Car ownership involves certain plights – at least if the word automobile has a certain importance for you. Of course, we all know that servicing car is essential to remain mobile. When a timing belt slips into the equation, this often means a significant expenditure, in particular when a big V6 fills the engine bay to the brim. Instead of having an even larger unplanned bill for the replacement of an engine, it is probably wise to plan the replacement of the belt.
When I bought my 3-litre V6 24-valve Citroën XM, the last owner told me that the timing belt would not have to be changed for another 50,000kms. That took about 2 1/2 year to achieve – somehow quicker than I thought. Being used to simpler cars like ADO16, Maxi or Maestro, the task at hand did not look very promising – in fact, to say the least, it looked daunting. This, combined with timing difficulties between my favourite Citroën garage and me, an accident involving our Rover Tourer before Christmas and all that just on top of normal daily life, meant that the replacement was postponed a couple of times – until now.
A weekend was set aside together with my friends from the RetroGarage in Stolberg, when they had a vacant lift. Expecting the worst, we started to strip off all the things in need of replacement – or simply blocking access. Starting with the added stuff from the LPG kit, we kept stripping off things until we had the old belt and all pulleys off – nicely filling a large desk as can be seen in the picture above.
Half-time, it took a good few hours to search for all the screws that needed undoing – but, all in all, it was just rather laborious, and not really demanding. Actually, it was quite easy, access was reasonable and there were no hidden issues – if the Citroën Workshop Manual had been a bit more detailed, that would have saved some time looking for screwheads. It was not going unnoticed, that the old belt and all pulleys still looked and felt like new, unlike the waterpump – which did show a small drip – and the auxiliary belt, which was full of cracks despite being less than two years old.
While at it, the crank shaft oil seal was also replaced. The idea of skipping a spare worth just under €15, but needing several hours of work to get at, did not seem appealing.
The engine has a nice layout, with all four cams having a vernier wheel to get absolutly exact timing, but also helping fitment of the belt. The old style and rather complex hydraulic tensioner was replaced by the simple, yet effective spring loaded unit as it is also in use on Rover’s K-Series. No special tools were needed – a simple 8mm pin is used to block the crank shaft and four long 8mm steel bolts screw into the cylinder heads to block each of the four cams.
The belt went on easy enough, setting the tension and re-checking the cam adjustment was straightforward. A few hours of refitting all those pieces later, after running the engine until the cooling system was properly bled and no funny noises were discovered, we were left with the nice feeling of a good achievement. Looking back at the whole job, it was actually not that bad to do. The sticker was added – next belt due at 410,000kms.
Here we are – ready for the next 120,000kms (75,000 miles)…