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Do I need to replace timing belt on low mileage


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I probably wouldn't on a 17 year old vehicle but I wouldn't drive it too far from home and I'd be prepared to junk the vehicle if the something in the timing belt system failed.  It's not necessarily the belt itself that fails.  Other components in the valve timing system that can fail are water pump, idler, and tensioner.

I've had a lot of Toyota/Lexus timing belts replaced along water pumps, idlers and tensioners at the recommended replacement interval.  All the timing belts were in excellent condition at the time they were replaced.

The only timing system failure I've experienced was on a 1990 Lexus LS400 in around 1994 at about 75,000 miles when the water pump failed.  I had just left my garage early in the morning on the way to work when I smelled coolant.  The engine lost power when the water pump seized and caused the timing belt to fail.  I was going about 35 mph and was able to coast into a convenience store parking lot and even perfectly into a parking space.  I was lucky to have not yet got on the highway.  It was in the middle of an ice storm and it took several hours for a tow truck to arrive.  The V8's used back then were "non-interference" so there was no engine damage.  The drive train warranty had just expired so I had the timing belt and all the ancillary parts replaced at my own expense.  

Since the  2002 LX470 has an interference engine, there would likely be significant engine damage if something in the timing belt system failed.  Whether to replace the timing belt and the ancillary parts might depend on how long you want to keep this vehicle and how reliable you want it to be.

I once had a the owner of an independent repair shop that specialized in Lexus tell me that he had never seen a timing belt on a Lexus break due to fatigue and that it had always been the failure of another component in the system that caused the timing belt to fail.

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