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Timing belt change questions

2632 Views 12 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  tanker1975
I am going to change the timing belt on my 99 legacy outback and I have seen a lot of posts on how people have been locking the camshaft to get the bolt off the pulley. First is there a preferred method to this, I don't have a chain wrench and am worried that the starter method may damage something, can i just use the screwdriver method to remove and reattach without any problems or is a chain-wrench needed? Also how long approx does it take to change one, i am pretty proficient mechanically but have never changed one before. I ordered a kit that has the timing belt, and replaceable pulleys in it along with camshaft seals.
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Do you mean the crankshaft bolt instead of the camshaft? If so, I think the screwdriver method is superior to the chain wrench method as the latter can damage the crankshaft pulley internally and potentially pull it apart, rendering it useless. I still like the starter method, though.

If you are going to replace the camshaft seals, that is going to add a lot of time to the job as you will have to remove all four of the camshaft sprockets and the inner timing belt covers. Start early and plan on a long day.
Would i need the chain-wrench for the camshaft sprockets or are they also locked with the engine?
No, they are not locked with the engine. Well, they are, kinda, when the TB is still installed, but probably not firm enough to remove the sprocket bolts as they are often on very tight. There are various schemes to lock the sprockets usually involving wrapping the old TB around a couple of sprockets and TB pulleys and locking it into place with a clamp or vise grips. After you've tried that and it doesn't work for you, remove the valve covers and you will find a hex area on the cam just behind the front cam cap/seal ... you can place an adjustable wrench or 26mm open end wrench on it to hold the cam while you remove the sprocket bolt. Or, there are special tools available to lock the cam sprockets while you remove the bolts ... I've never used one so can't recommend one to you.
If the TB is not a Subaru belt, then it has been changed ... but who knows when and how many miles it has on it? Spec calls for the change at 105k miles, but back in the days when I didn't know any better, I let a dealer talk me into the change at 60k miles. The same dealer changed the TB a second time at 155k. Neither time was any mention made of changing the pulleys.

So, even if it was changed at 105k, chances are the pulleys were not. Even just 4-5 years ago, the standard advice was to change the pulleys at the second TB change, i.e. 210k. Then we started seeing enough bearing failures before 210k that the advice changed.

If a TB pulley fails and the belt slips a few teeth, chances are you will need either a new engine or a new car. I wouldn't take the chance.

FWIW, I changed my pulleys at 185k. Afterwards, the engine was a whole lot quieter. At least one of the bearings was probably going bad and making enough noise to hear the difference. I figure I dodged a bullet.
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