other things have been replaced or done properly. With that said, I have been given a quote from the used car dealer for 550.00. He has not said anything about other parts that would be inspected and replaced if need be. I really do not trust him considering he did not tell me very important things when I purchased the car. I have never really maintained a used car as I usually (when my credit was great) a certified Pre-Owned Lexus RX or Acura MDX. I know I was stupid and really miss my beautiful Lexus and Acura with 50K each – but now I have the 2002 Subaru Forester and want to do whatever I need to do to maintain it properly. I am, of course, concerned about cost as money is scarce. As well concerned about all being done properly.

      Any information you can give me would greatly be appreciated.

      Susan -

      • Justin Stobb says:

        Hi Susan,

        Not sure what to say other then when the timing belt is done, its best to perform the service as complete as possible or its just a gamble that one of the timing components wont fail resulting in a very expensive repair. It costs less money to own a car longer than it does to constantly buy another car, If you kept the Lexus Or Acura until they needed a timing belt not only would you be in the same circumstance you would be at a higher cost, as both of those vehicles carry a higher timing belt replacement cot than a Subaru Does.

        The best advice I have for you is to establish a relationship with a Subaru Shop somewhere just like you would with a Doctor or Dentist, you will be much better of and have a huge improvement in your Subaru Ownership experience.

        Hope that helps

        Justin

  5. When these guys speak you should listen. They are the “Go To Guys” when it comes to Subie’s!

  6. Jim777 says:

    This article is 100% True. Many people wonder why the Subaru Dealer charges so much for a timing belt replacement but it’s because they are changing ALL the necessary parts, not just the belt.

    The timing belt done at the dealer will cost you around $500-700 but at least it will be done right and your Subaru will run for another 100K with no problems. Small price to pay for another 100K in your Subaru.

    • Evan says:

      I wish. My local dealer said $1750 for everything that goes with the timing belt replacement. The kit alone was 600. Wow.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks for all this great info Jim! Just received a quote for a new timing belt (they said was needed on my 2004 Subaru Forester @ 134,000 miles)…no problem, vehicles need attention. My question to you is, the quote was $1,200…quite a bit more than your quote :( What is your recommendation with this quote. AND what is a “Knock Sensor” also “recommended” by this shop.

    • 2003foresterx says:

      This write up is spot on. Worth the cost at the dealer if you don’t have the knowhow or time. My dealer quoted 600-800. I have the service manual with the torque specs and service tool numbers. 220.00+- in parts including all idler, automatic tensioner, cam seals, crank seal, oil pump body o ring, timing belt, water pump and gaskets, both assessory drive belts. Gates timing belt kit with water pump on Ebay for 168+-, Napa had the belts, seals, o-ring for 48.00+- The special service tools were found online about 200.00+- with shipping. So about half the cost to do it myself… And in the 100K miles which will put my forester at 300K I will already have the special tools to do it again which makes it cheaper the next time or I can sell the tools and buy them again later then sell them again. Just so happens that the power steering pump has a small leak too so putting one in from a junk yard (40.00) and going to rebuild the old one. I found a good Subaru owners thread on where to get O rings seals and bearings for about 20 with shipping. Easier than most think to rebuild too. Then replace and sell the used PS pump I got.

      • Justin Stobb says:

        Hello

        Thanks for the post.

        Before you gravitate to the brands you mention, ask your self who says those parts will last the same 105k the OE did?

        I know the answer, some of our customers unfortunately learn the wrong way.

        I applaud you making the repairs yourself and saving the labor, don’t go cheap on the parts as well.

        Justin

  7. Ruth Chausse says:

    I am having my timing belt replaced ( today 9/1/2010 , on my 2003 Subaru WRX w/2.0 turbo)
    and the water pump ( the dealer recommended I do both at the same time) There was a problem getting the belt off because the bolt that holds it on to the cam shaft is put on with “lock tight” they had to break it off or it broke off while trying to get it off. So they said this happens 50% of the time and it will cost me another $89.00. Does this really happen 50% of the time? Should I have to pay for this? The bill is already $1100.00. It just seems odd to me that I should have to pay extra for something they broke.

    Thanks,,
    Ruth

  8. Justin Stobb says:

    Hi Ruth,

    There is no bolt that hold the timing belt on.

    There are 4 cam shaft sprocket bolts again none of which need to come off until the sprocket is removed to replace the cam seal or something along those lines.

    So I am not quite sure what is broken or why.

    But I will say that things can and do come up during repairs that there is just no way to know about ahead of time and as frustrating as it can be its kind of the way it is, I would ask to see the parts and get a clear explanation you can understand while viewing the broken component.

    Justin

  9. Penny Peirce says:

    I had my timing belt replaced three weeks ago from the day I started the car to hear a horrific noise. Had it towed back to the shop that replaced the timing belt. Now I have two bent valves. Could these be related? I have maintained my 2002 Subaru Forester rather well so it doesn’t make sense to me. Thank you!

  10. Justin Stobb says:

    Hi Penny,

    You just dont have enough information there to know what happened such as why does it have 2 bent valves?

    Did the timing belt jump time? If so why?, At the time the timing belt was replaced were you given the option to replace the timing belt tensioner, idlers and water pump , if so did you decline these repairs.

    If not, why were they not offered to you and did any of these items fail resulting in the issues you now have?

    Most likely the timing belt jumped, the valves are now bent as a result, We just don’t know the why at this point.

    Justin

  11. Don says:

    I have a shop that will replace the timing belt and tensioner for 500 bucks. They say it includes everything that needs to be taken care of. What else should I ask? It seems like a good deal but, is it?

  12. Cavan says:

    Hi.

    I have a 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX wagon — it’s my baby, I love it. I took it to the dealer at 89,000 to have the 90k done and the timing belt replaced.

    I took the car back after they finished because it was making an odd noise. They said that nothing was wrong, but they couldn’t explain the noise and didn’t recommend looking into it further. 10,000 miles later, my upper idler and my tensioner break, essentially busting the engine.

    Was it at all possible that this could have been prevented? I take good care of my car, but now I’m looking at a new engine. I love my car, but I don’t see how 2 of the parts broke at the same time in the engine. Any help would be appreciated or any perspective on how or why this happened.

    Thanks.
    Cavan

  13. Justin Stobb says:

    Hi Don,

    Not knowing the Model or year makes it tough to comment on. IF its an old legacy I would say sounds about right. Anything else is a red flag.

    My guess is that it is all aftermarket parts.

    Justin

  14. Don says:

    Sorry…it’s a 99 Outback.

  15. Lowell says:

    Great article. I wish you guys were in Central Jersey. The nearest Subaru dealer service quoted me $975.00 for all timing belt related job. I believe it’s still a fair deal but, I think you guys will be less expensive. I have a 2005 impreza rs (manual).

  16. Kelly Donegan says:

    I am interested in purchasing a 2001 Legacy AWD 2.5L H4 MPI that is 108,000 miles old. I understand that timing belts are to be replaced at 105,000 miles. Would you provide a ballpark cost for timing belt, water pump, tensioner and idler replacement at All Wheel Drive for this vehicle?
    Thank you for the information provided on your website.
    THe Carfax shows a thorough service record, but the 105K service has not been addressed.
    Looking forward to your reply.
    Kelly

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Kelly,

      Yes the timing belt is do at 105,000 As far as costs they vary greatly with exact needs.

      I can send you an estimate with some breakdowns in costs for the basic timing belt replacement, plus revisions for idlers, tensioner, accessory drive belts and water pump.

      Justin

      • Ron. says:

        Hi, i am constantly reading that these cambelts should be changed at 105,000 miles, my Forester handbook states they should be changed at 105,000km (66,000miles).

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Ron,

          SOA Subaru of America stipulates 105k as that started out as an emissions requirement for the state of California. Because you don’t have a vehicle imported into the US by SOA, you of course have a different sort of rules.

          Hope that helps

          Justin

  17. Jessica K says:

    Great information! I have a 2005 Baja Turbo with 42K miles. During a recent oil change at the Subaru dealership, I was told there was a loud noise coming from engine and the rep thought it was the tensioner as the noise was from the drivers side of the engine. (the technician didn’t have time to look at the engine at the time so I need to take it back). How can I tell if I am being mislead and what would cause problems so soon with the tensioner? The 30K maintenance was done less than a year ago with no problems.

    Thank you.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Jessica,

      With out removing the timing covers, then the belt and inspecting the components there is really no way for sure to know what is wrong. I can offer that it is not uncommon for a tech to hear a noise you are unaware of though. The 30k would never address any timing component noise, or even for that matter an inspection of any of the timing components.

      If it has been brought to you attention that you have a timing component type noise it could be a Gamble on your part to not Address it. You can pop the hood then start the vehicle cold, run back out and see if you your self can hear a noise that doesn’t sound quite right. Thats really all I can offer other than you making an appointment for a second opinion if you dont yet have a established relation ship with a service provider.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  18. Jeff Zekas says:

    Excellent advice… I can only add this: I had a lazy mechanic, who only replaced the timing belt… Guess what happened? A few years later, the tensioner pulley went out. As one of my buddies told me later; “You can’t always tell by looking if the tensioner is shot”. He always replaces the tensioner, all the pulleys, water pump and all the gaskets (parts which come in the complete timing belt kit) to avoid problems later… if only I had known!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Thanks for your comments.

      Its great when someone takes the time to relay their experience to help affirm what I am always trying to say about the completeness of timing belt repairs.

      Justin

  19. Yettekov says:

    Man what a great read. I am in Maryland. I think I am going to take a road trip to your shop and let YOU do my timing belt service. I used to live in Portland. I have been to Seattle many times. I can come there and hang out a couple of days while you work on my car!! What do you say?!?

    >8^)

  20. jeff says:

    my 96 outback wagon with a 2.5 died and will turn over but not start…no engine codes…makes a buzzing sound with key in on position seems to be coming from my transmission…i am stumped…any help is appreciated

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Jeff,

      The Solenoids in the Auto Trans will buzz with the Key on and engine off, that is normal. It has to go through testing to determine what is missing, spark, fuel compression the ability to breathe or any of the above items at the wrong time in order to figure out why it wont start.

      Justin

      • Ed says:

        I have a 2001 Forester that had a broken wire at the step down resistor that would occasionally do the same thing. I could wiggle the wires at the connection and get the noise to quit and also get it out of limp mode.

  21. Mark From ARK says:

    Justin, do you sell kits that have the better parts? If so, how much shipped to Harrison, Arkansas.

  22. Dave says:

    I have a 98 legacy gt 2.5. I have some oil that is leaking from behind/around the timing belt cover. What could that be? I have 110k miles so it’s time for a new timing belt. Trying to understand the oil leak. Also just replace the PS pump as that was leaking some fluid on top of engine.

  23. Raymond says:

    Justin,

    How much should a timing belt change cost along with other parts for 2005 WRX Subaru Imp Wagon?

    Thanks in advance.

    Raymond

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Raymond,

      If you are local to us I would steer you towards the request a quote page or call one of the service advisors.

      If you are not it would be better to inquire locally as our price may not reflect what you will pay.

      Justin

  24. jon says:

    your info helped me out SOOOO much. the auto shop i just took my 97 outback to originally quoted me 600 for just the water pump and timing belt (which seemed reasonable) and then called back today and said it would be another 200 for some pulley’s as well. it doesnt sound as though im being ripped off (especially with my $100 off coupon :D )but i sure hope these guys know what their doing. WHY OH WHY cant you guys be in SLC, UT!!!!!!!!

  25. Per says:

    Thanks for great reading, most interesting and superb explanation of the importance of replacing timing belts and the components around it!
    Sorry that I am on the other (wrong) side of the Atlantic ocean!
    (Sweden)

  26. Whitney says:

    I own a 2005 Subaru Forester 2.5X, and it has 48,000 miles on it. Yesterday, I went in for an oil change at the dealership, and I was told that I needed to replace my alternator belt and a/c belt because they had developed cracks. And, I was encouraged to replace my timing belt as well because they said they use the alternator and a/c belts to gauge the wear-and-tear on the timing belt. I told them the manual recommended 105 months or miles, and they said it’s a different schedule for Houston because of the hot, humid weather. The cost of replacing all three belts would be about $600. I have no idea what to do, so any advice would be appreciated. Any chance y’all will be coming to Houston? We could really use a good Subaru shop down here!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Run

      The timing belt does not need to be done yet and at $600.00 they are not doing the tensioner and or idlers which s a mistake.

      Justin

      • Whitney says:

        Thanks for sharing your expertise! And, if you happen to know of any Subaru experts in the Houston area, I could use a good recommendation.

  27. Dale McSwain says:

    So I have a 2005 WRX and it’s at 84,000 miles. I’m about to drive from Fairbanks, AK to San Antonio, TX. The dealership suggested I change the timing belt before I drive out. However, now I’m scared after reading some of these stories. Should I just wait until I get to TX or trust the dealer to change it right?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Dale,

      At 84k the belt isn’t really due for another 20k, it is however tight on time but still a year off before I would really be concerned.

      I will say however that I am not sure about the shops in Texas and Subaru, I dont think its a popular car there? That would be my only argument for replacing the belt in Alaska before the trip.

      Justin

  28. Janelle says:

    I have a 2005 Outback 2.5i, with 81,000miles. I was just told that I need to replace my head gasket by the Subaru service shop. They also suggested that since they would have the engine out, that I should have the timing belt replaced, in order to save on labor. W/o labor, they are quoting me $190 for the parts; which would otherwise be $1000. Do this sound right, and what do you suggest?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Janelle,

      Yes you should replace the timing components now with the head gasket repair, it will keep forward going ownership costs down and help prevent the feeling that your always putting big money into your car.

      I will add that for $190.00 they are only replacing the belt and tensioner and I would strongly suggest the idlers as well, as well as the water pump. We have a bout one car a month towed in from the freeway that has had a timing belt idler fail 25,000 to 50,000 miles after a timing belt was done and caused some very serious damage. Use the search feature of our website and you will be bound to find some good strong information as to why you want to make the most complete reapir you can.

      Justin

  29. Ben says:

    HI justin, your information is very helpful. i have a question. i have a 99 rs impreza manual with 80k, i recently got a quote for $399 from the subie dealer to get a timing belt change. they said that they will change my belt and inspect all my timing components. i am afraid that they will recommend unnecessary parts. what do you recommend what i should ask or do if they ask to replace this and that. any advice is deeply appreciated. thank you

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Ben,

      $399.00 is the piece of Rubber and Labor. If any of the timing components fail later you will have defeated the reason for replacing the belt in the first place. At our shop we try to be just the opposite of the Dealer and thats HONEST. You should really approach this service as completely as you can, I know it costs more money that way and every one is on a budget but I would implore you to make a good complete service and clip coupons or the like for other items that are of less significance to make up for the increased expense.

      We see at least once a month complete finical devastation brought on by an incomplete Timing belt service only to have a tensioner or idler fail later. If they aren’t done now than when? Search for idler on our website and you will see a few posts.

      The problem with waiting to replace those other times is when traveling at 70 mph on the freeway when the idler seizes doesn’t give for any opportunity to get it done before something serious happens as its already happened. From the drivers seat its do difficult to audibly pick up an idler that is making some noise.

      We are talking about bolt on parts that can be done for parts only prices while replacing the timing belt. I would insist that they be inspected and done as needed going into the timing belt job, and if the Dealer states they are ok and chooses to omit them, ask them for a life time warranty. The truth is that the Tech at the Dealer doesn’t want to bother waiting for you to agree to replace more parts that the tech wont get paid any extra to install, no one will help you if 2 years later one of the non replaced timing components fails and damages the engine. It happens, we see it and we dont like it!

      I hope this helps

      Justin

  30. Uncle Buck says:

    Thanks for publishing such an abundantly informative article!

    If you don’t mind answering, I have a few concerns related to my situation…

    My ’03 WRX is approaching 69k miles and is now 103 months old, with only exhaust and intake mods. (no engine or ecu tweaking) I’m now starting to plan for a timing component service/replacement. I believe the recommended interval is 105 months/105k miles. Which is more critical? Although my WRX is at the right age, I’ve still got 36k miles before the recommended “milage” service interval. I average 670 miles per month/8k miles per year. Would another year’s worth of driving be a reasonable expectation concerning the life of the timing belt?

    A factor to note: I live in south Florida. Along with the high humidity, the air temps average in the high 80s most of the year, with mid 70s & 60s during the winter months. Does this type of climate affect the lifespan of belts? My power steering/alternator belt shredded about 3 months ago, with about 67k miles on it. Is that a warning sign that the timing belt may have a shorter lifespan down here in this hot, humid climate?

    Thanks for your time! –>Buck

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hey Uncle Buck,

      The original acc belts from the factory are actually going to be on there way out at 60k regardless of where you live.

      You are correct in thinking about things in terms of age, we did recently have a 2002 Outback in with 59k but a failed timing belt. I also want to point out that one of the reasons or thoughts behind replacing the belt is that it does stretch and this will affect power and economy as well as tail pipe emissions. You could remove one of the outer timing covers and inspect the belt, but I do worry about the timing belt tensioner failing due to age just as much as the belt failing.

      Climate does in fact affect the life of Rubber but in Florida( where I vacation yearly) it is more of a benefit VS say Alaska where its very cold and the rubber contracts greatly and then heats up due to friction.

      I hope that helps and I wish I was in South Florida right now, its cold and rainy here today.

      Justin

  31. jimmy says:

    hello, so my idler went out today, my 99 impreza started making a grinding noise out of nowhere, pulled over and i couldnt figure it out. Had to the car towed home and pulled off the pulley cover to find the pulley bearing had shredded. Small balls and what i believe to be the inner or outer race in pieces. Will my valves be toast? Am I looking at a $2000 valve job? God, I hope not.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Jimmy,

      If the timing belt jumped or came off as a result of the failed idler then there is a high probability that the valves have become bent.

      The only way to know is to repair the timing components and see how it runs, or rotate the camshafts until each cylinder( test one at a time) is on overlap, then do a leak down test.

      Justin

  32. Dan says:

    Justin,
    Great info here! I took my 2006 Outback wagon with the 2.5L (not turbo) to a local independent shop for the timing belt replacement. I didn’t know about replacing all the idler’s. He did replace one of them though. A couple of weeks later the bolt on that holds the tensioner in place broke on the interstate hwy. Still waiting to hear if I have valve damage or not. Have you ever heard of this bolt breaking? Is this a coincidence or is he not telling me something? Do you think I have bent valves?
    Wishing you were in SW Michigan!
    Dan

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Dan,

      The bolt will typically break if its cross threaded in as it is weakened. I don’t know if that’s the case without looking at it however.

      On a 2006 it most likely bent the valves I am afraid.

      Sorry I cant offer more but I do hope that helps

      Justin

  33. Adam Davis says:

    I have a 2000 outback with 178,000. I’m sure that the timing belt was changed once before I purchased the vehicle as it had 145,000 milles at the time. I am about to take a trip from WV to Houston, TX. Would you recommend having the timing belt and all other associated parts changed before the trip? I have taken great care of the vehicle since I bought it and it had great service records prior to my purchase. Just wondering if you think it would hold up for the trip.
    Thank You

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Adam,

      Unless you have a service record indicating the Timing belt has been replaced then its a gamble you are taking in assuming it has been done.

      I would advocate to be proactive and have the belt and timing components done as the alternative is very expensive. You may be able to find someone that can have a look at the belt for a small fee, but there is no date stamp on the belt so it would still be a guess, I would also like to point out that the belt stretches and can cause performance and fuel economy issues and that’s another good reason to replace the belt, its not just for fear of breaking.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

    • RussT says:

      When I had a timing belt replaced on a Nissan the dealership put a permanent sticker on the fan shroud. It says “Timing Belt replaced 106,000″
      Saves what could be some expensive guess work for me or perhaps the next owner.

      Justin; Judging from your extensive knowledge on timing belt issues, I would guess that you use a similar method? Its a small detail, but could save a person a lot of money.

      • Justin Stobb says:

        Hello Russ,

        Yes most definitely! We put a sticker on the timing cover with the date and mileage, as well as pushing the replacement information to Car fax so it shows up on the report as well.

        Thanks

        Justin

  34. stan says:

    im doing this job now, allways replace all compnets,that the timing belt runs on. this is a 100000 mile repair, replace hoeses, drive belts, if cust. will let you put low friction engine oil in engine. HIGH QUALITY PARTS

  35. stan says:

    another point rubber products have about 5 year service life, there are a few exceptions, heat , sun light, oils and differant fliuds

  36. nancy says:

    I have my 2002 subaru forester in the shop right now and they are quoting me $730 for timing belt, pulley, and tensioner replacement. is this reasonable?

  37. scott says:

    Wow. Good post. I own an Outback and the very problem you described in your blog/video just happened. At about 200K the belt jumped 3-4 teeth because an idler seized up. Luckily, no valves were bent but it still cost me almost $850. Thanks again for your post and I feel for those who have no idea whats happening under their hood. It’s a costly lesson sometimes!

    When replacing the timing belt, a lot of other things should be replaced as well!

  38. Dan says:

    Justin,
    You were correct, there is valve damage. Serious expense because of a broken bolt. I have had three different mechanics tell me the bolt broke because it was over torqued. I looked at the extracted part of the bolt and I saw no evidence of cross threading. I have moved the car to another mechanic. One who has his torque wrench calibrated every 8 weeks. We are replacing all idler pullys, the tensioner, the belt and the bolts. Everyone who reads this, please listen to Justin, replacing the heads is about $1000 (if you can find them) and the labor is another $1100. It is always best to do this job right the first time. I have been without a car for over 3 weeks now and I drive 40 minutes to work one way, what a pain.
    Dan

  39. Paul says:

    I live in Southeast Alaska and have a 99 Forester with 105,000 miles. The car is as noisy as a diesel when cold but quiets to almost normal when warmed up. I assume it has had piston slap for at least 20,000 miles. I figure I could wait for something to fail before I take any action. Does this make sense? What would be your recommended repair? Short block?

    Thanks for a great site.

    Paul

    • Justin Stobb says:

      I don’t generally suggest correcting piston slap unless its there after the car warms up and never goes away. We install Reman Subaru and New Subaru Short blocks that have piston slap as well, its hard to know how severe yours is to speak as to how to advise you going forward. . Generally speaking piston slap poses no detriment to the engines longevity. We rebuild our selves in house as well and have good luck with Top line pistons being quiet.

      Justin

      • Paul says:

        Justin,
        Thank you for your considered and helpful reply. It looks like I should be planning on the timing belt replacement then if the piston slap isn’t more likely to damage the engine first. Perhaps a trip on the ferry to Seattle is in order!
        Paul

  40. Jason says:

    Justin,
    I’m replacing head gaskets on my forester. I pulled the TB tensioner off to compress the piston and noticed the threads came out with it. Do you know what size heli-coil kit I need to repair it?

  41. Dan says:

    Justin,
    I’m the guy with the broken TB Tensioner bolt. The second mechanic pulled the heads without removing the motor. They rebuilt the heads and reinstalled them. Now I’m getting a Check Engine light with a P0420. They replaced the mass air flow sensor and both O2 senors and still have the P0420 code. To make matters worse, I’m driving it the other day and “cap” that fits over the coolant supply to the turbo ruptured (my engine is not turbo). I sure hope I got stopped in time to prevent serious engine damage. The engine is an EJ25 in a 2006 Outback.

    Question 1: Have you ever seen this rubber cap rupture?

    Question 2: Is it possible that they damaged this rubber cap while Removing and replacing the heads?

    Question 3: Any thoughts on this work and how it might have contributed to the P0420 code?
    Thanks
    Dan

  42. wade says:

    thanks for the video and great info….ime about to do the belts at 104k…..and i want to do it correctly for a 2002 outback impes wagon…what kit …with double bearings should i get …thanks and you are doing a great job at explaning this procedure

  43. peter says:

    I recently had a head gasket repair 2 months ago, and now I have problems apparently with my oxygen sensors, and my car stutters to start and then squeals relentlessly while warming up, or turning…is the squeal and a hard start a sign of timing belt issues?

    I own a 96 outback with 170,000 miles on it. Before I take my car to another mechanic I woul dlike to have some idea of what is going on thanks.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Peter,

      I cant say from here why it runs poorly or Stutters to start? For the squeal I would venture to guess that the Accessory drive belts that run the Alternator and power steering pump as well as the Ac compressor have stretched and need to be adjusted.

      A failed front Oxygen sensor would not cause a starting issue and the rear monitors Catalyst function and post catalyst fuel trim when the vehicle is at operating temperature. It would cause poor fuel economy , affect the overall drivability and set a check engine light in some cases.

      Hope that Helps,

      Justin
      Your Independent Subaru Expert

  44. Anji says:

    I have a 99 Leg Outback wagon with 124K miles on it. I had the timing belt replaced just under 2 years ago at 112K while I was living in New England. Now I live in the south and when I took my car in for an oil change and inspection, the mechanics told me that the rear timing cover was missing and recommended that I have my timing belt replaced. Since I replaced the timing belt ~12k miles and less than 2 years ago, it’s hard to stomach spending all that money again so soon and even if I just want to replace the rear cover, the labor costs to do that make it not much cheaper than getting the belt, etc. replaced again.

    As for missing the rear cover, do you think the prior mechanic forgot to put it back on? I called him and he said it is hard NOT to put rear covers on because the front and rear covers are screwed together. It is unclear in talking to my current mechanic whether the entire rear cover is missing or if a significant piece of it has broken off. If it broke off, does this imply that something has gone afoul with the belt that was replaced? I’m pretty sure I had the water pump replaced with the belt, but I do not recall if the idlers, etc. were also replaced as you recommend.

    Any professional thoughts on this would be appreciated.

    Thanks, A

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Anji,

      The outer Timing cover bolts to the inner so its not possible that its missing, maybe its partially broken but if the inner is gone so is the outer cover. You also have 2 inner timing covers one on the left one on the right.

      If you are going to have someone go back in and take care of what ever is wrong with the timing cover issue I would suggest taking care of the timing components while its back apart this would include the tensioner, and idlers.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  45. Barry says:

    Thank you for an informative site.

    I have 2003 Forrester XS at 87k and will be going in next week for timing belt replacement. I am the original owner in Southern California and have done all the recommended maintenance. The dealer repaired the head gasket under the Extended Warranty, but did not do or recommend the timing belt as the mileage was around 60k. The dealer recommends doing the water pump at the same time. They will check all the idler pulleys, tensioner, etc and recommend replacement if necessary. I Assume all those parts will be necessary. Their initial estimate is about $700.

    My local Subaru mechanic says the water pumps usually do not require replacement, but he will check the bearings and use his experience to determine whether or not it should be replaced. He mentioned that he has no problem replacing it if I want it done to be safe, but he doesn’t see problems with water pumps until the 2nd timing belt replacement down the road.

    What would be your recommendation?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Barry,

      The new Timing belt will put more load on a aged Water pump bearing. The water pump is also not a lifetime component typically.

      When I do this to my own Cars I always replace the water pump as I don’t want to have to go back in.

      But having said that its really up to your comfort level as I know it starts to add up.

      Justin

    • Jon says:

      I also received the same advice from the local Subaru dealer mechanic regarding the replacement of the water pump when my 02 WRX went in to have the timing, A/C & v belts changed @ 82k. They contacted me later in the day to inform me of fluid leaking from the belt tensioner and needed to be replaced – Total $500.

      The mechanic reassured me it was not necessary to do the water pump and made no mention of the idlers… wish i’ done my research and found this site.

      Would you recommend getting the idlers & w/pump changed at the 105k service?

      • Justin Stobb says:

        Hi Jon,

        Thats a tough one and really up to you, we do see the idlers fail quickly sometimes giving the driver no early warning signs to act upon. The problem with leaving these components to chance is it can be very expensive as a valve job can cost as much as $3000.00 VS the cost of 4 idlers and maybe a water pump.

        We always give our customers the option of all or none and let them decide how to spend their money!

        For every car that has gone 300k with out ever doing a single idler there is at least one that cost the driver Thousands that could have been avoided. The timing belt is generally done to avoid expensive repairs, but the rest of the components go untouched by many who just don’t understand that its not like a wheel bearing, it wont make noise you can hear for a while before failing and also unlike a wheel bearing a failed timing belt idler will lead to very substantial repairs to affected components.

        I just replaced the timing belt on our 2005 Outback XT, and had to shell out the money for the idlers, tensioner, water pump, acc belts, radiator hoses, union screw all above just replacing the timing belt as the last thing I want to worry about is being stranded or worse my wife. Now while its true my cost is less than most it still does cost more to do it all, but is done in my opinion for the same reason you pay for insurance every month.

        Justin

  46. Bjørnar Jenson says:

    Hello, I have a 98 Forester 2,0 turbo with a tapping noise, like a valve tappet noise, but it sound much louder. It becomes more quiet when the engine block becomes real warm. I think the sound comes from the center of the engine, it is difficult to hear if it is from the front. The engine has 202000km on the clock. Can this be the timing belt tensioner not being doing its job and therefor tapping on the block?

    Bjørnar
    Flisa, Norway

    • Justin Stobb says:

      The tensioner will typically make a light knocking noise.

      It is difficult for me to help with a noise I just can’t hear. Even if it’s the tensioner it should not be driven until the noise is diagnosed.

      Sorry I can’t offer more

      Justin

  47. Dave says:

    Hi Justin – my tensioner and 2 idler pulleys just went and took my engine with them. I want to put on some used parts just to see which heads are bad (1 or both) with a compression test. My question is how do I set the timing up now that it is out of whack? I don’t want to turn the crank or cams indiscriminately for fear of doing even more damage.
    Thanks

  48. July says:

    Hi there,

    About a month ago my mechanic noted that the timing belt on my 2002 outback (145k miles) needed to be replaced. I just picked the car up from that service and I’m wondering, after reading this post and comments, if I should be looking for a new mechanic. The labor description says, “removed and replaced timing belt, might need to replace the timing belt tensioner and idler pulley”. Sounds like that didn’t happen. Labor was 360, timing belt kit was 498. Also, my engine now makes a high pitched whining noise! I gather this could be due to an over-tensioned timing belt, or just because it is new, but either way it’s discouraging to get the car back and have it sounding funny, and even worse to hear that I’m likely looking at MORE expense to have the idler pulley and belt tensioner replaced when it should have been done with the belt. I’ve spent $2500 in repairs on this car already this year!

    So, should I look for a new mechanic? And if so, any tips for finding a good one? Unfortunately I’m on the other side of the US from you.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Its better to not let the noise unaddressed, so yes if its an idler it should be done, sometimes the tension of a new belt and tensioner can expose an old idler which is why we always suggest them at.

      Im sorry that it has gone the way it has for you, I dont understand the short sighted aspects of some shops. I can only to say that its a competitive business, shops need your business and sometimes dont want to scare you with the truth.

      Justin

  49. Judith says:

    Hi,
    Great information on your site, i have a Subaru forester 2011 that for some reason had to have timing belt changed… Mechanic tells me after repair the sprocket camshaft exhaust broke again and he is looking into why… Could you give me an idea of why that would happen… what could they have done wrong that would cause this to happen…
    Judith

  50. Eric says:

    7 months ago I purchased a 2003 Subaru Baja with 63,000 miles. I currently have 67,000 miles. My mechanic recommended that I do the complete timing belt replacement which includes all the other parts you recommend including the water pump because I am past the 105 month limit. My question is should the kit be purchased from a Subaru dealer or would the parts supplier they us which is NAPA also be acceptable? Any recommendations?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      We sell a timing belt kit comprised of the same parts we use here at the shop, either OE Subaru or parts made by the supplier to Subaru is all you should ever use. This offers a cost savings over the Subaru Dealership without sacrificing parts quality.

      Napa supplies nothing to Subaru, and the country of origin will be either China or Mexico, if you are aware of how unregulated the Chinese imports are you really want to reconsider the. If you search long enough on the site you will find plenty of posts where I high light the made in China issue.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

      • Eric says:

        Justin,

        I’m getting ready to have this done. Since owning my Baja I’ve only put on just under 7,000 miles in the past year. That is normal for me. Since my Baja currently only has just under 70,000 miles would it make sense as long as once the mechanic gets into the job and the other components check out to replace only the belt and water pump? I know you recommend replacing everything but to also do that with parts from the dealer it greatly increases the cost of the job. Even if I drive the car another 10 years it will only have 140K on the engine. Also it seems to me that even if you replace a part with OEM and a good mechanic there is always a chance for something to go wrong so sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone. My mechanic priced the job using both parts from Subaru and the Contitech Kit and the cost difference was quite a bit. Your thoughts and advice as always is greatly appreciated.
        ~Eric

  51. Debbie says:

    I have 103K on my 05 Outback, and am planning to replace the timing belt. Two independent shops (one being AAA), both included the cost to replace the water pump. The dealer’s quote did not. When I asked, they told me that Subaru water pumps are bullet-proof, and in 11 years they have only replaced 2. My common sense tells me to go ahead & replace the water pump, while the belt is being done. Or, does the service guy at the dealer have a valid point! I’m concerned if I don’t have this done at the dealer, the independent shop will not know exactly what is needed on a Subaru.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Debbie,

      I cant really speak to the exact situation, but will offer this. The single biggest misconception in the Auto repair industry is that the Dealer techs know more than the good independents, as its actually just the opposite.

      Here are the reasons the Dealers tend to skip the Water pump.

      1. The Tech doesn’t want to tie up a bay to wait for authorization for an “up sell”
      2. The Service Advisor doesn’t want to blow you a way with a high price right off the bat and prevent you from coming in to see them.
      3. There is more money in replacing the water pump a couple of years later if it leaks.
      4. Most Dealers don’t see the cars with higher miles, as such they dont understand what happens at 150k when the water pump develops play from the bearing, grinds into the engine block and then the timing belt breaks.
      5. A very common sales ploy is to tell you they dont replace the water pump to try and influence you into thinking the independent shop is somehow wrong.

      I have seen enough water pumps leak, and bearings fail to suggest it every time we replace the timing belt and our shop has made it affordable to do so for our customers.

      I think the car will run with the old water pump and the new timing belt, but at some point most likely the water pump will leak or make noise ahead of the next timing belt replacement.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

      • Philip says:

        Hi Justin,

        I was wondering if you may be able to give me some advice. I am from Australia but have found your site to contain some interesting fact. I have a 2000 model Subaru Forester 2.0 litre SOHC(I think)with 225,000kms. Around 12 months ago at 200,000 the Timing belt and all components excluding water pump were changed. As of recent days a noise has been developing that keeps getting louder. It seems to be running ok but the noise is ridiculous and I am seeing metal filings in the engine bay. I have taken it to my mechanic who thinks it is really bad but won’t comment until he looks into it further. I know it would be hard to diagnose without having seen or heard it. My mechanic thinks the tensioner is starting to push out on the timing cover and it is not running on all cylinders but I am not so sure. I just would like to know if they had not replaced the timing belt and pulleys correctly it would lead to this kind of issue. Would I see an engine light if there was internal damage such as bent valves or damaged big end bearings? Any advice you could give me would be of great assistance. I did service it regularly and think it still had plenty of life left in it.

        Regards,
        Philip

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hello Philip,

          The check engine light comes on for emissions related issues not engine ones. what needs to happen is to remove the Accessory drive belts one at a time and see if the noise goes away, if so look at the component for issue such as the alternator, ac compressor or idler pulley. If not then maybe its related to the timing components such as a idler bearing, which would require some tear down to determine if thats the case.

          Im confused if its running ok or not on all cylinders? It cant be both.

          Anything is possible, it will need to be diagnosed to know for sure, I am hoping for you its just a noisy Ac idler pulley (would be inexpensive)

          Justin

          • Philip says:

            Hi Justin,

            Thanks for your prompt response. The mechanic will check it on Monday and I will let you know the outcome. I think it may be the timing belt tensioner but I will know more on Monday. I just hope they will warrant their work. If it was running on three cylinders I am guessing it would be missing and hardly move. It was still driving reasonably well but very noisy. I just am confused as to why there would be filings in the engine bay if it was a timing component. I hope it did not cause engine damage. I guess we pay a professional to ensure the job is done correctly and if they get it wrong or use a defective part any rectification work should be at no cost. Congratulations on a great web site with very useful information that is Subaru related. Thankyou for your response and advice.

            Regards,
            Philip

          • Philip says:

            Hi Justin,

            Thanks for your advice. Congratulations on a fantastic web site regarding Subaru vehicles. I went over and had a look at the car today. The issue seems to be related to the timing belt tensioner. It seems there has been an issue with the thread being pulled from the bracket the tensioner is bolted to. Does this happen often or do you think it would be related to over or under-tightening of the bolt? I guess I would just like to know if you think it is due to bad workmanship or just bad luck. It has only done 25,000km since the full kit was changed but now I have to do it again. This time I will also do the water pump to save me from possible future problems. I am not sure how common this bracket issue is but if it did happen frequently you would think the bracket should be changed as part of the service. The mechnanic is getting the bracket refabricated. He will then do a compression test to see if there is internal damage. I hope there is no internal damage but I am not sure whether that would be the case or not. If the heads are damaged would it be worth reconditioning the existing ones or replacing them with different heads to increase power? I only have a 2.0 litre N/A motor so any more power would be useful. Since I could be looking at spending some big dollars to repair this I just want to make sure I make any modifications that would make sense as part of this exercise. Once again thanks so much for all of your advice.

            Regards,
            Philip

          • Justin Stobb says:

            Hi Phillip,

            The tensioner bracket should just be replaced rather than re threaded.

            I cant say from here if it was installation error or just weak threads, we have seen this a few times.

            As far as more power, I am not sure what could be done with just cylinder heads to the 2.0 NA to gain more power.

            I would just keep it simple, fingers crossed there is no damage.

            Justin

  52. Lucas says:

    Hi Justin

    I am thinking about buying a 2003 Subaru Forester 2.5x, from a dealer in California. Because It has 173,000 miles on the clock and I’m originally from Sydney (Australia) I have no idea at what miles the next timing belt should be changed.

    Is there a recommended time, as in every certain miles they should be change?

    Thanks for your time on this matter.

    Great site,
    Lucas

  53. Philip says:

    Hi Justin,

    It looks like I dodged a bullet and avoided any engine damage. I am still struggling to understand why the threads on the bracket would give if it was not overtightened. I would think if the bolt had only been removed for two timing belt changes the thread should have been strong enough. The mechanic is saying it is a common problem but if that was the case he should have suggested changing it at the time. The bolt would be stronger than the thread on the bracket. How would it be possible to inspect if a bolt has been overtightened? I did speak to a Subaru dealership mechanic here who reckons he sees this issue regularly but believes each time he can attribute it to fault of the mechanic. It would be a very precise torque setting to get the bolt tightened correctly and I am guessing there is very little room for error with this procedure.

    Regards,
    Philip

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Phillip,

      Its possible that it was over tightened, cross threaded, or installed not tight enough. The threads on either the bolt or the insert could have been stretched as well.

      But I have actually seen the threads give out from the force from the belt and the constant load put upon it.

      We actually try to replace the tensioner bracket as often ads possible to the bracket being updated for a knocking noise.

      I guess I am telling you it could be there fault or it may not be. If we had done it we would participate but not necessarily foot the entire bill, I hope that’s how you are being treated as well.

      Justin

  54. Philip says:

    Hi Justin,
    I thought I would give you an update. I have had to foot the entire bill. I am chasing the mechanic for a full refund. I spoke to another mechanic who has inspected it and believes it was cross threaded. The bolt used was brand new so it would have had no issue with the thread. He believes they may have tightened the bolt at an angle rather than flush. He was saying about replacing the components in a specific order and putting the tensioner on last which may have made it difficult to tighten it flush. He said the tensioner needs to be put on first. I am not sure if this is the case. I have requested a report from this mechanic and will put in a claim against the mechanic to see if I get a refund.
    Regards,
    Philip

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Phillip,

      I am confused, did you not take it back to the shop that did it in the first place and did they not agree it was to be covered? Or at least participate?

      Sorry to hear there was a change.

      Justin

  55. Jose says:

    Im about to replace my idlers in the morning. (had to stop for today to buy a torque wrench that torqued enough) Your explanation pretty much cleared it up but I want to make sure before I put the belt on and finish. The lower idler came with a single bearing just like you said. But my aftermarket kit has 2 identical double bearing idlers. Now my concern is, will the new double bearing idler go on just fine with the original sized bolt or do I need a new bolt for it? Now that I say that im going to compare the bolts of the upper and lower idler to see if they differ based being double bearing or single. Any help is appreciated. And thanks for taking the time to make this writeup.

  56. [...] down its the smooth silver looking pulley the belt runs on bottom right center part of engine.. Seattle Subaru Timing Belt Done Right. – Seattle Subaru Repair __________________ 2009 Forester X Premium 4EAT Respect The [...]

  57. Kirk says:

    Justin,

    This thread is incredible. I’m facing a timing belt repair discovered by my current shop. My shop does this whole car check up each time in comes in so the owner knows everything that should/could be fixed. I find this helpful, but I know how this reads — the mechanic is trying to upsell me. Anyway, I have 95K on my Subaru Outback (2005) 2.5L. Mechanic recommended timing belt repair. Mechanic also noticed oil leakage from head gaskets (I’m still trying to understand head gaskets — more YouTube-ing in store). He recommended that I preventatively repair the head gaskets as the same time as the required timing belt repair because the engine is out and he can work on it more easily. His argument is that I could be back in a year after timing belt repair and I would have to pay all that labor again. What do you think about this? Smart to do head gasket repair at the same time as timing belt repair. Apparently there is oil leaking in a couple areas. Not sure if I’m using proper terminology. Thanks for your time!

    -Kirk

  58. Hans Dietrich says:

    Hi Guys, great web site, excellent info.. Just came back from dealer after getting my oil changed. Have a 2000 Outback Wagon with 69500 miles. The dealer suggested I get the timing belt changed. Have read that the recommended interval is 105000 miles. Would the “age” of the vehicle make any difference? It seems I have a long way to go before it should be done. thanks

  59. Muncill says:

    Hi Justin, I took my 2012 Subaru Outback 2.51 car into the dealer today and found out the knocking/rattling noise I’ve been hearing since my car hit 6,000 miles (has 9,350 now) is from the idler tensioner and there is a service bulletin about this issue. The knocking/rattle only occurred and/or was only audible when I was running the air conditioning.

    I’m glad they have a fix for it, but I was told today that the knocking/ rattle noise would still be there. The fix only reduces the noise so it isn’t so loud. They replaced the idler tensioner, bracket and will be lowering the front engine mount so the noise isn’t so loud.

    My concern is that if the noise will still be there, doesn’t that mean the part is still not working properly and the problem is still there. I’ve smelled coolant three times this past week, so I’m really concerned they are just putting a band aid on it and will have bigger problems down the road.

    Im thinking about seeking protection under the Lemon law or am I being to worried? I really love this car and it only has 9,350 miles on it. Not sure what to do.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      I know the TSB, I haven’t had anyone state the noise was still there however.

      As far as the lemon law, I am not familiar with your States laws, but in Washington State (where I reside), you are a long way from being declared a lemon and the Subaru bought back. Next the lemon laws are not any real help, you will get market value at best, and be out every penny you have spent buying it up to this point its not a good thing for any consumer to do its smoke and mirrors in many many cases. I have been involved as a Customer, an Advisor and an expert witness in court, I have yet to see one that granted a happy customer when the facts about the buy back come to surface.

      Justin

      • Muncill says:

        The advisor told me today that the noise would still be there. The fix would only keep the noise from being loud. I thought that was odd, if they fixed the problem. I am hoping to talk to the mechanic tomorrow.

        Is it possible my car will be okay? This is my first Subaru. I was hoping this would fix it and I wouldn’t have to worry about it. I am hoping to pick up my car tomorrow and will let you know what they say.

        Thank you so much for responding and for such a quick response!!

        Is there a link on the web where I can see the TSB?

        Michelle

  60. brooke pfister says:

    Hi – looking for a good Subaru mechanic in the milwaukee WI area – any suggestions.

  61. Rudi Schmidt says:

    Just had a timing belt/water pump, new crank and cam seals AND camshaft holder assembly resealed–the last item seems very unusual??? 2006 Outback has 98,000 miles, one owner, synthetic quality oil changes, driven with care….what’s up?
    Total cost was over $2,200, wow!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Cam holder?

      Do they mean Camshaft case? That would be really odd. I would ask for clarification of what, why etc.

      Where was the repair made, did you see any of the old parts if not why? If you don’t understand what you are paying for ask them for clarification. There isn’t much I can tell you without seeing the parts, or the car prior to the repairs.

      Justin

  62. Steve H says:

    Hi Justin,the 2nd gen idler wheel has a lip on the inner edge,the double bearing upgrade idler hasn’t,does this matter?
    Regards,Steve

  63. Bill says:

    Justin,

    What a great website! I just purchased my latest Subaru as a “spare” car for our family ski/vacation/and parents use while in town to visit. It’a a really clean, one owner 2003 Forester 2.5L, 143K vehicle. Through Carfax, a one owner vehicle with correct mileage. Purchased through 3rd party – there were no maintenance records available with the car. I don’t see any paint pen markings to indicate work done under the hood. I’ll check with Subaru Dealer service to see if they have any records this week. If not, would a visual inspection do me any good, or just bite the bullet and get the proper work done to verify date of service on the timing belt & associated items. Thanks, Bill.

  64. Chris Dante says:

    Thanks for the interesting post. I drive a 1999 Legacy Brighton with about 138,000 miles on the clock. The timing belt was replaced in 2008 at 89,000 miles by the previous owner. (Price at that time was $450.)

    A shop here in Anchorage, AK just showed me a leak on the left cam seal and suggests to replace the gasket and/or the timing belt. Quote for the seal is $475, with timing belt $1300.

    I thought that’s a little pricy, so I called other dealers and hear the same. So I looked around on the internet and see people mentioning prices around $500-600 including other parts as well.

    Did the prices go up that much or is someone trying to rip me off? I will be driving up North into the “Middle of Nowhere” which scares me a bit, although I heard people saying it’s ok if you keep an eye on your oil level. Watching Justin’s video though makes me wonder if that’s true.

    Thanks for all your comments and suggestions.

    Chris

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Chris,

      Without seeing your Quote and whats all included I just cant tell you if its fair, you really dont want to put any salt at all into prices people tell you they paid while remaining anonymous on the internet. I have just found people on many forums to be full of it I guess, which is really unfortunate for the ones who are honest.

      Base Timing belt belt and labor should be around $400.00 but if one adds in the tensioner, all three idlers, water pump (with thermostat), cam seals, oil pump reseal, acc belts, coolant, oil change etc I can see it approaching $1300.00.

      I dont know if this helps, as I just done have what they are quoting as compared to whta you had done in 2008 to tell you whats different. Subaru raises prices on parts 5 to 10% every year on average.

      Justin

  65. Jsoz says:

    Hi Justin,

    We recently brought our 97 outback in to our local mechanic after overheating. The diagnosis is a failed Head Gasket. The car is currently at 134k. We changed the timing belt, tensioners, and water pump at 105K. In your opinion do you think it pays to go ahead and replace the timing belt again or is not necessary this soon?

    Thanks!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Jsoz,

      Should be ok, especially on the 97 with the Stick tensioner. As long as good components were used 30k ago Id just reuse them and know they are do in a little over 60k from now.

      Justin

  66. lauren says:

    hi! i have an 08 impreza 2.5i at 76k miles and it just recently started making a whining noise which sounds like its coming from the belts. im a little apprehensive to take it in because i dont have to be sold some bs about needing things replaced. the car runs fine its just making an odd noise. :/ opinion?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Its tough to answer from here but the worry I would have is that the drive belts can make noise for days , weeks or months before failing and leaving you stranded, but the end result if not addressed is always the same.

      To avoid being sold some BS. The drive belts are typically suggested at around the 60k service so at 76k they were do a while ago.

      I can only assume you hate car service and have not yet found a good shop you frequent? It doesn’t have to hurt!

      Justin

      • lauren says:

        we actually just moved to pittsburgh from Los Angeles and i had a great mechanic out there that i trusted with everything so as of right now we take the car to a commercial monroe muffler n then seem okay as of now

        if it is the drive belt how much should that cost?
        see the last time we got the oil changed we got a full inspection and they never mentioned anything about the belts but we got our rear light that went out fixed it was two lights
        with an oil change and getting that done they charged us like 95$

        i dont know, im jus so nervous about getting charged up for silly things but i want to take care of the car the best we can as well ahah

  67. Steven M says:

    Gentlemen,

    I miss you guys — I moved out of state and trying to find good service is hard — so I’ve started just doing the work myself. I’ve upgraded my 94 Legacy Wagon to a 2007 Forester with nearly 170k on the clock. I had a quick check done by a mechanic on it and they said the timing belt had been done. What I am unsure of is if the water pump/thermostat/radiator hoses/idlers have been done.

    I’m taking the car to Korea and want to head off as much maintenance as possible. I’ve looked at the gates belt kits and they look pretty good — but should I go Aisin or OEM for the water pump itself? I’m going OEM for the thermostat and gaskets. Long Life Coolant — but should I go with the conditioner or without? What other parts should I look at replacing? The mechanic said there was a seep at the oil pan — so I’m guessing either the pan gasket or dipstick gasket — any pointers there? I’m going to have the car on a lift at the auto skills center and can hire help at $40/hour if needed — but I’d like to get everything done before I ship the car to Korea.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Steven,

      Sounds like things are going well, wow North Korea.

      Please do not use the Gates kit they will have the improper Timing belt idlers that could let you down. You want to use a Subaru or OEM waterpump and nothing but the Subaru T-stat. I would steer away form the Subaru Stop leak.

      The silicon sealer at the pan will degrade with time.

      By the way we can supply what ever parts you need and can always ship North Korea if need be.

      Justin

  68. Don says:

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you very much for this siite. It’s full of very helpful information and advice to us Subaru owners. Your philosophy towards customer service is outstanding. I wish there were someone like you here in Australia that would provide such honest, open and knowledgable advice.

    My question is, I am due for my timing belt service in next month, and I will be insisting the dealership replace the water pump, idler tensioner and pulleys. What about cam and crank gears? Should they be replaced too or would just replacing the seals be sufficient? Is there anything else that should be replaced as well?

    Once again Thank you for all your help.

    Don

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Don,

      When you replace the water pump be sure to replace the thermostat, also the dealer will sell the water pump and thermostat gaskets separate and could forget to mention that and you may not realize it until its apart, which makes going back to the parts department difficult if that’s your only ride. I would also add the accessory drive belts.

      Look to your other post for the replay to the rest, thanks for the kind words and I hope the service goes smoothly!

      -Justin

  69. Don says:

    Hi,
    When replacing the timing belt, I understand you recommend replacing the water pump and idlers. Would you recommend replacing the cam and crank gears as well or would replacing the seals be enough?

    Thanks

    Don

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Don,

      The gears would not need to be replaced as they are not a wear type component. The cam and cranks seals can be considered but depending on what year they are most likely Viton over rubber and not prone to leaks. If they are black in color they are not or are aftermarket and should be done, if they are a reddish brown in color, you can opt to do them as preventative for your piece of mind but may go 300k with no issues.

      Justin

  70. Shirley says:

    Justin, is there anything wrong with the gates kit? The shop I’m taking it to might use the gates for my impreza wrx 2003. Also, is the idler cp belt the same as an accessory drive belt you speak of? I would appreciate any answer you give me.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      We wouldn’t use that kit at the shop, you are better of with components made in Japan rather than Mexico and China.

      Your parts warranty will be one year from most parts company, who has done the research to show that kit is proven to last the 105k its supposed to?

      We use the same parts that came on the car originally, and sell the same on our website.

      Justin

  71. Joe says:

    Trying to do a timing belt myself, I’ve done motors in the past, just thought I’d try this too.
    After making sure all the marks were where they are suppose to be, release the tenisoner and everything looks great!

    I now notice the tining marks don’t line up, what happened? Is it a one time thing? Crazy Turns ok, nothing seems to bind, compression can be felt?

    Just hope this works ok.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Joe,

      Do you mean the marks on the cams and crank don’t line up with the reference marks on the engine, or the marks on the belt don’t line up after rotating the motor over? If its the later they wont.

      Justin

  72. Gino says:

    Justin, I’m a 2007 Forester X owner (130,000 miles), I’ve never had the Timing belt done, my big mistake! My drive is 95% highway and 90 miles a day total. After arriving home lately there has been white smoke coming thru the gaps of my hood lately, yesterday I just lost considerable power and had to pull over. I checked the oil dipstick and it was dry and the vehicle motor was rocking side to side gasping to continue running. After adding a bit of oil I managed to drive it to a Subaru dealer and they told me zero compression in cylinder 1 & 4. In your opinion did the timing belt or related components fail and are they the cause of zero compression in these cylinders currently. What is my next step valve job, rebuild the motor or say sayonara to my good friend.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Gino,

      No idea without seeing it for my self in terms of what happened. Did the Dealer tell you it jumped time?

      Sounds like you drove the vehicle into the ground and continued to ignore symptoms like smoking from under the hood. That was a bigger issue than pushing the Timing belt out too far, which wasn’t good either.

      The low oil level probably damaged the engine, and if the timing belt had failed you most likely would have not been able to drive it.

      What to do from here?

      Obtain an estimate for repairs, fix it or drop $25k on something else. The car has lots of life left but there is going to be a large expense to get it back on the road, if you have the cash in the bank you will be far better off financially repairing what you already own, but if you do not have the money and need to borrow it may be difficult to do that, those are the things that need to be considered and only you know where you stand financially.

      What ever you do in the future, please take better care of this or the next car, its tough on the bank account when you don’t.

      Forming a habit of checking the oil & taking it in for service is the only way to avoid costly breakdowns.

      -Justin

  73. Pete says:

    Hi Justin, excellent site. Do you know when Subaru began using the newer reddish-brown camshaft oil seals? I have a 2002 Outback.

    Thanks for your time.

    Pete

  74. Pete says:

    Hi Justin,

    I’m preparing to replace the timing belt on my 2002 Outback (2.5L engine) and this post is really helpful. I was hoping to clear up two issues:

    - Haynes manual claims that the engine has to be at TDC for cylinder number one but this is a boxer engine and when the crankshaft pulley mark is aligned with the zero on the timing scale – where it should be when you remove and replace the timing belt – isn’t the engine actually at mid-stroke position and if this is true does it mean that a little movement of the cams during the timing belt replacement is okay?
    - My car is a manual transmission. I know there are several ways to loosen the crankshaft pulley bolt – I intend to use a Subaru-specific crankshaft pulley wrench to prevent counterclockwise motion & a ratchet or breaker bar with a 22mm socket – what I’m not clear about is whether to engage a gear or remain in neutral, and if in gear, will setting the emergency brake suffice or should I get someone to press the brake pedal while I loosen the crank bolt?

    Thanks for your time and advice.

    Pete

    • Justin Stobb says:

      The timing belt marks on a Subaru for install do not set up at TDC.

      If you hold the engine still the Gear selection matters not, but it will be easier to deal with in “n”

      -Justin

      • Pete says:

        Justin –

        Thanks for clearing up the TDC question.

        Since it’s a manual transmission, to keep the engine from turning counterclockwise when I loosen the crankshaft pulley bolt, can I put the engine in gear and hold the brake (or better, just apply the parking brake) – rather than have to buy and use the pulley wrench?

        Thanks, again -

  75. Scott G says:

    Hi, I had the timing belt changed at the Subaru dealer and immediately after picking it up noticed a whirring sound. I went back inside and mentioned it and they looked at it and said it couldn’t have been caused by the new timing belt, but, of course, the sound wasn’t there prior to changing the belt. Sigh.. A friend of mind is a diesel mechanic and he said the sound is most likely from the belt being too tight. Have you found that to be the case? This sound was not there before the new timing belt was put on. Thanks very much for your great website!

    -Scott in St. Paul – 1997 Legacy Outback with 320,200 miles

    • Justin Stobb says:

      The 1997 Subaru Outback Timing belt has an automatic hydraulic type tensioner applying the tension to the belt, so id wouldn’t think that to be the case, but a bearing in an old idler that was not replaced sure would cause that noise right before it fails.

      -Justin

      • Scott in St. Paul says:

        Thanks very much, Justin! I’ll check into the possible bearing issue. Jeez, I just took it on a 4000-mile trip to Raleigh, NC and back, I’d better check it out before I’m stuck on the side of the road somewhere. Thanks again!

        -Scott

  76. Neil DeGroot says:

    I have a 2008 Tribeca, 3.6L engine, with 118,000 miles on it. The maintenance says the Camshaft belt should just be inspected, but not replaced, at the 120,000. I dod’t quite understand this…does the inspection justify the replacement? Or can it run forever.

    Thanks for any help!

  77. Kam says:

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge on timing belt. You said stretched timing belt would cause very poor mileage. Is this due to jump teeth? Please elaborate more. I think I might have this situation. The car idles and runs normal in all aspects, but with the exception of poor mileage and noticeable uneven vibration with hesitation during acceleration between 20-40 mph. I hooked up a scanner and many parameters, like short-term fuel trim, long-term fuel trim, spark advance, oxygen sensors and coolant temperature, are seemed to be within their operational ranges. Would poor mileage predominately come from stretched timing belt?

    Thank you for your inputs and have yourself merry Christmas and happy new year.

    Kam

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Kam,

      The primary job of the timing belt is to maintain proper camshaft to crankshaft geometry. As the belt stretches the tensioner must compensate for the stretched belt. Eventually the belt will stretch to the point where the tensioner struggles to do this, especially as the tensioner it self becomes weak or if it leaks out hydraulic fluid. A camshaft that is not properly in time with the crankshaft will create a deficiency, sometimes this can be made up for with changes to injection pulse width and ignition burn logic but this will come at a cost to fuel economy. Any thing that happens that affects the efficiency of the engine poor fuel economy is one of many things that will happen, but may be the only one you notice as the cars computer will try to keep the engine running as smooth as possible.

      Check the poor fuel economy in winter post.

      If that doesn’t seem to fit a stretched t-belt is one of many possibilities.

      -Justin

  78. Richard says:

    Hi Justin,

    I recently did a gates timing belt kit on my 98 Forester with EJ25D engine. My question is on the LH (driver side) exhaust cam gear has two different marks which I can’t seem to line up the double line mark with the intake cam gear double line mark, but both cam gear single line are match with the timing belt marks? Even after all the ilder bearing and tensioner pin released and torque to spec rotated the engine 4-5 times, still the double line won’t match. Which cam gear mark is more important?

    Thank you.

  79. Mark says:

    Justin,
    I bought a used ’05 Legacy GT Turbo with 76,000 miles 11/2013. The car is a riot! But I could smell burned oil inside the car. I took it back to the dealer (authorized Subaru) and he said it was a leaking exhaust line on the turbo. They had it a week and when I got it back, they said it was really tricky to get it right. And to check my (synthetic only!) oil religiously. My oil level is great, but I’m smelling oil again. Is it really that tough to get right?
    Should I trust these guys to do my service work?

    Thanks.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Mark,

      That’s just not possible for me to answer.

      There are no details, such as what exactly was replaced and why, why did it take a week? Was it a part supply issue or was the shop booked a week out?

      You said the exhaust line was leaking do you perhaps mean oil line?

      -Justin

  80. Hi Justin, I have just learned a great deal from your site and comments. Here’s the deal: I’m original owner of 1999 Forrester with 122K miles. Mechanic says muy excellent Forrester needs timing belt change and mentioned Water pump too. Reading your site I see I am on borrowed time & I can’t find anything in my records that timing belt replacement was done in past. About 6 months ago, the 2 drive belts in front squealed and an ex-Audi mechanic friend said they were worn (rubber fatigue) and replaced them for me. Perhaps that was a warning that timing belt might be in orange alert? Do the other belts impact the timing belt system?
    I’ve also noted a burned oil odor after parking the car, but that might not be relevant.

    This is an indy shop where they also look after my 1984 M-Benz turbo-deisel & no problems with minor work like brakes on the Subaru, but I’ve never had him do big work on the Subaru.

    Is this a job to bring to a Subaru dealer? I wish I were in Seattle, but no luck, I’m over here in Silver Spring, Maryland. Should I read him the list of replacements you recommend or ask what else he’ll do in addition to timing belt and water pump?

    Your comments are appreciated!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Louisa,

      When the timing belt is replaced it’s my suggestion to replace the three idlers, the tensioner and the water pump/thermostat. It makes it a complete don’t have to worry about it again for another 105k type of repair.

      If you have no records then yes its on borrowed time. I would look for a good independent to service the Subaru if possible.

      -Justin

  81. Courtney says:

    Hi Justin, We just spent a bunch of money on replacing camshafts, head gaskets, cylinder head bolts, water pump and timing belt tensioner on a 2006 Subaru Outback with 120,000 miles. On a road trip shortly after all this work was done the bolt holding the timing belt tensioner on sheared in half and the belt became lose (almost completely off) and the car was done! On inspection of the New bolt it looked older than the original we took out. We are pretty sure this means new values and thus lots more money and work.

    Have you ever heard of this bolt breaking? Is it possible to be a manufactures default?

    Thank you,

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Courtney,

      Yes unfortunately we just had a tensioner bolt sheer here as well. We are now inspecting every one, but I believe it’s a rust over the sea issue. The bolt was new but challenged looking as well.

      The parts manufacture is only obliged to replace the defective component and nothing else.

      -Justin

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