, Salem, MA

August 3, 2013

Auto Scanner: Should timing belt in ’04 Saturn be replaced?

Auto Scanner
Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: I purchased a 2004 Saturn in February 2009. It had 56,000 miles when purchased. Since that time I have added about 17,000 miles to a current total of around 73,000 miles. According to the manual, the timing belt should be replaced at about 100,000 miles. Does that still apply for a car that is 9 years old, or should it be sooner because of the age of the car?

A: Your Saturn gets about 4,000 miles per year. That’s not a lot of mileage at all. Your engine is what is known as an interference engine. Simply put, if the timing belt breaks, it will most likely cause massive engine damage in the form of crushed and bent cylinder valves. This kind of repair will raise your cost of the timing belt to triple or more of what it would be to do the maintenance. So yes, nine years is enough time that I would feel better with you replacing the timing belt. Always have the technician put a sticker on the timing belt cover that tells at what mileage the job was done. Otherwise you may do it again in another five years without realizing it has already been done.

Q: I have a problem with my 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. I purchased it new and it now has 50,000 miles on it. This problem only happens in the extreme hot weather. When I am driving and come to a stop light, the transmission does not seem to download to first gear. When I try to start driving, it feels like I am still in high gear. No power at all. I seem to have to push the accelerator harder and harder to get the car moving, then it will seem to shift and run well until I get to a light or stop for any reason, and it will do it again.

A: I took a close look for technical service bulletins in the ALLDATA information system program and found several technical service bulletins for the transmission. However, none relate to your problem. You did not mention if your check engine light was on or not, so I can assume the check engine light is off. If the check engine light was on, then I would be pretty convinced this vehicle is going into “limp mode” to protect itself. This appears to be a temperature-related problem. I suggest you have the fluid quality checked as well as the quantity. I further suggest you bring the car to a qualified repair shop to take the vehicle for a ride with a scanner hooked up to check all speed sensors as well as the transmission fluid temperature. If you do not get a definite problem to show, I minimally would have the transmission flushed. If you are towing with the vehicle, you should add an external transmission cooler.

Car Care Tip: If you know someone with a 2013 Honda Accord, make sure they are aware of this recall, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: “American Honda Motor Co., Inc. is recalling certain model year 2013 Accord vehicles that are Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) II rated that were manufactured Jan. 15, 2013, through April 5, 2013. The fuel tank neck may be out of specification causing the fuel pump to not properly seal to the fuel tank. An insufficient seal may lead to a fuel leak which increases the risk of a fire. Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel tank, nut and O-ring gasket free of charge. The recall is expected to begin Aug. 1, 2013. Honda’s recall number is JA9. Owners may contact Honda at 1-310-783-2000.


Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to