VW Golf 1.6CL cambelt failure at 40,600 miles - Peter B Karadakov
Hello, everybody!

The cambelt on my VW Golf 1.6CL (95M, 40,600 miles) broke as I was trying to start the car yesterday morning. It was towed to the nearest VW dealership whose service dept has just called me to tell me that after replacing the belt, the engine was misfiring and they were suspecting bent valves. The total figure quoted for the repairs was just over 700 pounds.

I would much appreciate receiving advice on two points:

1) A newsgroup search indicates that the VW 1.6 AEA engine should be a non-interference one---then how would it be possible to have bent valves? Also, the belt broke when I was trying to start the engine, i.e. not under load---should this cause such an extensive damage?

2) The car has been regularly serviced at a VW dealership, and VW are not recommending cambelt changes on this engine (the dealership says that, irrespective of the official recommendation, they advise a cambelt change at 60,000 miles, but my mileage is much lower). Would it be reasonable in these circumstances to expect VW to make a good-will contribution towards the repair costs?

RE: VW Golf 1.6CL cambelt failure at 40,600 miles - honestjohn
And people wonder why I recommend timing belt changes at 35,000 - 40,000 miles.

RE: VW Golf 1.6CL cambelt failure at 40,600 miles - Peter B Karadakov
For many cars the recommended timing belt change is, indeed, at 40,000 miles, in chich case it woud be prudent to have it changed 5,000 miles before that. However, if the manufacturer does *not* recommend this and very premature failures happen, I am inclined to think that they are deceving the customers that they have bought better quality cars that require less maintenance.

If we were to change everything much earlier than recommended, then why not go back to the 3,000 mile oil changes and regular greasing of suspension points, etc.

RE: VW Golf 1.6CL cambelt failure at 40,600 miles - Mark Hennessy
For what it's worth, I've got a similar Golf of identical age and the same AEA engine. I bought it at just under 3 years old with 48k on the clock. At each subsequent service, I pointed out to the VW dealer that the belt was still the origional one, and that I would like it changed if there is even the smallest question mark about its condition. And on each occasion, they didn't change it. (I knew that they'd at least looked at it, because they'd failed to replace the plastic cover properly!)

After 2 main-agent services of frankly appalling quality, I took it to a local nono-franchised garage and asked them change the belt (and insert a Helicoil into the sump so that the oil-drain plug worked again - that's another story!)

My mother had a 1987 Polo until a couple of months ago. Four years ago, I changed the cambelt for her. In the subsequent years, I moved away, and was unable to maintain her car for her. She used her local VW garage, and was quite happy with the service (if not the price!). But, at the last service, she asked them to change the cambelt. I told her to insist, because I noticed that the usual oil leaks had started, and of course oil kills cambelts faster than anything (BTW, could that be the cause of your failure?)

Later that day, she recieved a call from the garage: 'why on earth have you asked us to change the cambelt - it was only done 4 years ago'. She insisted, and they did it, but in the service book, they wrote 'Cambelt changed at customers insistance'. I was disgusted!

I'm afraid that my VW main-dealer experiences have left me rather cynical. It would appear to be in the dealers interests to allow breakages like this to happen as a means of drumming up trade. I *so* hope that I'm wrong...

All I know is that my next car won't be a VW. My current car is my third vw, and I've always been happy with them, but I regret buying one new enough to require the attention of the dealer...

I don't know about the interference design with this engine - it's not normal nowadays... But I would consider getting a second opinion before giving the garage (who should have suggested a replacement belt to you based on the age, if not the milage of the car) the go-ahead to do the work. Unfortunately, damage can happen during starting, especially if the engine manages to fire at all during cranking... Good luck!

Cheers, Mark
RE: VW Golf 1.6CL cambelt failure at 40,600 miles - Neil
I had the timing belt and tensioner replaced under warranty on my wife's Fiat
Bravo 1.8 HLX 1998 R at about 32000 miles. The recommended replacement
interval is 72000 miles. At 70000 miles (September 2000) the replaced timing
belt snapped. Although a wear and tear warranty helped reduce the £900+ cost
of repairing the engine damage we were still left £300+ out of pocket. Both belts
were either due to fail or did fail at around half their recommended lives.

I'm clearly not the only person to have suffered from manufacturer's optimistic
servicing schedules. Is there a consumer issue here? We pay through the nose
for franchised dealer servicing and pay through the nose when timing belts fail
within the recommended service schedule. Should manufacturers be held liable
for the damage caused by premature belt failure? If the trade (or, at least, HJ)
insist on timing belt replacement of 35000 to 40000 miles then why do
manufacturers recommend otherwise except, as has been pointed out above, to
mislead consumers into believing servicing costs are much lower than they
should be? In the case of the Bravo Fiat's servicing schedule has represented a
false economy.
RE: VW Golf 1.6CL cambelt failure at 40,600 miles - Don Cox
The Autodata 1999 Timing Belt book, as used by the trade, quotes the AEA
engine as being an interference type ie valve/pison clash in the event off belt
breakage or loss of valve timing for any reason. It also confirms that there is no
manufacturer's recommended change interval.
If you think about it the timing belt pulls the camshaft around under the influence
of the crankshaft, engine load will not increase the stress on it, but trying to rotate
a camshaft which is in turn trying to open valves via hydraulic followers, all of
which are at freezing point and initially starved of oil, will. This could answer your
query as to why the belt broke on start up.
I have had experience of belt damage following introduction of foreign objects into
the timing belt area. In one case (1997 Renault Megane) this was due to the
alternator belt shredding at 15K (!) miles and pieces of it lifting the timing belt off
of the sprocket a sufficient number of teeth to cause mistiming and subsequently
bent inlet valves. This after the alternator belt had been replaced by the owner.
I wonder if a similar sequence of events at higher revs might overload the belt
suffiently to break it ultimately, and be the cause of at least some of the
mysterious breakages that occur.
Turning engines back wards can "trip" belts as well, this can happen when
parking on a slope in a gear which opposes the potential direction of the vehicle
ie reverse when facing downhill with a "creeping" hand brake. Don Cox
RE: VW Golf 1.6CL cambelt failure at 40,600 miles - Peter B Karadakov
Thanks, Don. This is a very useful piece of information. It is surprising that VW do not recommend timing belt changes on an interference engine. The people at the VAG garage doing the repairs thought that it was strange of me to think that if there were no recommended changes, the timing belt should last for the lifetime of the engine. Of course, they could not explain why VW were recommending tmiming belt changes on diesel engines from that period, nut *not* on the petrol ones.

RE: VW Golf 1.6CL cambelt failure at 40,600 miles - Mark Hennessy
On a Diesel engine, the timing belt has the extra (not inconsiderable) load of the fuel pump/distribution system... And, when a belt fails on a diesel engine, you stand a much higher chance of doing damage to the 'bottem-end' of the engine (happened to a Renault van at work, twice :-)

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