Dear Car Talk:
I realize that Hondas are considered to be very well made and reliable cars. However, I have always refrained from buying one because they were known to have "interference" engines and a timing belt instead of a timing chain. I did not like the idea that if I neglected to change the timing belt in time, the engine would "self-destruct."
I saw in one of your recent columns that you advised one of your readers that they did not have to change the timing belt on their Honda Accord since it had a timing chain, not a belt. My question to you is this: Where can a consumer find reliable information such as this when considering a car purchase?
I have found that the car salespeople do not know and will tell you whatever they think you want to hear. -- William
That's good to know, William. Next time I'm buying a car, I'll tell the salesperson that I want to hear there are no payments due for the first 80,000 miles.
You're right that it's not easy for an average consumer to get accurate mechanical information. Most salespeople are not mechanics; most of them will have no earthly idea whether the car has a timing belt or a timing chain. But the guys in the parts department will.
All you have to do is go to the parts desk, or call them up, and ask whether the year and make of the car you're considering has a timing chain or a timing belt. If they don't know off the top of their head, they'll search their parts database for the belt, and if no belt comes up, they'll look for a chain. Bingo!
Cars have been going back to chains in recent years. Chains were once seen as less reliable and more complicated and expensive to replace if they did break. But they've figured out how to make them last the life of the car in most cases.
And just because you asked, I looked it up and Honda Civics have had timing chains since 2005. Four-cylinder Accords have used chains since 2002. The only Accord that still uses a belt is the rare, six-cylinder version, which they claim should be changed at 100,000 miles.
We wish you happy, timing-belt-free motoring, William.