Are you still with us? Great! We’ve been putting ourselves out on a limb (and hopefully with no one on the other end sawing it off!), and offering a guide of sorts to what goes wrong with some of the more familiar components to a vehicle and when. Another point we do want to stress here, is this list is not meant to scare consumers – use it as information as well as a planner. That way you can be pro-active rather than reactive!
Timing Belt; We’re starting to see a pattern here – the replacement timeframe depends on the year, make & model. There are some manufacturers who suggest timing belt replacement every 50,000 miles. There are others who put it at 105,000 miles. To add more confusion, there are some who don’t even list a mileage interval! However, what you need to keep in mind, is that it should be done, at some point, before 150,000. If the belt is never changed (which is often the case), it may suddenly break and fail. If the engine is known as “an interference engine” with tight clearances between the valves and pistons, timing belt failure can bend intake valves. Most OHC timing belts sell for $50 or less, but installation labor can be expensive depending on the application and how difficult it is to change the belt. Figure $400 to $800 to replace a timing belt for normal maintenance, and several thousands dollars for repairs if the belt is not replaced, and it breaks and damages the valves. Remember – be pro-active!
Transmissions; This is one repair vehicle owners fear most, and rightly so. Nobody repairs transmissions anymore. They replace them with remanufactured transmissions. A transmission job can easily run $2000 or more for parts and labor. However, the failure rate for automatic transmissions doesn’t start to go up until the vehicle hits 100,000 miles. With proper maintenance and if the fluid is subjected to high temperatures (from a great deal of towing, etc.), the transmission may last as long as the engine and/or vehicle.
Manual transmissions will usually last the life of the vehicle, but the clutch usually does not. The life of the clutch depends a LOT on the driver. This is probably one reason why almost 90% of new vehicles come with an automatic transmission. For most consumers, they’re just easier to deal with and to drive, especially in urban areas where there is a great deal of traffic congestion. The person who “rides” the clutch or drives aggressively will burn up the clutch must faster than someone who does not. Many clutches need to be replaced by the time they have 100,000 miles on them. A driver who is hard on a clutch may kill theirs in 25,000 miles or less. Replacing a clutch requires a lot of labor because, in most cases, the transmission or transaxle must be removed to get at the clutch. Figure $1000 to $1500 for this type of a repair job.
Muffler; The exhaust system is exposed to water and corrosive acids, mainly from the inside out. Stainless steel pipes and mufflers will often last up to 10 years or more. But plain steel pipes and mufflers can rust through in as few as 4 or 5 years. A leaky exhaust system not only makes a lot of racket, but it can also leak dangerous carbon monoxide fumes. Repair costs will vary depending on what needs to be replaced. Some vehicles have a dual muffler system. Also, many exhaust systems have flanges & gaskets. Very few use clamps like in the good ‘ol days. Depending on the condition of those connect points, (rust, rot, etc), will also determine what the repair bill will finally be.