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Q: What is the easiest way to know if my engine is toast after a timing belt break? on 1999 Mercury Villager

I was told that my Mercury Villager has an interference engine. One day I went to start it and it ran for just a couple of seconds before it quit. I was told by my mechanic that the timing belt broke. He said that there is a very slim chance that the engine may be OK just by replacing the belt, but it would cost several hundred dollars just to find that out. And in more likelyhood it will need a new motor anyway.

What is the easiest way for me to tell whether or not the valves were bent or the piston is broken or anything else that is common with this sort of issue? I'd love to know that I can just buy the belt and put it on myself to get it up and going again, depending on whatever else one needs to look for. And are there any good resources to find the details of changing the timing belt, perhaps Chilton? Thanks in advance!
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Did it Too,
Yes, all of the info does say that this is an 'interference' engine but, when my timing belt shed it's teeth on the highway it DID NOT damage anything. I changed the belt & tensioner, all 3 accessory belts, plugs, cap, rotor, and wires. It started immediately and has run well for 5000 miles. Don't let a shop scare you into worse case scenarios and spend money unnecessarily.
Take valve covers off. Take cams off. remove spark plugs. Use an adapter to apply air to each cylinder. If you hear air in the intake or exhaust then you have bent valves. Like Pat has said that engine is an interference engine. I have personelly seen the timing belt break and there was no engine damage. PLEASE don't waste your money on a chilton or haynes manual. Spend $26.95 and get a year subscription to get factory info. The website is It does not cost SEVERAL hundred dollars to replace the timing belt. You need to find another "mechanic". I would look for a AUTOMOBILE TECHNICIAN. How many miles do you have on the car? If you need more help from me email me at
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This is a 3.3L engine shared with Nissan. They and the previous 3.0L engine are both interference fit engines. I have even seen the valve guides get damaged when the timing belt brakes and bends valves. good engine other wise if the engine ran well, didn't burn oil, didn't over heat it may be worth removing the cylinder heads and repairing the engine as opposed to putting in a new engine.
Ditto to the above post. We just got ours back up and running a few days ago so we will see how things go. I wasn't about to pay to bring it anywhere though. We paid $200 total to replace the timing belt, water pump, power steering pump, belts, hoses and gaskets. We have a few minor adjustments to make, but it didn't do any damage to the car. I called the Mercury Dealership for advice when it first happened and their "expert" on the subject said it should be fine.
My just recently snapped.I was told some are interference motors and some are not.My son replaced mine for the cost of the belt $27.00 and I'm back on the road.Yippe,don't give up,these are good vehicles.
There is a lot of misinformation about the Nissan built Mercury Villagers from I believe 1997-2000 or 2001. While it is absolutely true that the Mercury used the same Nissan 3 liter engine from the Quest... as part of the arrangement with Nissan, Ford insisted the engine be revised with a shorter stroke, providing valve clearance and making the engine NON INTERFERENCE. I do not think is was very well documented and many good mechanics still think the Mercury engine is interference. In addition to the above people having no issues, i too had no damage. This can also be seen by the drop in HP from the Quest to the Villager due to this engine revision.
Just adding my experience on this issue. I have a 2001 Villager Estate with 240,000+ miles when the timing belt broke on the highway at 60 MPH (5/29/2015). Engine died immediately (check engine light came on, no power steering, no power breaks, etc.). I made it to the side of the road and had it towed to local Chevy dealer (well former dealer, they got caught in the 2008 GM dealership pull back and now only sell user cars) where I have been having my Villager services. The mechanic assigned told the service manager "interference engine." I told him that everything I read on this issue says non-interference engine. I told them to put in the timing belt kit (new belt, water pump, idler etc.) and we would go from there. They did not touch the machine for a week and on Monday morning, the service manager called me and said that it is running but does not sound good.

When I arrived, I see that the belt was installed but no other work was performed (old water pump in place, no belts, hoses, covers installed). When the engine was started it made a ticking sound which I had never heard before and was running rough and wanting to die. The mechanic and service manager said "valve damage" and offered to quote a replacement engine. When that came in at $3500+ I called back and told them to button it up and don't replace the water pump. I picked up the car for a reduced repair bill of $358 and limped it home (3 miles) and parked it in the driveway.

The next day I called the local Ford dealer and the service manager said "non-interference engine" but with 240,000+ miles the possibility of carbon build up (valve face, piston head) may result in interference. I dropped it off at Ford and they called me back and indicated that it sounds like valve damage. They altered the distributor timing so that it idles without dieing and I drove it home ($55). The Ford service manager said the only way to be sure was to change the timing belt for $875 but no guarantee that it would be ok.

I kick my self for not inspecting the belt when it was at the Chevy dealer and partially assembled. I had asked if they were sure that it was timed correctly and was assured that it was.

So now I have a 240,000+ mile Villager in my driveway and am debating whether or not I do the work to pull the covers to expose the timing belt and check it my self, or just call kidney cars and have them tow it away. I just spent $2085 (insurance money) to repair the hood and grill after hitting a deer in December.
Everyone please note: all Mercury Villagers and Nissan Quests 1993-2002 are NON-INTERFERENCE engines. When Nissan and Ford entered the joint venture Ford required the engine to be made NON-INTERFERENCE. The reason many of the posts above replaced their broken timing belt and were fine is because it is non-interference. Please come visit the villagerquest yahoo group if you have any questions about your 1993-2002 Villager or Quest. One of our moderators was on the original Villager/Quest project team : )
Hope this helps!

Why do the parts stores say that the 96 quest is interference when everyone on here are saying its non, very confusing?
I own 3 villagers now and i have owned 5 over their production.people think I'm crazy . Timing belt on my 99 broke at 130000 miles. Absolutely no damage but 11000 miles later it would only start , barely, at 0. Turns out the belt tensioner was not properly set. I have changed the belts on my two 1998 villagers and on my 2001 villager estate. These are awesome vans. Bought all of them used. Also owned a 2000 until my wife totaled it.
I'm new here, but want to believe note written by turbovillager/Michael. I have a 2001 Villager w/244,500 miles. I suckered for the interference data back 4 years ago at 125,000 miles & had the whole pkg changed. Left the garage $500 poorer. So now I've been thinking when it get's to 250,000 I'd change it again especially not wanting it to 'go' in the middle of the upcoming MN winter. Just had the alternator changed, when done got a quote to change the belt, pump, pulley, etc, quote was $460. Doubting as I am I just found this 'place' read the non-interference notes and the last one says "don't-don't-don't" but then UNIXguy above is stuck with 'who-knows-what'. Any chance his belt in on 1 tooth off and needs to be put on right? Is there any "real" way to know the pistons won't hit the valves? Who has "real" Ford documentation that can prove aluminum won't hit steel if it goes? I'd like to not spend more money, let me know your thoughts/knowledge. Michael, how do I access the villagerquest group? Phil.
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