Reader Question: 90,000 Mile Service – or a New Car?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Sandy asks:I own a 2008 Honda Pilot, bought new, zero problems and no problems lurking that I am aware of. Called dealer and was shocked at the cost of a 90,000 mile service (timing belt, water pump) plus spark plugs plus fluids plus (likely) brakes. Would you recommend doing this, or looking for another vehicle?

My reply: I’d recommend doing the stuff that is necessary. Honda recommends changing the timing belt at various mileage intervals, according to conditions and use. According to what I have been able to dig up, the maximum interval is 105k – so you’ve still got some time to go. But it might be wise to get it done sooner, because a timing belt failure can be a big pain as well as a bigger expense than the expense of just replacing it before it fails.

It is usual to replace the water pump when this job is done because replacing the pump when it needs to be done entails the same basic (expensive) disassembly. Therefore, might as well take care of it now so as to avoid not having to tear down the engine in 10,000 or 30,000 miles from now.

It’s also reasonable to change spark plugs at the same time.

Having changed all of these things, you will probably never have to change them again for another 12-plus years. I’d weigh that agains the cost of a new car, including the cost of taxes and insurance on the new car.

Also, since this is not an emergency, I’d seek out estimates at independent shops as well as the dealer and compare. My bet is you’ll be able to get the necessary work done for less – and that will make your decision even easier!

. . . 

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  1. My ’12 LR4 is the only car I don’t do repairs on, although I do all of the routine maintenance (fortunately it has a timing chain). I end up taking it to the dealer in San Antonio where I bought it (one of the better ones) every year or two to fix something a bit more serious; the bill usually ends up being $1k-$2k. Still a good deal given how much a new truck costs AND how much crap is on the new trucks that I hate; Land Rover gives me a loaner Land Rover for a few days that reinforces how much I hate the new ones. About 180k on the LR4 odometer and still runs like new.

    I’ve taken the LR4 once to a “well reviewed” independent repair shop supposedly specializing in Land Rovers. They ended up screwing up the parking brake, so I’m not doing that again.

    In summary: unless the thing is a basket case, it’s usually cheaper to maintain and repair than buy new, especially for an ’08.

    • Good mechanics tell their customers not to buy Land Rovers, and usually avoid working on them. Unscrupulous mechanics love ’em, because TR’s make them rich, since they are an endless stream of income for them, as there is never a time, once out of warranty, that something very expensive to repair isn’t wrong with ’em……

      • Ooopps! Accidentally submitted that comment before I was done!

        Good friend of mine back in NY, -a great mechanic and stand-up guy- has a shop. I had stopped in to see him one day, and as I walk in, I hear the tail end of a conversation he’s having with a customer- I hear my friend telling the guy “Look, if I were you, I’d just get rid of that thing. You’d be throwing good money after bad. I can’t even work on it in good conscience.”. Customer leaves, and I ask “What was that about?” Tom says “He has a Land Rover”. I just laugh knowingly. Turns out, the guy’s LR needed major suspension and steering column work- would’ve cost him many THOUSANDS, on a c. 8 year-old LR…and if he fixed it, next week or two, something else would go wrong with it. (Amazingly, the head gasket hadn’t blown on that one…yet.)

  2. The honda pilot is damn near bulletproof. If it isn’t rusty bring it to an honest independent shop and get it serviced. Slapping a new timing set in there and changing out the transmission, vtm and transfer case fluids is going to cost you less than sales tax/registration and your first few car payments. My 06 ridgeline (almost the same engine) has 205k miles and burns no oil between changes. It starts right up. It’s not falling apart despite being used as a truck and it lacks the awful nannies included in new cars. Throwing it in the woods would be a serious mistake. Don’t fall for new and shiny.

  3. I could just imagine how much a dealer would charge for all of that- even though the timing belt is the only high-cost item on that list. Timing belt and water pump at the same time at a small honest independent shop you could probably get done for $700. The whole kit and kaboodle, including brakes and all fluids you should be able to get done for somewhere between $1500 -$2000. If brakes and rotors aren’t needed, then definitely well under $1500. I can just imagine what the dealer is quoting..probably thousands!

    NEVER take a 13 year-old vehicle to a dealer! Not only do they charge ludicrous prices, but I guarantee that they’ll “find” ‘lots of other stuff wrong’ with it!

    • Hello Nunz!,
      That $700 for the timing belt might be correct it some parts of the country. At my Sillycon valley independent VW shop it would be between $850 and $1200, depending on the model. (if it’s a VW, I don’t have any Honda experience)
      That part you mentioned, “find lots of other stuff wrong with it!” I get that almost daily from clients that were recently at the dealer. I get the car up on the lift, look it over, and say,” are they on crack?”

      • Hi Ya William!

        Hey, that actually sounds CHEAP for a VW- and in Silly-CON Valley no less! Everything costs more on a VW.

        I recently learned that my local Ford dealer is actually an honest and conscientious shop! The AC quit working on my Excursion. The AC hardware itself was fine…but for some reason the compressor kept getting a signal to shut down. I nor anyone else could figure it out…so as a last resort, for the first time in my life, I brought it to the Ford dealer, just for a diagnosis- figuring once I found out what the problem was, I’d fix it myself. I was told it would be $128 for a diagnosis.

        I bring ‘er in…. Long story short, it was a bad wire at the cylinder head temp sensor! They not only diagnosed it, but fixed it! And the bill was still just the $128 diagnostic fee. I was impressed. And now my AC is back to blowing ice cold!

  4. Don’t put off doing the timing belt; years ago I had a ‘91 Honda Civic that left me stranded on a Sunday afternoon the very day before I had an appointment to get the thing replaced 😖. Murphy’s Law strikes again. Since that time I’ve been sure to only buy cars with a timing CHAIN.

    • Mike,
      Careful with that axe Eugene! Are you buying cars with the cam in the block, or on top of the heads? If you are buying cars with the cam in the head then those engines are no better than a car with a timing belt, as a matter of fact, I’d rather have a engine with a timing belt than chains, a much simpler maintenance procedure than chains.
      I work on VW’s and Audi’s for a living and their timing chains (and tensioners) are crap! I don’t have experience with other makes, but they all use the same setups. It’s not the chain that fails, it’s the tensioners that fail. Here’s a link to an explanation of chains on Audi’s.

  5. I would never think of replacing a vehicle that only has 90,000 miles and no or few problems. It’s just broken in! There should be easy another 100k miles from this vehicle. As long as some clover doesn’t crash into it and destroy it on you…….

    And have someone besides the dealer do the work. There is no reason to pay a dealer premium. They aren’t better then the independent mechanic.


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