Sunday, June 20, 2010

Zetec timing belts

The Zetec engines in ZX2s are famous for timing belt problems. Well, with the pulleys anyway. (Many sources incorrectly indicate that the Zetec is an interference design, but it is not, and I will cut my timing belt with the engine running to prove it. But that's another issue.)

Amanda's car started making a squealing noise recently. It sounded suspiciously like a slipping belt, but I had just put a new serpentine on there not long ago. I checked the serp belt, removed the belt and checked the pulleys, and decided I'd check out the timing belt while I was there. And I saw this:


If you look closely, you can see a ridge on the left (front) side of the belt. That's where the belt is not riding on one of the idler pulleys. This immediately told me that the squealing noise was coming from the timing belt, and that it was dragging along a pulley with a worn out bearing. I loosened the belt and found the top left idler pulley was fairly close to seizing. I've had this problem before, not long after I got this car. My timing belt snapped -- shredded, I suppose is more accurate -- due to seized and disintegrating pulleys.

So, by my limited experience, I must go ahead and make a maintenance suggestion for any owner of a Ford Escort ZX2: replace those timing belt pulleys every 80 thousand miles or fewer.

I got a new kit, including belt, tensioners, and both idlers (later engines had just one idler in addition to the tensioner) on RockAuto.com for less than $80 plus shipping. The local O'Reilly had it in stock as well, but they wanted a ridiculous $180. Amanda said no. Considering the price of the belt alone at most stores is around fifty bucks, the extra thirty for a set of pulleys is a good deal.

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