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Old 03-01-2016, 11:32 AM   #1
Sid03SVT
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2006 Betty
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Default Two timing belt job's in one weekend

Last weekend I did my first and second timing belt jobs... on the same car. This is not a how to, just a wall of text about my experience and my lessons learned.

I've never done a timing belt before, but I did a clutch on the RU about 4,000 miles ago, and I've been wrenching on cars for half my life at this point. After watching a few youtube videos over and over again, and reading meatys guide 100 times, I felt I was up to the task, I mean I can assemble a 302 in my sleep, so a timing belt on a WRX didn't make me sweat.

Saturday is the day, I have some breakfast, get into my car clothes and head to the garage. Collect all my tools & parts, blue locktite, penetrating oil, a million extensions etc. and get ready to go. I start taking it all apart, drain the coolant, remove the fans, radiator and dissemble the accessory setup, and pull the timing covers, okay it's going pretty well, it's my first timing belt so I'm taking my time and being as anal as possible. I rotate the engine and align the cams, then lock the drivers side with the company 23 cam tool, remove a passenger side idler and pop the belt off, at which point both passenger side cams move. I have a minor freak out, then stop myself, and simply rotate them back where they belong, since they aren't the "danger" cams. I then remove the water pump, as it's got nearly 105k on it, and I'm in there anyways. I then Install new water pump, install all of the idler pulleys and gear, leaving the tensioner for last. While Installing the new timing belt I get stuck on the drivers side upper cam, I can't get the freaking belt to line up right, it's one tooth/notch off and from what I had read/seen it's bad juju for the upper cam to move, hence the tool. I fought with the belt for an hour before I finally read the crap directions that came with the belt kit, and it mentions that if you have to move the cam at all, be very cautious as if it moves too much the valves may contact the piston and bend. So I loosened the lock tool slightly and rotated the cam under tension just enough so I could align the belt, then tightened the tool, took a breather, and rotated the cam BACKWARDS so they were realigned, and released the tensioner, after checking the marks were all lined up where they were supposed to be. Everything looked good, I turned the motor over by hand a few times to make sure everything was good and reassembled, added coolant, etc.
Test drive did not go so well.. the car was running above temp and I had steam coming out of the engine. Crap, I didn't replace the thermostat since I had recently replaced it anyways, I assumed it was still good. I figure a line has popped near the water pump due to pressure and that's why coolant is leaking. I took my wifes car to pick up a new thermostat and gave up for the day.

Sunday, I crawl underneath, crap, it's not a leak at the waterneck/thermostat or a line off the waterpump, it's a leak at the waterpump... I misaligned the gasket when I installed it... I get to take it all apart again.
I start all over again on Sunday; disassemble, draining the coolant, and this time I get to recompress the tensioner, thankfully I still had the pin. Reassembly was even more cautious, as I didn't want to screw up the waterpump gasket again (thank goodness I ordered two by accident), or anything else for that matter. Even though I took my time, the second job went much quicker. After reassembly, and coolant addition and burping, the car was back up and running. I then moved my car out of the garage and did plugs on my wife's Yaris (a 15 minute job, freaking toyota is so easy to work on and super low maintenance).


Lessons learned.
1.) As daunting a task as a timing belt appears on the surface to someone who hasn't performed it before, it's not nearly as bad as a clutch job (on a WRX anyways).
2.) I have done waterpumps on several vehicles before, and I'm upset with myself for not aligning the gasket properly, either I got complacent, or I was so worried about bending valves that I wasn't as anal as I usually am while working on cars for such a simple task; regardless everyone makes mistakes, and thankfully this one cost me time and a gasket instead of precious internals.
3.) If/when I do another Subaru timing belt, I'll be even quicker and comfortable, as experience is the best teacher. My car tends to be the experience car before I work on my mother in laws Subaru.
4.) As someone who works on Subaru's regularly, my extension game is strong.

Hope you all enjoyed my story, or not, whatever, it's the internet.

Peace
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Old 03-01-2016, 03:27 PM   #2
vtwinjunkie
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I liked it. Had a similar experience on my audi 2.0 a few years back.

I also def need more extensions.
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Old 03-01-2016, 03:34 PM   #3
Sikk
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i get to do my timing belt soon.

>.>
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Old 03-02-2016, 08:28 AM   #4
Obviously Tyler
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I always enjoy stories like this.

Is it bad that I'm kind of looking forward to my car aging so I can do these things myself?
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Old 03-02-2016, 11:48 AM   #5
klaas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Obviously Tyler View Post
I always enjoy stories like this.

Is it bad that I'm kind of looking forward to my car aging so I can do these things myself?
I know what you mean.

I am strangely looking forward to install my Perrin turbo inlet in a couple of weeks. Its probably gonna suck, but the reward when it's done and you did it yourself, is all worth it.
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Old 03-02-2016, 01:15 PM   #6
silvercookie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Obviously Tyler View Post
I always enjoy stories like this.

Is it bad that I'm kind of looking forward to my car aging so I can do these things myself?
the fa20 in your wrx is completely different than a timing belt on a ej. Might want to look that up.
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Old 03-02-2016, 03:15 PM   #7
Obviously Tyler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silvercookie View Post
the fa20 in your wrx is completely different than a timing belt on a ej. Might want to look that up.
I'm aware, thank you.
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Old 03-02-2016, 05:37 PM   #8
slicky
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It took me probably 20 hours to do a timing belt, water pump and idlers on my 02 WRX. Had to call my dad over to hold the cams in place as I didn't realize you could lock them in place. As in OPs case, I could not get the timing belt marks to align. I was mighty surprised that I didn't end up bending the valves and everything worked when I put it all together. Nevertheless, I was still paranoid about that job until I sold the car about a year later.......
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Old 03-03-2016, 09:36 AM   #9
Sid03SVT
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Obviously Tyler View Post
I always enjoy stories like this.

Is it bad that I'm kind of looking forward to my car aging so I can do these things myself?
I used to enjoy working on cars, but I have a young child, wife, house and career that consume the vast majority of my time, when I work on cars now other things get pushed. I am also the "family mechanic" and maintain a fleet of Japanese vehicles (my wrx, my wifes yaris, my in-laws legacy, carolla and frontier) I would prefer to work on my mustang project in my free time, or hell have free time. The only reason I work on my car is because I'm a cheap SOB and Subaru work (especially high mileage Subaru work) is expensive - the clutch job would have run my $800 in labor alone, so I did it, the timing belt job would have been a $200-$300 just for labor; even ignoring the markup on parts, it makes financial sense to do the work myself because I am capable.

You may be in a different stage of life than me, so working on cars can still be fun.. I used to be that way in High school, and even college when I could scrap up the money to buy parts, then it was mostly bolting on go-fast parts to my fun single guy car (bright red mustang), if I missed work or came in late it wasn't a big deal because I had a job not a career, now it's different. I also don't have much of an emotional attachment to my WRX, it's not the car I wanted, it's the car I settled on for my family (mainly not a camry/minivan/other toaster on wheels). My WRX is a compromise vehicle, that probably plays a hand as well.

Just this week I've been considering selling my wrx and buying a Leaf + "classic" pickup (like an early 90's F-series so I can get cheap insurance and reg) but I think I'm going to try to hold out for the Tesla model 3; 35k before tax breaks will work for me financially, and although I'll lose my third pedal, I'll have a virtually maintenance free relatively quick rwd EV with acceptable range, that still counts as a family car because four doors.

Aging cars are not fun; although I've done some biggies already (clutch, timing belt) next will be the suspension, and the nickel and dime crap is going to start happening (accessories are going to start failing, wheel bearings, axles, differentials etc.) and Japanese car parts are quite a bit more expensive than domestic car parts, so it's more like quarters and dollars than nickles and dimes.

Every time I work on my car now, I think about the next big service; 120k is next, so that's plugs, rear diff & filters (I did the trans/front diff at 100k when I did the clutch). Subaru type-s or whatever gear oil is relatively expensive, and I need to use no less than four extensions to do the plugs (two shortys for the plugs, two long ones for the snorkus/air box) and it's as tight as a witches C-U-Next-Tuesday under the hood.

I have a very pessimistic view lately, and that's because time is more valuable to me than it ever was, and 60k spark plug intervals (or 30k like my MIL's legacy) are just too frequent. I'm also kinda kicking myself for not having done the oil pump "while I was in there" like I did with the water pump; hopefully it lasts another 105k miles until I do the timing belt again...
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