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#4631713 - 01/11/18 05:59 PM Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed?
Kurtatron Offline


Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 166
Loc: Detroit
Not my car. Coworker’s car. 2004 Saturn L300 V6. The V6 is an interference engine. The engine just cut out while driving down city roads. Coworker had it towed to a shop. Mechanic said at first the problem was just the serpentine belt. I found that odd. I don’t think a serpentine belt would cause a car to die suddenly while driving.

2 weeks later the mechanic tells my coworker the timing belt looks bad also. So he is going to replace that. The mechanic acknowledges the engine is an interference engine, but says he cannot verify if the engine is destroyed until he replaces the timing belt so he can check for compression. Does that seem right? Could the engine have survived really if the timing belt broke or maybe just slipped? Is there no way to verify the engine’s condition without installing a new timing belt?


Edited by Kurtatron (01/11/18 05:59 PM)

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#4631718 - 01/11/18 06:06 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
Char Baby Online   content


Registered: 05/25/05
Posts: 10019
Loc: ROCHESTER, NY
Well, IDK if there is a way to check that the valve(s) haven't clashed with the piston(s) without removing the head(s). However, I do know of instances where the timing belt has snapped on interference engines and all was OK.
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#4631722 - 01/11/18 06:12 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
Nick1994 Offline


Registered: 02/19/13
Posts: 10097
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Sounds right to me. There is a slight possibility it’s ok though. My mechanic once had an Xterra come in with a broken timing belt (interference engine) and it ran fine after a replacement.
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#4631726 - 01/11/18 06:13 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Char Baby]
bullwinkle Offline


Registered: 10/09/04
Posts: 7664
Loc: Cincinnati, OH, USA
Originally Posted By: Char Baby
Well, IDK if there is a way to check that the valve(s) haven't clashed with the piston(s) without removing the head(s). However, I do know of instances where the timing belt has snapped on interference engines and all was OK.
Sure-a compression test will show any bent valves. But, when in doubt, change the timing belt, don't ask me how I know!
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#4631729 - 01/11/18 06:14 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
ZeeOSix Offline


Registered: 07/22/10
Posts: 17771
Loc: PNW
Luck of the draw on an interference engine. If it won't turn over then you'd know it's messed up, but if it turns over and seems OK, then it would have to get a timing belt on it to do a compression and/or leak down test.

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#4631736 - 01/11/18 06:20 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
Rand Offline


Registered: 08/20/03
Posts: 12638
Loc: NE,Ohio
put a scope down spark plug holes.

takes almost no time and might show severe issues.

honestly its probably junk and not worth fixing 80+% of the time.
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#4631746 - 01/11/18 06:31 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
BrocLuno Offline


Registered: 09/06/15
Posts: 5512
Loc: Kalifornia Kollective
Bore Scope each plug hole and look ...


Edited by BrocLuno (01/11/18 06:31 PM)
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#4631749 - 01/11/18 06:33 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
maverickfhs Offline


Registered: 12/28/16
Posts: 1979
Loc: VA
In case if a timing belt jump, it can damage valves. Had an instant with 7th Gen Civic, now breaking a timing belt means definitely valves are bent, possibly quiet a few.

If it's not turning over while cranking, definitely (some valves) or head needs to be be replaced. We took the route of a re-manufactured/machined head, it was rather cheap option.

Good luck.
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#4631750 - 01/11/18 06:34 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
Ethan1 Offline


Registered: 12/29/14
Posts: 1632
Loc: 'murica
Yeah there are cheap chineses borescopes out there for $9.99 nowadays. This mechanic sounds like a chump, but I'm only hearing the story, what, thirdhand?

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#4631764 - 01/11/18 06:40 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
fdcg27 Offline


Registered: 09/25/09
Posts: 15693
Loc: OH
If your coworker gets real lucky, a timing belt might fix things.
If not, then the engine is screwed and it would be time either to junk the car or look for a replacement engine from a yard, on which the shop should of course do a timing belt replacement prior to installing it.
Whether an old Saturn would be worth this depends upon the car.
If it's trashed, then just trash it. If it's well cared for and pretty nice, then it might well be worth a used engine install.
Your post shows why timing belt engines must have the required service done.
Do this and you'll have no problems, while if you don't, you may.
This also poses a bit of a dilemma when buying a used car. Has the belt been changed as required or not?
A buyer often has no service documentation available, although a hunt through the glove box or spare tire well will sometimes yield a trove of receipts.
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#4631766 - 01/11/18 06:42 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: BrocLuno]
krismoriah72 Offline


Registered: 02/16/09
Posts: 1518
Loc: wv
In those engines the ac compressor can lock up causing the serpentine to lock and can shear the timing belt. Basically the mechanic at this point has a blank check in his hand...it could be alot of things.

I am sure that after it happened the driver cranked and cranked to restart..if it did fail then the damage is done. Top end and possibly some pistons depending on the extent.

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#4631773 - 01/11/18 06:45 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
madRiver Offline


Registered: 07/11/15
Posts: 3534
Loc: New England
This is a $1500 car at best, I would not put much money into this abomination Saturn made out of an Opel.

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#4631793 - 01/11/18 07:10 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
clinebarger Offline


Registered: 12/19/13
Posts: 1907
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
I thought all the L300's were crushed by now, That engine was a real POS!!
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#4631798 - 01/11/18 07:16 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
michaelluscher Offline


Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 2419
Loc: Staten Island, NY
Ah yes, the same POS L81 engine that moved the Catera, a few Saabs, and the Vue before the Honda J series engines came into play

They're real fragile, especially with bending valves

Unless he adores the car, and has free labor, I think it's gmae over for this one
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#4631802 - 01/11/18 07:24 PM Re: Timing belt broke. Interference Engine. Screwed? [Re: Kurtatron]
Jimzz Offline


Registered: 10/03/14
Posts: 1142
Loc: NoVA
That car uses the awful Saab motor. Many of them did not even make it to 60k on the original timing parts.

As said unless they love the car to death just dump it now. It bends valves very easily so I doubt its ok.
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