Dear Tom and Ray:
A mechanic recently replaced my timing belt, pulleys, water pump and another belt on my 2001 Toyota Avalon, and the car runs fine. But I made the mistake of hanging around the shop while the work was being done. While installing my new belt, the mechanic became very upset at it, with numerous references to its parentage, romantic habits and promiscuity. My question is: Does this indicate that he is an unskilled mechanic, or would you say this is normal, even with a skilled one? — Craig
TOM: He probably was just chatting with a colleague, Craig.
RAY: Actually, he shouldn’t get frustrated when putting the timing belt on an ’01 Avalon — it should go on very easily. The V-6 engine doesn’t leave you a lot of room to work in that engine compartment, but once you have all the sprockets lined up, that belt should slip right on.
TOM: If that’s leading to a profane diatribe, then, yes, he’s a rank amateur.
RAY: However, that car’s serpentine belt is another story. And my guess is that that’s what led to your mechanic’s eloquent soliloquy.
TOM: For some reason, some manufacturers have started making their serpentine belts a few millimeters shorter. Why? I don’t know. To save a few cents on rubber? But it does increase the difficulty of slipping the belt over the various pulleys.
RAY: The general rule for installing a serpentine belt is that you always put it on the largest pulley last. That way, you can turn the pulley by hand and use its mechanical advantage to leverage the belt over the lip. Maybe your mechanic doesn’t know that trick?
TOM: Or maybe he does, and while he was working on your car, he got a text from his daughter saying she’s marrying a mechanic.