The timing belt for any vehicle is one of the most important elements of the engine. It keeps the engine turning at the right speed so that the pistons and valves never contact each other, despite using the same holes into the engine. If a belt fails, the pistons and valves will connect, causing catastrophic engine failure. Changing the timing belt of your 1997 Mazda Protege is a task you can do at home, although a working knowledge of tools and engines is required, as well as access to a fully stocked garage.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Car ramp (or car jack and floor stands)
- Wrench set
- Screwdriver set
- Socket set
- Allen wrench set
Drive your Mazda up onto the car ramp or use the car jack plus the stands to raise the front end of the vehicle. Chock the back wheels with a rock or a scrap piece of wood and ensure the parking brake for the vehicle is set. Remove the passenger-side tire with a socket and ratchet. Use a socket or wrench to remove the inner splash shield on the passenger side.
Follow the directions on the serpentine belt diagram chart of the Mazda (on the hood or radiator shroud) to locate the automatic belt tensioner. Use a socket and ratchet to turn the tensioner pulley and release tension on the belt. Remove the belt from the pulley. Use a socket or wrench to remove the power steering belt cover.
Loosen the power steering pump, but do not disconnect the hoses. Move the power steering pump out of the way (remove the pulley from the pump if you need additional space) and remove the crankshaft pulley from the shaft, as well as the belt guide washer. Use a socket or wrench to remove the timing belt valve cover.
Turn the crankshaft by turning the crankshaft bolt. Use a socket or wrench to turn the bolt and rotate the engine in a clockwise motion to line up the crankshaft sprocket mark with the pointer on the engine block in the 12 o'clock position. Check the letters on either side of the sprocket for further alignment checks. Align all of the marks.
Hold the timing belt tensioner in place with an Allen wrench and use a screwdriver to remove the spring. Remove the old belt and reinstall the new one, keeping the tensioner pulley to the side with the screwdriver while you run the belt up into the timing case. Replace the tensioner spring and let the pulley tighten the belt.
Rotate the crankshaft clockwise at least three full turns and double-check the alignment marks. If they are off in any way, remove the tension spring and the belt, realign the marks, and reinstall the belt before checking the shaft manually again. Replace all of the components of the engine in reverse order.
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