You don't HAVE to replace the timing belt, but the mechanic is looking out for you in the long run. Replacing it is a big job that, based on the mileage, will be necessary in a few years. The belt must be removed to replace the water pump, so to replace it with a new one doesn't require any additional labor, just the cost of the new belt.
Your car was definitely not designed for ease of service, however, I looked up the labor times on Chrysler's web site, and was real surprised to see that they only allow 2.3 hours to replace the water pump. That's warranty time which is tight even under ideal conditions. Out-of-warranty times are always a little longer to include such things as broken or rusty bolts.
I didn't look for the cost of a remanufactured water pump, but I would guess it is less than $100.00. A timing belt is typically around 50 bucks. Figure another 50 bucks for antifreeze, gasket sealers or other incidentals, and that still leaves $750.00 for labor. Even if you allowed 3.0 houurs, that's $250.00 per hour for labor. Due to the vey high cost of updating test equipment and leasing service information, most shops have to charge $100.00 to break even. I don't know of any shop that's worth $250.00 per hour.
The 2.3 hours seems way too little time, but to be safe, I would suggest calling a couple of different shops for a second opinion. Be sure to include everything on the itemized estimate if you have one.
Sunday, January 24th, 2010 AT 4:42 AM