I took my '03 Hyundai Santa Fe (V6) to the mechanic because it just shut off while driving. All the lights were on, but the engine just stopped.

I took it to a mechanic, and even though he's not 100% sure, he says it might be the timing belt. He says he needs to lift the car and remove the engine to change this timing belt.

Is changing a timing belt such a complicated task?

I've also considered getting a second opinion. The problem is that the car would need to be towed to the other garage, and that's easily $100.

  • 2
    Which engine is in the Sante Fe? The reason why I ask is, the V6's should have timing chains which shouldn't need to be changed. If the 4-cyl, then by all means it could be the culprit. If a chain broke, you've got bigger problems. Nov 5, 2021 at 0:06
  • how long (in miles) since the timing belt was looked at or replaced last time?
    – Stian
    Nov 5, 2021 at 9:52
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    If your mechanic is unsure if its the timing belt, but wants to charge you to remove the engine, then you NEED to take it to another mechanic! The valve cover could be removed, and the crankshaft rotated, do the valves operate as expected? If so then probably not the timing belt, unless it just jumped a few teeth, but the belt should be able to be visibly inspected from the top to see if it is worn or loose and thus likely to jump timing. As to cost to get it to another mechanic, you could rent a tow dolly for about $50.
    – Glen Yates
    Nov 5, 2021 at 15:18
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 : it’s the V6.
    – rbhat
    Nov 6, 2021 at 3:19
  • 1
    I'm wrong about the timing belt. Hyundai used a different V6 later on which uses a chain (my '08 Azera has a chain). I don't know which year they went with the newer engine, but yours would have a belt. Nov 6, 2021 at 11:57

3 Answers 3


It depends on the car, but it's plausible that the best way to change the belt is to drop the engine. Even if dropping the engine isn't required, changing a timing belt on a modern car is often a very labor-intensive task because you have to remove so many components to get at it, for instance some combination of the radiator, fan, alternator, water pump, injection manifold, air filter box, air intake, power steering pump, etc.

However, if the timing belt went on your car there's a good chance that your engine was seriously damaged, possibly beyond economic repair. There are many other reasons your engine may have quit on you that are far easier and cheaper to fix, I would get a second opinion before investing the money in dropping the engine.

  • 3
    +1 for the second paragraph. That is quite likely a catastrophic failure for a 20 year old car. I don't know the Santa Fe specifically but if that belt controls valves (from the blowout drawing I saw when googling it, looks like it) you'll have valves destroyed, pistons likely affected, the cylinders bushings have likely taken a beating... AND you'll need to replace the water pump+belt. Cost >> repaired value of the car.
    – Stian
    Nov 5, 2021 at 10:03
  • @StianYttervik Just replacing the whole engine is usually cheaper than trying to repair the damage AND often still not economical on an old car. But it could be the belt is just worn and the engine management computer was able to shutdown before it became a catastrophic failure.
    – Tonny
    Nov 5, 2021 at 10:33
  • Thanks. The issue with the 2nd opinion is that the car doesn't start, so towing it to another garage will likely cost over $100.
    – rbhat
    Nov 5, 2021 at 13:06
  • 1
    It's worth the $100 @rbhat, a full engine rebuild is a whole lot more.
    – GdD
    Nov 5, 2021 at 13:09
  • @rbhat an engine rebuild could easily run $3-4,000. $100 for a tow to get a 2nd opinion is a worthwhile investment.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 5, 2021 at 18:06

I found this -

NOTE: Santa Fe – Due to limited space within the engine compartment it may be necessary to remove the engine from the vehicle or the gearbox mounting and left-hand side driveshaft to enable sufficient access to the timing belt.

It came from this page.

It looks like it may be easier to remove the engine to do the work.

  • Hyundai and Kia motors (Hyundai owns both) from the 2000s sometimes had this problem, where the engine block was designed to be compact at the cost of being easily serviceable. I had a Kia Sedona that had to have its engine dropped several times for what should have been simple repairs otherwise.
    – Machavity
    Nov 5, 2021 at 12:49
  • Which requires lifting the car because they only come out the bottom?
    – Mazura
    Nov 5, 2021 at 18:29
  • @Mazura I think it's a logical conclusion that if there's no room to service something like a timing belt with the engine in the vehicle that there's also not enough room to remove the engine out the top of the bay. It's likely easier to remove the engine from the bottom than to remove everything else to get at the belt.
    – Logarr
    Nov 5, 2021 at 21:07
  • 1
    @Mazura unlikely to be impossible, but if it was designed to be dropped for removal doing so is almost certainly going to be easier than using an engine hoist to lift it out instead. Factory cars aren't designed with making service easy for shade tree mechanics, and pros will almost always have lifts available; so making the easiest way to remove the engine being dropping it isn't going to be seen as a problem by the design engineers. Nov 5, 2021 at 21:26

I would get a second opinion. It could be a variety of things that cause the engine to stop. Many do not require the drastic step of dropping the engine. These would include checking battery voltage, battery connections, fuel pressure, is it getting spark, etc. Seems a bit drastic as a first step in the diagnosis process. Just my two cents...

  • Thanks. The issue is that the car doesn't start, so taking it to another garage will likely cost over $100.
    – rbhat
    Nov 5, 2021 at 13:05
  • Is it safe to tow the car with all its wheels on the ground? That will be free (apart from a few beers) if a friend does it with their car
    – CSM
    Nov 5, 2021 at 14:47
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    @CSM This is not always legal depending on location, and unless the other mechanic was very close via uncrowded slow speed streets, may not be safe, and OP may not be comfortable attempting. What would be somewhat more plausible, would be to rent a tow dolly from Uhaul (about $50) and find a friend with a vehicle with a tow hitch, this would cut the cost to less than half that of a tow truck.
    – Glen Yates
    Nov 5, 2021 at 15:06
  • 1
    Just to clarify the first point - the opinions of some people on the internet do not really qualify as a second opinion, because we haven't seen the car.
    – Criggie
    Nov 5, 2021 at 23:28

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