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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey All,

Just bought a 97 5th gen Prelude and I love it—I always liked the look of these cars and now I'm happy to have one to drive when it's too cold/rainy to ride my bike.

This car is a 5 speed, has 219,000 miles and it drives smooth, looks great (for an 18 year old car) and is a lot of fun. I'm really happy with my purchase.

BUT

I'm a total automotive noob. I had a couple cars in my youth that I drove into the ground like a dumb asshole and I'd like to look after this one a little better. There's tons of great info around this forum that I've been reading and been able to answer a few little questions I have. But a few questions remain, and I was hoping that someone might be able to provide some guidance. I'm going to swallow my pride here and ask what are probably some incredibly stupid questions. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

1) Previous owner said he changed the timing belt around 120,000 miles. It seems like it's WAY overdue for a new one. I saw on an OEM parts website (parts.com) that the part itself costs about 30 bucks. I've also seen references to labor on this issue ranging as high as $800. Why so expensive? I'm ok with throwing about another grand or so at this car to get everything running smoothly, but I just want to make sure I'm not getting ripped off on account of my ignorance.

2) Am I better off taking the car to a Honda dealership, or going to independent mechanics? The carfax says it's been serviced often by a local dealership.

3) I've noticed that the car is leaking fluid from two spots, one just off to the left of the Power Steering Fluid reservoir, and another just behind and to the left of the engine. I think that at least one is oil, but I lack the experience to tell one kind of fluid from another, especially when it's in a puddle on the ground. What's a smart way to approach this problem? Should I just take it to a shop and take their word for it? Should I powerwash the engine and attempt to pinpoint exactly where the leaks are coming from and go from there?

Thanks in advance to anyone with any input on this.
 

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Opinionated Bastard
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7,274 Posts
Welcome!

To answer a few of your questions:

1: Timing belt services are expensive because they are incredibly labor intensive. Whoever does the service needs access to a few heavy duty tools (namely, a large impact strong enough to knock the crank pulley bolt loose, and/or the pulley holder to keep the crank situated), and they need to disassemble the entire timing side of the engine. There is a writeup on here by another member in the Resources thread that goes through the entire process, to give you a better understanding.

2: In terms of who to trust, you're probably best off going to Honda to do the service for three very good reasons: They'll be using nothing but OE Honda parts (which are the best quality), the technicians doing the work will likely be well-versed in doing a Honda timing belt job and know the little tricks and things to watch out for, and they're also qualified to look into all of the other little things that you may need along the way (seals, belts, wear items, etc.). The downside is, they'll probably use the same automatic hydraulic tensioner that your car came with from the factory, which is kind of a piece of junk. You may be able to request that they install the older manual tensioner from an H23, but dealers will likely shy away from that.

3: I would just have the shop you pay to do the work look into the leaks. If you want to do a little bit of legwork yourself, buy a few cans of Brake Cleaner and try to clean up any residual oil leakage. There is an entire write-up that I did a few years ago in the Resources as well, that explains what kind of leaks your car will likely have and their root causes.


Hope this helps, and I hope you have a wonderful experience with your Prelude. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hey, thanks a lot! I emailed the dealer and they quoted me 780 for the timing belt service, which includes the belt, tensioner (as you said), the water pump and coolant.

I'll have them keep me posted about the leaks, and if it looks like something I can do on my own, then I'd like to give it a shot.

Thanks again!
 

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Premium Member
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The timing belt job is something you can certainly DIY if you've got the patience for it. It's a total bitch with the engine in the car. You'll want to replace the water pump while you're there, as it requires the timing belt to be removed anyway. There's a writeup on here somewhere as to how to do it.
 

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not to oppose MLM, but if you do go to Honda you're going to be paying top dollar and the tech doing the work won't necessarily be the most qualified to do the work. that's a common misconception with dealers. most good techs don't stay at the dealerships because they don't pay and the hours suck. I'd look for a reputable independent shop around town too and compare prices among other things.
 

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Asian Assassin
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Timing belt job isn't that bad if you know what you're doing. If you are around my area, I'd be happy to do them for you. Flat rate including parts.
 
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