Cars

Does my low-mileage 2011 car need a new timing belt?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader wondering if it’s a good idea to have a new timing belt put on an 11-year-old car.

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Q. I have a 2011 Mazda 6 that just hit 90,000 miles and still has the original timing belt. I am  getting nervous that it will fail when I’m driving to visit my daughter who is 150 miles away. Is there anything a mechanic can see that can give me insight as to its condition?

A. You don’t have anything to worry about! Your car, like many cars today uses a timing chain. As long as the car is properly maintained the timing chain should last the life of the car. Typically, engines with timing belts need to have those belts replaced between 60,000 and 105,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer. Readers, if you are curious whether your car has a timing belt or timing chain, send me an email with the year, make, and model, as well as the engine size, and I’ll send you an answer. 

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Q. I have read how important it is to keep tires properly inflated. My car has a placard on the driver’s door frame and one on the fuel filler door. The problem is they list very different pressures. Which are accurate?

A. I always follow the recommendation on the driver’s door placard. The only time I would vary this is if towing a trailer or if you have the vehicle filled with people and cargo. Even then, never exceed the maximum pressure on the sidewall of the tire. 

Q. I own and still finance a 2018 Toyota Yaris iA. The car has 80,685 miles. What maintenance should be performed that will not burn a hole in my pocket?

A. Preventative maintenance is the key to keeping repair costs down. Change the oil regularly, and check and change the engine coolant – if it looks good replace it at 100,000 miles. From this point routine checkups are important. Check belts, hoses, tires, brakes, steering, and suspension. Once a year give the car a good overall checkup. Use the owner’s manual as a guide and vary the maintenance based on your driving. If you drive a lot with heavy use like Uber or Door Dash, change the oil and check the fluids more often.

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Q. I have a 2007 Toyota Sienna with 133.000 miles. It runs and looks great. I recently had to use my defroster and after the temperature indicator on my dash showed a warm engine, I continued to feel cold air coming from the vent. As I started to drive, the temperature through the vents came out hot. However, once I stopped for a light or sat in traffic, the temperature dropped once again to a cold breeze. What is wrong? 

A. What you describe is a classic example of a radiator that is low on coolant. Once the cooling system has been checked for proper operation, including the engine thermostat opening and closing at a normal temperature, then it is time to look at the climate control ducts. If the blend door that mixes warm and cold air is sticking, then the temperature out of the ducts will be very irregular. 

Q. My car is old, hasn’t been driven in a long time, and has a flat tire. I can get the lugnuts loose but can’t get the wheel off. Any ideas of how to get the wheel off?

A. Try applying a liberal coating of penetrating oil. Let it sit for a few hours and see if it dissolves away the rust. If that doesn’t work, loosen the lug nuts (about one third) and rock the car back and forth. The weight of the car and gravity may break the rust loose. Other than that, have the car towed to a place where it can get it up on a lift, then carefully hit the tire (not the wheel) to try to get it off the rusty hub. 

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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 [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at johnfpaul.podbean.com.

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