Happened to my 3.0L Grand Voyager with a freshly rebuilt engine. The tensioner pulley is spring-loaded to set the tension, then a nut is tightened to hold it there. The students didn't realize the bracket was sticking and not pulling on the belt. I made it 40 miles on a mid-summer day before it started to run hot. Found out we could turn the water pump pulley by hand, but the belt never jumped a tooth. While playing with that tensioner, we found we could duplicate its sticking consistently. A simple nudge with a small pry bar solved the overheating.
Now, to be fair, this belt was just installed, and it was tightened improperly. You're right that if a correctly-tensioned belt becomes loose thousands of miles later, it is likely due to other more serious problems, but the point is it can happen. I had a water pump go out on my daily driver, another 3.0L Grand Caravan. It made noise for two months to give me plenty of warning, .. So I ignored it as long as possible. It finally started overheating when all the water fell out as fast as I could pour it in. I'm not suggesting anyone else ignore what might be a timing belt issue. The 3.0L is a non-interference engine so the worst damage would be to my pride as I was walking home. Most newer small engines ARE of the interference design, and a simple timing belt problem can go from somewhat involved to real serious and expensive if it breaks or jumps more than a couple of teeth.
We don't know the engine size, what the symptoms are, or any other details, so normally a sudden overheating concern with no other symptoms is not likely to be due to the timing belt, but can it happen? Yes.
Saturday, January 5th, 2013 AT 11:36 AM