I see two Subaru recommendations for 1998 vehicles (see link below).
One for California specified vehicles, another for Federal. They differ
as one says change at 60k, the other 105k. Try to check what specifications
apply to your vehicle.
Timing belt replacement recommendations are basically statistically
based, or determined. At 60k, on average, only a very small number
of belts should fail. I would have no problems taking a chance and
extending the change interval by 10%, especially if you have a
engine (the 2,2L supposedly is) as, statistically, there should not be a
increase in failures for this slightly longer interval.
But if the car has seen adverse conditions, hot, humid, or very cold
environments, not been garaged, or has been driven hard, I would change
per specifications. Why risk being stranded, and pay towing costs etc?
Under these conditions, if I were really short on cash I'd maybe stretch
it 5%, not much more.
Now, mind you, this is all coming from a person that has preventatively
replaced his timing chain on a GM V6 engine at 135k miles. It was only
very slightly loose but my schedule required long distance high-speed trips
over remote mountain passes and I dare not being stranded, so I did it.
California specs differ from Federal with respect to emissions controls
as California has stricter emissions laws. Form what I've read this means
a few less ponies as exhaust is more restricted due to more emission
Now how does this relate to the 60k vs 105k timing belt interval I have no
My speculation is they're all good for 105k, but because Californians drive
much much more than the rest of the nation, Subaru gets California drivers
off the hook, while drivers in other states help pad dealer profits by
their belts more often than really needed. This is just a
hypothesis on my part. There may be valid reasons for the difference.
On most Subaru models for the last decade, timing belts can safely be
expected to last around 105K miles. After that, you start to take your
chances. My 1998 Outback Sport (totalled last year in an accident) had
a recommended replacement interval in the owner's manual of 82K miles.
My mechanic (an independent Subaru specialist), my dealer's head
mechanic, and a bunch of Subaru owners all concurred that this was at
least 20K too soon to worry about it, and in fact the next year's model
Double-check with a real expert, but you'll find this is right. :-)
Catherine (Hampton) Jefferson < firstname.lastname@example.org>
The SpamBouncer * <http://www.spambouncer.org/
Very hard to say...
But experience w/ earlier EA-82 belts tells me a Subaru OEM belt will
generally last longer than an aftermarket part. Maybe by a bunch?
W/ the EA-82s, the book recommendation was originally 60k miles. Later,
I saw on the SOA website it had been cut to approx 50k miles. I asked my
dealer parts guy about this, and he told me it was a CYA move as so many
people were breaking belts BEFORE the 60k on these engines.
My anecdotal experience mirrored what he told me: I had a "name brand"
aftermarket belt break at 52k miles, stranding me in 108 deg heat. Not
fun. OTOH, when I've changed out OEM belts, they looked perfect at 60k
I don't know if newer single belt designs use a generally more robust
belt than earlier two belt designs, or if there's a Calif. specific belt
using better materials, but either possibility COULD be part of the
higher mileage recommendations. To support the "better materials" idea,
the earliest VW water-cooled engines had NO change recommendation in the
book (you WERE supposed to inspect and adjust at some interval--30k
miles IIRC.) Rumor had it they used steel "cords" instead of the fabric
we see today. I had the original belt on a Rabbit I bought new and sold
w/ 189k miles, and it was just fine.
There's no "non-economic" (or "non-conspiratorial", if you wish?) reason
a belt can't be made that can be expected to go EASILY 150k miles IMO.
In the meantime, you might ask your dealer if the "Calif" and "49 state"
cars use the same belt. If they do, I'd be comfortable extending the
change interval IF you put miles on like we do out here (on average, 60k
miles in most areas may well translate into 105k miles in Calif--TIME
wise. Time's always an enemy regardless of miles.) If not, I'd ask about
purchasing a "Calif" belt next time...
It depends. :-)
Time, mileage, and environment are the main variables.
Inspecting the belt for cracks and wear would be something you'd want
to do before deciding to extend. But with an interference engine,
always weigh the deferred maintenance against the holy hell you'll
introduce if that thing lets go.
I had one timing belt go on me on a Honda civic. The engine shouldn't
have had more than 60k on it but this was the 2nd engine in teh car,
and the unknown was how long and where the engine sat on a pallette
outside of a vehicle. Why the indepenendent didn't change the damn
belt when installing the engine, I'll never know. I was 19 and very
ignorant about automotive issues back then. The original engine had
died apparently since the 2nd or first owner of the car had it in a
front end collision apaprently, and some antifreeze mixing with the
oil apparently conspired to wear the rings down to nothing, and
dropping a used engine from japan in it was cheaper than fixing the
rest of the lot. At least that was the best theory my mechanic could
come up with. After teh 2nd engine lost that timing belt, we patched
it back together and traded it in on another vehicle. Upper engine
was in good shape but lord knows what happened to the lower engine
after that thing broke.
At least I have 4 slightly bent exhaust valves as paperweights to tell
timing belt stories.
2001 Legacy Outback Wagon, 2.5L H-4
Chicago, Illinois USA
On Mon, 14 Jan 2008 22:15:21 -0500, Erasmus wrote
My wife's '99 Forester (bought new in the fall of '98) has less than 50K
miles on it and a recommended timing belt change interval of 105,000 miles or
105 months. The car was coming up on 105 months last fall, and I was
undecided whether to change the belt based on the age criterion despite the
One of our sons is a service advisor at an independent garage in Park City,
Utah, where there are lots of Subarus, so I asked his opinion.
With less than 50,000 miles in nine years (including one trip from Virginia
to Utah and back) it's obvious that this car makes mostly short trips.
Indeed, almost all of her trips are less than ten miles, many less than two
miles one way, a lot of them just a half-mile to another son's house. The
greatest strain on the belt comes at starting, when it's jerked into action,
so this belt has seen more wear than the typical belt at 50,000 miles.
Therefore he suggested I go ahead and change it, so I did.
If your car makes mostly long trips, you may be safe in stretching the change
Hi Erasmus, All!
On Mon, 14 Jan 2008 19:15:21 -0800 (PST), Erasmus
Most engines have a place where you can inspect the timing belt,
either thru a hole in the cover, or a section of cover that is easily
This doesn't tell the whole story, tho; there's more to the system
than just the belt. Idler pulleys, belt tensioner, waterpump, all need
to be inspected, as any failure here will have pretty much the same
result as a belt failure.
I'd suggest that the idlers are equally as weak of a link as the belt
it's self, maybe even more so. And how long do _they_ last? At the
105K service (actually closer to 115K), the belt on my wife's Forester
still looked pretty good. None of the idlers were very good, tho, and
one was pretty rough; might have made it another 20-30K, might not.
No worries, tho, I was already planning on replacing everything;
timing belt, accessory belts, waterpump, tensioner, idlers,
thermostat, and radiator hoses. Minimal extra work, maximum peace of
mind for the missus.
How much is your (or your spouses) peace of mind worth? You decide :-)
Steve Jernigan KG0MB
University of Colorado
I wouldn't take a chance, but it depends on your car. I think the older
engines would just quit and coast to a stop, as the pistons can't hit the
valves. The later models are all subject to piston/valve damage when the
belt breaks, not only leaving you with a tow charge but a large repair bill
Who knows? I have an old 91 Ford Tempo that had the timing belt changed at
around 60K and now at over 200K it hasn't broken. Actually the only real
problem I ever had with that car was the starter. The first starter died
just inside the waranty and it's been through one every 2-3 years ever since.
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