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you & your car

2010 VW Golf

My Volkswagen dealer told me I have to change the timing belt in my Golf at 100,000 kilometres. My car has 115,000 on the clock and I have religiously followed the maintenance schedule since I bought it new. But I question the cost and need of this major job. Do I have to? – Tony in Toronto

There is a difference between "having" to change the belt and "recommending" it be changed.

I am a firm believer in following maintenance schedules long after the new wears off and the warranty has expired, especially if you want to keep the car for a while. If you plan to sell or trade it in soon, you might get away without having the timing belt replaced. But you might also suffer a catastrophic engine failure and a repair bill that will make the cost of the belt replacement pale by comparison.

If the belt fails, you are looking at everything from a bent valve to a new head, block, pistons, rods, crank, etc. – basically a new engine. Engines that have benefited from scheduled replacements, like that recommended for your timing belt, often last for hundreds of thousands of kilometres. Another advantage to replacing it now – and keep the receipt – is that you can say it has been done and this might increase the trade-in or resale value.

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