What You Should Know About Subaru Timing Belts & Service

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What You Should Know About Subaru Timing Belts & Service


What is it about a Subaru that owners love so much? Is it the ability to go anywhere they desire both on and off road? Is it the all-wheel-drive system that handles like a dream? Or perhaps is it because Subaru’s have some of the best safety ratings in the industry? Whatever the reason, it is clear that these cars, once you’ve owned, will probably continue to own the rest of your life. The driving experience and styling are simply unbeatable.


To keep your vehicle performing at its best, taking it in for routine maintenance is a must. The top service, that most everyone agrees on is regular oil changes. Oil is what keeps the internal parts of the engine lubricated and cooled. It is essential that this maintenance is done as recommended by the manufacturer.


The engine is the heart of your vehicle and with proper maintenance will keep going for well into the future. Subaru is one of the few manufacturers who use the boxer engine design, with the only other company being Porsche. Known for the amount of power they can produce and their reliability, there is a reason Subaru still uses them.

The Timing Belt


One feature shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to the maintenance of your boxer engine, and that is the timing belt. The timing belt is an essential feature of any combustion engine. Some vehicle manufacturers use timing chains, in the case of Subaru, they utilize a belt. Unless you have a six cylinder EZ engine model, that came from the factory equipped with a timing chain, your Subaru is outfitted with a belt.


The job of the timing belt is to synchronize the crankshaft with the camshaft(s). It is a very delicate balance that occurs inside the engine, and the timing belt is what facilitates the motor turning over and continuing to run in sync. When the crank and cam are in balance with one another, it allows the intake and exhaust valves to open and close when they should, which is vital to how an engine runs. Most every boxer engine from 1996 and up is an interference engine or valve to valve. What this means is if the timing belt were to break, or jump time, the valves inside the motor would hit each other, become bent, and pretty much destroying the engine.


Subaru timing belts, unlike chains that other motors use, need to be serviced at specific intervals to prevent a catastrophic failure in the engine. Belts can snap after a certain amount of time, and when it does the opposing valves will hit one another causing a great deal of damage. It is essential to note that a timing belt replacement service isn’t as simple as an oil change. Your mechanic will have to take off many components of the engine to gain access to the belt. In some cases, it can be difficult to reach, which is reflected in the cost of service. If done incorrectly, your engine could be out of time, which will make it run very rough, or even cause the motor to lock up and not run at all.

Replacing Timing Belts


Subaru belts are made to last for a while but like other types of belts that use rubber as their primary material. Over time and with many cycles of being heated and cool, the rubber will wear down making it prone to damage like cracks that will weaken it. The Subaru timing belt service is designed to catch the belt before it breaks, therefore preventing said damage.


During the timing belt service, your mechanic will more than likely replace more than just the belt itself. It is also recommended to replace the tensioner at the same time. The tensioner keeps the belt from becoming loose and slipping off the crank or camshaft pulley. It is recommended by most anyone who does a timing belt service that this small part is replaced for the best results and lifespan of your new belt. Many automotive shops include the tensioner as part of the Subaru timing belt service.


When To Replace Timing Belt?


There is a little bit of conflicting data about when to have the timing belt replaced. Some think that it should be done between at 100k miles, while others believe that you can wait until 120,000. The best time, however, is following what Subaru recommends. Typically it is recommended to have the best replaced between 60,000 to 90,000 miles. Many mechanics agree that if you are a conservative driver, it is possible to wait until 105,000 miles. There are interval mileage services at 30k, 60k, and 90k for Subarus. Having the timing belt done at 90k is more convenient than taking your vehicle in for a separate service. This way you can get all your maintenance done at one time, and not have to worry about servicing it till your next oil change.


What is the Timing Belt Cost of Service?


The cost of replacing your Subaru timing belt is broken down into parts and labor charges, just like any other automotive service. While the price will vary based on the model you have, you can expect to pay anywhere from $650 up to $950. While this may be just an estimate, talk to your automotive shop before having the service done to acquire an exact cost.


The parts themselves aren’t that expensive. An OEM belt and tensioner may only cost on average about $200. It also depends on where your shop gets their parts. A factory replacement belt direct from Subaru will be much more expensive than a part that is delivered from your local parts store or at an online retailer. That doesn’t seem to bad for the parts, and the rest is the labor your shop will charge to perform the job. While a serpentine belt is much more accessible because it is on the outside of the engine, the timing belt is hidden behind many other components as well as behind a timing cover. The length of time to perform the service is why the cost of replacing the part is much higher than that of other belts.


Other Considerations


While you are having the timing belt replaced around the 100k mile marker, it is a good time to have your automotive technician to look at another critical component of the engine while they are in there. The water pump, thermostat, and head gaskets, for instance, can all be inspected at that time. It is a good idea to have the water pump and thermostat replaced at this time too. You may also get a reduction in labor if they are done at the same time since it is in the same area, and fewer steps will need to be taken when combined with the timing belt service. Again, the cost is something to discuss with your mechanic. But it is an excellent idea for the longevity of your motor, to do preventative maintenance to ensure it keeps running for another 100,000 miles.