Does my convertible have a timing belt or a timing chain?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who needs more information about his Volkswagen Eos.

The Volkswagen Eos.
The Volkswagen Eos. –Volkswagen

Q. I have a 2012 Volkswagen Eos with about 80,000 miles on it. In older Volkswagens, I’ve always had the timing belt replaced at 60,000 miles. This car has a 2.0-liter, turbo-charged engine, and when I call the dealer, they tell me to bring it in to have it checked. When I call the local repair shop, the mechanic there tells me this engine has a timing chain. I’m looking to you for an answer. 

A. Volkswagen can get a bit vague when listing which engines use timing belts and which use timing chains. In fact, in the databases that I use, they list a timing belt and a timing chain. After looking at an exploded view of the 2.0-liter engine, the pictures very specifically show a timing chain. Typically, timing chains don’t require regular maintenance.

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Q. I have an older Ford, and from time to time, it won’t start. When it doesn’t start, the anti-theft light flashes. I let the car sit and sometimes it starts right up. I’ve switched keys, hoping it was a bad key, but that didn’t seem to make much of a difference. It never fails that when I bring it into a repair shop, it starts right up. Any thoughts on this? Is it time to get rid of my 12-year old Ford? 

A. Intermittent problems are always the hardest problems to find. As cars get older, we are seeing more of these problems caused by poor electrical connections. At this point, I would start with simple tests of power and ground circuits. I was recently reading of a similar problem with a Ford Focus, and the issue was a poor ground connection on the passenger-side front pillar. The connection was cleaned and tightened, and the car started every time. Of course, that vehicle didn’t start more than it did, making the diagnostics a little easier. 

Q. I have a 2005 Hyundai Santa Fe with 192,000 miles. I’m trying to decide whether to look for another car or keep the one I have. I was recently told that I need a new catalytic converter, and I should probably also change the timing belt. I have always taken care of the vehicle — changing the oil every 3,000 miles — and would not rule out another Hyundai, should that be the way to go. The tires were replaced two years ago, so they are okay, and all four brakes (rotors) were done last year.  My neighbor said I should do a compression check, but I am more concerned about the undercarriage, as that’s where all the rust occurs. I am retired and I don’t think I will be using the car as much as when I was working. I wouldn’t mind spending a few grand if that would get me a few more years. What should I have the mechanic look at to give me an idea of what I should do? 

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A. The best thing to do at this point is to have someone evaluate the car. It will cost about an hour’s worth of labor to perform some testing to see how the car is holding up. You are right that  at 15 years old, it could be starting to rust out. Other potential problems are the steering system, suspension wear, and the transmission. A quick check shows you will spend $2,000 to replace the timing belt and catalytic convertor, providing there are no complications. Before spending that much on a vehicle that is worth $2,000 to $4,000, I would have it looked over to see if you are spending your money wisely. 

Q. I have a GMC Tahoe that is old, but runs okay. Ever since the weather got hot, the engine overheats a bit. I replaced the thermostat, but when I shut it off and looked under the hood, the upper radiator hose had collapsed. Is the head gasket starting to fail? If it is, I don’t think the truck is worth keeping. 

A. The engine cylinder head gasket could be failing, but I don’t think that is the issue. The collapsing radiator hose is most likely from a faulty radiator cap. The radiator cap allows coolant to flow in and out of the overflow (surge) tank. If the cap isn’t working properly, a vacuum will be created in the system and will collapse the hose.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to jpaul@aaanortheast.com.

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