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I just purchased a 1995 164Q online that I'll be picking up in a couple weeks. The car is in great shape and I plan on driving it home, which will be about 1,000 miles. The gentleman I purchased it from has offered to take it to a shop if I need to have the timing belt replaced before I drive it home. The belt was done about 5,000 miles ago (along with tensioner, water pump, idler pulleys), but that service was in 2011. His guesstimate is that this service would cost about $2,000 at the reputable shops near him.

Now, call me crazy, but something deeply irks me about paying $2k for a service that I can do for like $200 in parts while also gaining familiarity with my new car. I could spend that $1,800 difference on any custom tools and upgrades to my shop setup (and be able to justify doing so with the savings!). 5k miles is low, but the belt was installed a long time ago. I know that these belts letting loose can be a real mess, but was that a problem of the late '90s and early '00s that newer quality parts may have remedied? Basically, for a car that's been well taken care of, garaged, etc, can I drive this thing the 1,000 miles home, or is the timing belt hysteria surrounding these cars the real deal even in 2018. I just guess that the 30,000 miles sounds reasonable-ish, but the suggested 3-year interval seems bizarre to me.

Thanks for any discussion you guys can give. I'd love to be able to road-trip this thing home and take the opportunity to learn about my new car by doing this service myself, but if the general recommendations of people are valid and this belt is effectively a ticking time-bomb I may not want to risk it.
 

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My 12 valve t belt was last changed in 2007. It has about 30,000 miles on it. Visual inspection reveals like new appearance.

Although exposure to ground level ozone is a wear factor for "rubber" the main wear factor is total flex cycles. Mileage is by far the most significant west factor and total engine revolutions is the actual wear factor.

These belts fatigue crack at the roots of the teeth on the inner side of the belt. They do not break. When the teeth crack badly enough they can strip off catastrophically. The belt then breaks because the cam timing goes off when the teeth strip. Interference engines break their timing belts after the timing skips, not before.

A seven year old belt does not need replacing. Premature T belt failures on 24 valve engines were traced to faulty installation at the engine factory. Indeed, faulty installation may be responsible for almost all belt failures before the specified mileage is reached. For 12 valve engines the factory specified mileage interval was 54,000 miles with no time interval specified.

Another likely cause of t belt failure is bearing failure of the tensioner, or perhaps failure of the tensioner itself. In that mode the belt skips timing due to inadequate tension, and then breaks when a piston collides with valves. I have seen no evidence whatsoever that t belt failure mode involves failure of the belt material first. Always the teeth are the issue. Later designs of teeth reduced the stress focal points at the roots of the teeth by moulding them in a more semi circular shape. This design was counterintuitive in that it was previously thought the rubber teeth should be moulded in a cog shape as if made of metal or even wood. This was found to be less durable than simple semi circular cross section teeth. Another modification to earlier t belts with trapezoidal cogged teeth was to mould a stress reducing groove into the flatter section of each tooth. This seems to cushion the roots of the teeth against torque peak loads thought to cause premature failure. That combined with more durable "rubber" material seems to have improved durability of even old style t belts.

Here's a good explanation of generic causes of belt failure:

http://info.gates.com/rs/gatescorp/images/Synch_Belt_failure_analysis_Final-0314.pdf

http://blog.misumiusa.com/timing-belt-maintenance-and-belt-failure/

https://www.acorn-ind.co.uk/insight/Top-6-Causes-of-Timing-Belt-Failure/

https://www.gatestechzone.com/en/problem-diagnosis/synchronous-drive-system

http://www.pfeiferindustries.com/troubleshooting/timing-belt-tensile-break.html

http://www.naarso.com/2016BeltFailurePACE.pdf
 

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1990 164QV Euro spec & 1991 168B
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If the 24v timing belt idler pulleys and tensioner pulley were changed 5k ago regardless of years they should be OK. The timing belt maybe OK, but buyer beware.

That being said I would be more concerned about serpentine belt, idler pulleys and serpentine tensioner and tensioner since they are outside the timing belt cover. Were they changed when timing belt done? That belt drives water pump, a/c compressor pulley, alternator and power steering pump on 24v engine. Is a/c compressor pulley bearing original?

Was this car being regularly driven? https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1995-alfa-romeo-164-3/

Report your findings.

I sold my 24v tensioning tools but have a set of laser cut timing dies left in stock for 24v engine.
 

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I just purchased a 1995 164Q online that I'll be picking up in a couple weeks. The car is in great shape and I plan on driving it home, which will be about 1,000 miles. The gentleman I purchased it from has offered to take it to a shop if I need to have the timing belt replaced before I drive it home. The belt was done about 5,000 miles ago (along with tensioner, water pump, idler pulleys), but that service was in 2011. His guesstimate is that this service would cost about $2,000 at the reputable shops near him.

Now, call me crazy, but something deeply irks me about paying $2k for a service that I can do for like $200 in parts while also gaining familiarity with my new car. I could spend that $1,800 difference on any custom tools and upgrades to my shop setup (and be able to justify doing so with the savings!). 5k miles is low, but the belt was installed a long time ago. I know that these belts letting loose can be a real mess, but was that a problem of the late '90s and early '00s that newer quality parts may have remedied? Basically, for a car that's been well taken care of, garaged, etc, can I drive this thing the 1,000 miles home, or is the timing belt hysteria surrounding these cars the real deal even in 2018. I just guess that the 30,000 miles sounds reasonable-ish, but the suggested 3-year interval seems bizarre to me.

Thanks for any discussion you guys can give. I'd love to be able to road-trip this thing home and take the opportunity to learn about my new car by doing this service myself, but if the general recommendations of people are valid and this belt is effectively a ticking time-bomb I may not want to risk it.
So you got the one off bring a trailer. Nice one. I would do it just due to time nothing more but at the same time just take a look at the belt, both sides. Problem for me is that the belt has most likely sat tensioned for 7 years. I would change the belt only unless the bearings are needed. $2k job? Ouch. I charge around $800 depending on parts like idlers, tensioner, timing tensioner, waterpump and hoses. It may sound bizarre to change so early but there are plenty of documented issues with going too long on the belt with these cars. Belts are rated for 50Kmiles. If a gates or dayco was used. That's the other question? What belt was used? I would not use anything but the 2 mentioned. Flennor or others don't cut it. Since it is a new car, I would want to start fresh! But again belt may be just fine.

Timing belt is not the most difficult job on this car but it is much more complicated than 12V version.

Let me know if I can help.

Ciao
 
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