Tightening Your (Timing) Belt?

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That's exactly what Amanda did when she wrote to us about the trouble she's having with a timing belt kit on her Opel Astra.
QuestionHi Guys,
I drive a 03 Opel Astra. Bought the car a few years ago, never an ounce of trouble. I dropped it into my mechanic over 2 weeks ago to get a routine service and a timing belt kit fitted.

Damaged Crankshaft

He took nearly a week to do the work.
Said that the threads on the crankshaft were damaged from before and that he had an awful job getting the bolt out of the bottom pulley that the fan belt sits on but got a tool to get it out.
He fitted a timing belt kit and put a stud lock on a ‘new bolt’ and said the job was 100%. I paid him well for that job plus I bought the kit myself. I asked would it be alright and he said it would be grand.
Next day after I got home from college an awful banging was coming from that same area so I left the car off and he towed it down to the garage. He said that the stud lock didn't work and the bolt had come loose which wore the metal washer away causing the pulley to bang. He said he’d fix it. Got the car back yesterday afternoon plus another bill!! He said he put another stud lock on plus spot-welded the bolt. He also replaced the pulley with a 2nd hand one. I didn't hand over the money at the time. I noticed that there was a clicking noise and the pulley was slightly swaying when I got home from him (Only 10mins from his house).

Fan Belt Sitting on the Floor

Went to a soccer match yesterday evening and on the way home an awful noise came out of the car like something was dragging on the road. The whole car switched off, the battery light in the dash came on and I pulled in straight away. Looked under the bonnet, the pulley was no longer there and the fan belt was sitting on the floor of the car.
I got in contact with the mechanic and told him I wanted to leave the car there until today but he was extremely anxious to get it towed to his garage. I called out to the house today to pick up a spare car. I told him I wasn't paying him again for a job I had already paid him for in the first place. He said it wasn't his fault.. He wanted to sell me the spare car, which isn't too decent for 200 and he’d fix my car for free. I declined. So the car is in his garage at the mo.

Previously Healthy Car

Can you tell me how a previously healthy car that never had any problems at all has tuned into this? The pulley, belt, everything is mangled.. Surely he is in the wrong as I paid him initially to fit a timing belt kit plus service and now this has hapened, twice.. What do you think of the situation or what could I do or who could I talk to? Sorry for the long message but I'm trying to gain as much advice as possible.
Thanks a mill for taking the time to read this - Amanda

AnswerHi Amanda,
What a horrible story. I discussed this one with an experienced mechanic and he has seen this happen before on this car. It's highly unlikely that your mechanic caused the problem in the first place, as it would have been done on refitting on a previous occasion.
However, it's a pity he didn't communicate the issue with you earlier and warn you of the consequences of him trying to fix it. It would be a very difficult job and in hindsight should have been done by an experienced machinist.
There are not many options now unfortunately. It might be possible to drill and tap the crankshaft nose further, though I suspect not. Assuming so this could mean fitting a new or second-hand crankshaft. Realistically, it's probably as economical to change the engine and then you need to weigh up the cost versus changing the car.
Before you decide all that, give your local Opel dealer a call and try to get to talk to the service manager. Explain your situation and you never know, they may have a better solution.
I'm really sorry to be the bearer of such bad news.
Shane O'Donoghue - Completecar.ie

Colm - May 12, 2010 at 3:47 pm
Hi, My timing belt went in my Alfa 147 late last Oct 2009. I got the car back after 4 weeks which was fine. Once the car came back to me it used about 6 litres of oil within 1500 miles so I took it to the mechanic. He eventually took the car back off on 5th Jan 2010. I'm still waiting to get the car back from him now, every time I go back he tells me next week, next week. He told me that i needed over-sized pistons and the bottom end had to be bored to fit, although the car was not burning oil before the timing belt went? Anyway i brought the pistons myself and had them delivered to the garage over 3 weeks ago. All i want to know - is this the normal time frame for this kind of work? What should i do next?
Shane O'Donoghue - May 12, 2010 at 3:50 pm
The timeframe sounds ludicrous in this case. It is a big job for sure, but - going on what we've been told - it's taking way too long. Any decent mechanic would spend less than a week on this, even taking into consideration the stripping down, sending the block away to be machined and rebuilding. It sounds like it's not at the top of the garage's priorities... With regards to the oil use, it's possible that, when your timing belt snapped, piston rings were broken, damaging the bore, which could lead to excessive oil use. This is not unusual and the fixes suggested by the garage are in line with that. However, with that car, it's more likely that the valve seats or guides were damaged, which again would lead to oil use, but would not require as much work to fix. Given how long you've been waiting, I'd be inclined to pay for an independent assessor to look at the car. Shane
paddy - June 08, 2010 at 11:43 pm
Before I bought a car i got it motorcheck'ed. The report came up grand for the reg no 09dxxxxx. However it said it was imported from England and that there is an odometer discrepancy. Should i be worried?
Shane Teskey - June 11, 2010 at 10:48 am
Hi Paddy, I've checked your report and can see the odometer discrepancy you mention. It's caused by a reading that was entered by a previous owner to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). Becuase of the high number entered I'd be confident that this is a simply a typing error on the part of the owner. However, it's always wise to cross reference any odometer reading with the service book before making your decision. For more advice on how to avoid buying a clocked car I suggest you read the article here https://www.motorcheck.ie/blog/car-clocking-up-400-in-downturn/
Uinsionn - August 14, 2010 at 5:38 pm
Would it be possible to downsize the bore size of an engine and then pay less road tax for it ?
Shane O'Donoghue - August 30, 2010 at 3:38 pm
Forgetting about the legislation side of things for the moment (and I'm pretty sure retrospective changes aren't recognised by Revenue) the cost of reducing the bore in a car will be huge. I'm not convinced it would be worth the hassle.
Les - January 12, 2011 at 2:29 pm
Hi how about some info on a 04 lx diesel mondeo 80k on clock, theres a small misfire / rough idle called in to garage {not main dealer just local guy}, they said more than likely an injector problem and they may need recoding. However a taxi driver friend of mine who has 5 mondeos said he had a much the same problem with one of his cars, had it in the ford dealers twice problem was still not sorted, His advice drive it till it expires as its not worth the money and hassle to put it right. Is there a know problem with mondeos of that year ?, and should i bother bringing it to the ford dealers and just put up with the rough idle?. Thanks Les
nceba - October 03, 2012 at 6:29 am
hi i have opel astra 1.6 cs 2000 model it started sounding like the timing is off i took to the machanic and he didnt fix the problem he tried to fix the timing but the car is still making a bad noise like there is air in the car now this guy said he dont know the problem please i need help here thank you