Ford Fiesta Timing Belt Replacement Problem


Hi John, Last week I had the timing belt replaced on my 2009 Ford Fiesta which has done 163,000km. The car has been serviced by the same Ford dealer since I bought the car new. When I started the engine the morning after the belt change it couldn't maintain idle without throttle and was about to stall. I re-started the car, applied a few revs and all seemed ok. I started out on my 70km morning commute when I noticed the engine malfunction warning light come on. I pulled over and read the manual and it said it was ok to continue driving.

I took the car back to the dealership that morning and of course the light didn't come on. They took the car for a spin around the block and said it was all fine. The service adviser said the difficulty in starting could be because the belt is new and tight (I never had this problem when I bought the car new) and the warning light comes on when the engine is under stress. He also said that the timing belt "could be one tooth out." He said to monitor the situation and let him know if I've had a recurrence of any of those symptoms.

Well, this morning, four days after the belt was replaced the same thing happened - sluggish when started, not maintaining idle, warning light staying lit, etc. I drove it around, came home, re-started it, and no warning light. I will call the service department again this week. What should I be asking them to do/check for? Many thanks, Nick


That shouldn’t happen. Just to recap: the timing belt synchronises the camshaft(s) and the crankshaft - so basically it makes sure that the valves open and close at the right time, relative to the position of the pistons. That’s very important, as you might imagine.

There is no ‘one tooth out’ scenario that is acceptable. The orientation of the crane and cams needs to be precise. It’s happened twice. If it happens again, and didn’t happen before, then it is a consequence of the repairs.

If it happens only upon cold starting then you might have to give them the car overnight so they can replicate the problem. 

It’s very frustrating that you take the car in and they don’t experience the problem. Two suggestions there:

  • Take careful note of the precise operating conditions in which you experience the problem, the better to duplicate it in the service department. (Is it just on cold start that it’s hard to start? When does the fault light come on? How long does it stay on for? When does it go away?)
  • Get them to plug the car in to the diagnostic computer. If the engine fault light comes on then it usually logs a fault code which can give some indication about which black box in the system is doing the complaining.

Finally, just to be on the safe side, do a vital fluids check - oil and water. Just to be on the safe side.