Just finished the 100,000 mile service on my 2005 Honda Pilot EX-L 4WD with 3.5L V6 engine. The car actually has only 92,000 miles but is long past the 7 year recommended timing belt replacement interval. I learned so much from the various user forums, YouTube videos and viewer comments so I thought I would pass along some of my own experience and tips that may help some others who are contemplating this service on their car. This is not intended to be a step-by-step procedure for doing the job; that is available in many places, just do a Google search. It is just a collection of extra tips and advice based on my experience doing this job.
First, let me caution you that this procedure is not to be taken lightly and requires a fair degree of experience, mechanical skill and tools that go beyond the typical driveway maintenance tasks such as oil changes and brake jobs. Over the years, I have done 5 timing belt jobs but always on 4 cylinder engines with a single overhead cam. This was my first experience with a V6 dual cam (and probably my last since I am 77 years old). On the other hand, if you are determined, have the right tools and watch lots of videos you can probably do this. I found it incredibly satisfying to turn the key and have the engine start and run perfectly after finishing. Not to mention saving hundreds of dollars in repair cost.
The biggest problem most people face is removing the notorious Honda crankshaft bolt so I suggest starting with this task. If you can’t remove the bolt there is no point in going any further. Since most DIY people don’t have the luxury of a lift, there is very little space to get a long breaker bar with a cheater on the bolt for leverage. Removing this bolt requires several hundred lb-ft of torque! You could try the “bump starter” method or bring it to a shop to get the bolt loosened. I managed to get the bolt off relatively easily using a heavy duty impact wrench and special heavy 19mm socket:
Ingersoll Rand 2235TiMAX 1/2” Drive Air Impact Wrench Amazon.com: Ingersoll Rand 2235TiMAX 1/2” Drive Air Impact Wrench – Lightweight 4.6 lb Design, Powerful Torque Output Up to 1,350 ft-lbs, Titanium Hammer Case, Max Control, Gray : Everything Else
77080 19mm Harmonic Balancer Socket Amazon.com: 77080 19mm Harmonic Balancer Socket 3 Times Momentum Power of Standard Impact Sockets Fits for Honda Engines : Automotive
Even with these tools, I had to use PB Blaster and alternated between forward and reverse on the gun before the bolt finally broke free. It took less than a minute and was well worth the $15 price of the socket that I will likely never use again. The impact wrench was a really nice Father’s Day gift from my kids. I will use that tool a lot and it replaced my 25 year old Craftsman impact wrench that had much less torque and finally stopped working. Thanks guys!
After you deal with the crank bolt, you need to remove the serpentine belt (which should be replaced along with the timing belt). This is easily done using a breaker bar on the upper tensioner pulley bolt and pushing it toward the rear of the car to relieve tension on the belt. Don’t worry about loosening the bolt since it has a left-handed thread. The mistake I made was to start with the breaker bar close to the front of the car. When I removed the belt and tried to release the tensioner, the breaker bar hit against the radiator support and I could not get the socket off the bolt. I had to move the tensioner back, put the belt back on and reposition the breaker bar. I found that the bar hit the hood before I could release the belt so I braced the hood as high as it would go with a 2x4 instead of the hood support.
Next is the issue of access. Some people recommend moving the power steering pump and others do not. Same with the pump hose. I found the easiest solution was to move the pump but first take off the pump pulley. I had not seen anyone else do this but the pump bolts are not easy to get to and it is not worth the struggle. Just stick a screwdriver through the pulley slot to brace it in place and remove the one bolt holding it on. Easy! Then remove hose connecting the pump and reservoir and cap off the openings. Put a towel under it to catch the small amount of fluid that will come out.
The 3 timing belt covers are held on with a total of 17 small bolts – 5 on each of the top front and rear covers and 7 on the bottom cover. An air ratchet is helpful in speeding up removing these bolts. Look at a diagram and count the bolts to make sure you get all of them off since some are well hidden. They are all the same size so no need to identify which bolt goes into which hole. One of the bolts (I believe near the top of the bottom cover) is next to a similar bolt that secures the timing belt tensioner. No problem if you remove the wrong bolt like I did since you will be removing the tensioner anyway.
The biggest concern I had was getting all 3 gears aligned properly. After gaining access to the old belt and getting the timing marks lined up, I used white nail polish to mark the arrows on the gears, the engine block arrows and the corresponding points on the old belt (I used different colors on the belt to identify the corresponding gears). The gear indicator marks are on the edge of the gear away from the engine block so I made a mark close to the block on each gear. Especially with the rear cam gear, viewing it an angle makes it difficult to see when the marks are in alignment. I used a small inspection mirror to confirm they were lined up. After removing the belt, I transferred the marks to the new belt and confirmed the locations by counting the number of teeth between each mark (counted each belt twice to be sure). A painstaking and time consuming process but well worth it in the end. Note that you can’t mark the belt where the crank gear alignment mark is located since the belt does not contact the gear here. So I marked the belt and gear directly opposite this point and also at the right and left 90 degree points where the belt just starts engaging with the gear.
Changing the water pump, idler pulley, tensioner pulley and tensioner was straightforward. There is a Honda Service Bulletin regarding the idler pulley:
Service Bulletin 08-045 - Chirp From the Timing Belt Area Service Bulletin Chirp From the Timing Belt Area (Supersedes , dated May 21, 2010, to revise the information marked by the black bars) - PDF Free Download
I did not have this noise but decided to add the shim anyway. Looks like a simple little piece of metal but costs at least $25 on eBay and even more from the dealer.
Putting the new belt on was tedious and I ended up doing it 4 times before I was satisfied that it was correct. The rear cam gear is the hardest since it tends to suddenly jump ¼ turn clockwise from the aligned position due to the valve spring pressure. My biggest fear was that it would jump while I had my hand there putting on the belt and would cause some nasty injury. Fortunately that did not happen to me, but be careful. Even though the service manual says to start the belt installation at the crank gear and work counterclockwise, my first inclination was to start at the rear cam gear since it was the hardest. That did not work out so I went back to the recommended sequence. I also did not remove the spark plugs since they were recently changed. It made moving the crank gear a bit more difficult since I had to wait a few seconds for the compression to release after each piston reached TDC. The rear cam gear did jump a couple of times but I was able to turn it back easily (CCW) with a breaker bar. It was like a balancing act to get it to stay in place.
The marks I made on the new timing belt really helped getting things aligned. Even when I thought all the slack had been taken out between the crank and front cam, the marks on the gear and the belt did not line up. I used a small clamp to hold the belt on the bottom of the crank gear while routing it around the idler pulley to the front cam gear. I found it helpful to move the front cam gear slightly clockwise to get the marks lined up and then moved it CCW to stretch the belt. Same procedure with the rear cam gear except that even the slightest movement would cause it to jump so I held it with the breaker bar slightly off center and then moved it back in alignment to stretch the belt.
Even without the tensioner applying pressure, I found it very difficult to get the timing belt over all the gears and pulleys. It is a very snug fit. It helped to loosen the idler bolt a few turns to allow the idler to move providing a bit more slack in the belt. The bolt is tapered so when you tighten it the belt will tighten.
All was good and seemed correctly positioned. At this point the instructions say to rotate the crank gear two rotations clockwise to ensure everything is still aligned. I was hesitant to release the tensioner grenade pin since if there is a problem, it is rather difficult to reset it. So I rotated the crank without the tensioner released. Big mistake! The belt almost immediately skipped a couple of teeth off the crank. Another contributing factor was that I had removed the belt guide plate from the crank gear and did not put it back. That plate helps to hold the belt in place on the crank gear. So I went through the whole process again. This time I released the tensioner, installed the guide plate and rotated the crank and everything stayed lined up. Success at last!
This is the timing belt and water pump kit I used. It costs a bit more than some others but has good reviews and very complete instructions:
AISIN TKH-002 Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump Amazon.com: AISIN TKH-002 Engine Timing Belt Kit with Water Pump : Automotive
There is a Honda Service Bulletin regarding the replacement serpentine belt tensioner pulley:
Service Bulletin 08-082 - Drive Belt Tensioner Replacement https://bit.ly/3yAvXEd
This involves trimming one of the plastic ribs on the top front cover and needs to be done before installing it.
After putting the covers back on, I installed the crank pulley and bolt. The instructions are to torque the bolt 47 lb-ft and then another 60 degrees. I think the final torque spec is about 180 lb-ft but most people don’t have a torque wrench that goes that high. So after I did the initial 47 lb-ft torque, I marked a bolt point and corresponding spot on the next flat of the pulley. Each flat (and point) of a hex bolt is 60 degrees apart. I used the impact wrench and special socket to nudge the bolt slowly until the marks I made lined up. When torquing the crank bolt you need to hold the crank pulley so it does not move and there is a special tool for that purpose:
BETOOLL 50mm Crankshaft Crank Pulley Wrench Holder Amazon.com: BETOOLL 50mm Crankshaft Crank Pulley Wrench Holder Tool Removal Holding Spanner kit for Honda and Acura Engines : Automotive
The instructions say not to use an impact wrench to tighten the bolt but I think this is because just using an impact wrench would give an imprecise torque, either too loose or too tight. My method follows the instructions for how much to tighten and I can’t see any possible downside. It would have been very difficult to get that much leverage without a lift for the final 60 degrees using a breaker bar with a cheater. (By the way, one of the upper timing cover bolts sheared off when tightening even with a small torque wrench set to 9 lb-ft. It is a middle bolt so I’ll just leave it off. Not critical so no worries. At least it wasn’t one of the pulley bolts or water pump bolts like some people have reported.)
Finally, I installed the new serpentine belt and tensioner assembly:
Gates Premium Micro-V Serpentine Belt K060841 https://amzn.to/3yHU4ke
Continental 49349 Accu-Drive Tensioner Assembly https://amzn.to/3fVGbrD
Just make sure the serpentine belt is correctly positioned and centered on all the pulleys.
Although it had to be removed to access the timing belt, I did not replace the right motor mount since it was still in good condition and is not difficult to do at a later time (unlike the water pump). In fact, all the belts and pulleys I removed, including the water pump, seemed to be in good condition. There was only a slight oil seepage from the timing belt tensioner. I hope all the new parts last as long. If you need to change the motor mount, try this one:
Anchor 9299 Engine Mount https://amzn.to/3iEtMK9
(I bought and returned the ones made by DEA and Beck Arnley since they did not match the OEM mount. I did not buy the Anchor 9299 mount but the picture looks like it is an exact replacement and it is less expensive than the others.)
Also, if you need to change the spark plugs I suggest that you get this tool. It makes the job so much easier with the hidden spark plugs:
LEXIVON 5/8" Magnetic Spark Plug Socket, 3/8" Drive x 6" https://amzn.to/3iE2rrN
Then came the the “moment of truth”. I put in the key, held my breath and turned it to the start position. The engine started right up and runs like new.
Sorry for the long post. Hope you find some helpful tips for your job. I know a video and photos would have been helpful and I really admire and appreciate those who take the time to do that. Most of the links I posted are for Amazon sources but of course you can buy these items at other places. Some of the tools can be borrowed at auto parts stores. Good luck with your project.