I wouldn't panic over the age. The mileage is more important. They're worried about dry rot but belts rarely break from that.
There's two things that can happen. The belt can break, and that would be catastrophic. Your engine is an "interference" engine design which means the open valves will be hit and bent by the pistons as they coast to a stop. That requires a valve job which can be fairly expensive. The belt could also become worn and jump a tooth or two on the sprocket. That will cause low power and sluggish acceleration but no other serious damage. On some cars the Engine Computer will detect that and shut the engine down to protect the valves.
Another potential cause of timing belt failure is a worn water pump. Its pulley is one of the idler pulleys for the timing belt on your engine. All conscientious mechanics will replace the water pump and any other tensioning devices for added insurance of a reliable repair when they replace the timing belt. One thing you can do to lower the risk of the water pump failing is to replace the engine coolant every two years as all manufacturers recommend. It is normal for acids to build up in the coolant due to the normal seepage of combustion gases into the cooling system. Antifreeze has water pump lubricant and corrosion inhibitors to address that but those additives wear out in about two years regardless of how many miles that involves.
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 AT 10:01 PM