Nissan Maxima Timing Belt Change Tutorial


Recently I noticed that my 1991 Nissan Maxima, with the VG30E engine, was due for a timing belt change. Nissan recommends this every 60,000 miles but both times I've had it done at around 70,000 miles. The first time I had it done at the dealer which cost me $480 with parts and labor. This time I called around and it was going to cost me $700. That was money I'd rather spend on my car audio habit so I decided to see if I couldn't do it myself. I had always considered a timing belt change one of the most challenging maintenance procedures but had never really looked into how to do it. But I had three resources, a Haynes manual, a Chilton's manual and the Internet. I thought between those I could probably figure it out. What I found out was that there wasn't one really good resource available. So I took notes from all the sources and I was able to create an outline of what I needed to do.


While I was doing the actual work using that outline I took many photos so that I could create this tutorial for others to use. All of the smaller photos on this page can be clicked on to open the full resolution photo in another window. I highly recommend viewing the high resolution images so you can see more details. In addition to the timing belt change I also changed the three main belts (alternator, AC and power steering), the thermostat, the water pump, the camshaft oil seals, the spark plugs, the plug wires, the rotor and the distributor cap. It's generally a good idea to do all of these together, especially the water pump and oil seals since you have to do a good bit of labor in order to get the engine torn down to that point.


Wherever possible I reference either the Haynes or Chilton's manual pages that cover the same material. Also when a socket is required I try to include the socket size needed. This is actually my second attempt at this. The first time was a few weeks prior and apparently I was off a tooth or something because the timing was not right. So I had to do it all over again which makes for a better tutorial since I knew what I had to do and what was important to take photos of. I also learned to make a mark on the outer edge of the timing belt's white lines so I could see their position after installation (you can see the camshaft marks but the crankshaft mark is hidden once installed).

If there are any parts that can be improved or if you have any suggestions please let me know.


Other Nissan Maxima Tutorials:

Nissan Maxima Fuel Injector Change Tutorial


Nissan Maxima Digital Dash HUD Tutorial


Nissan Maxima Lower Control Arm Bushing Change Tutorial


Disclaimer: Use these directions only as a guide and at your own risk. You're responsible for any damage you do to the vehicle so BE CAREFUL. Your vehicle may in fact have slightly different methods so use common sense if the directions don't match what you see. The demo vehicle being shown is a 1991 Nissan Maxima SE with the VG30E engine.



Parts List


The following list contains all of the parts you will need to get in order to complete the job. I actually did not change the crankshaft oil seal because I couldn't get the sprocket off of the crankshaft. It wasn't leaking so I decided not to tempt fate. The Haynes manual says to drill and tap the sprocket and use a special gear puller to get it off if this is the case. I don't think that can be done without removing the engine and that wasn't going to happen. You also have to replace the sprocket that you drilled and tapped.


All of the parts I used were ordered from Courtesy Nissan near Dallas, TX. They're cheaper than the local dealers and they ship quickly. I've linked all of the part numbers to the relevant pages on their site. This link that has all of these parts and more in one spot for changing the timing belt.


Part Part Number Price - 5/30/2008
(Courtesy Nissan)
AC Compressor Belt 11920-J30004
Alternator Belt 11720-J30005
Power Steering Belt A195M-J30001 $10.79
Timing Belt 13028-85E86 $34.69
Timing Belt Tensioner 13070-J30004 $60.11
Tensioner Spring 13072-J30002 $2.35
Thermostat 21200-J30003 $18.06
Water Pump 21010-J30003 $87.99
(2) Camshaft Oil Seal 13042-J30002 $11.22 (for two)
Crankshaft Oil Seal 13510-J30001 $5.04 (I wasn't able to replace this)
Blue RTV Silicone NA $3.50


Tools needed

Vehicle prep

nissan maxima battery

nissan maxima cruise control servonissan maxima cruise control servo

nissan maxima fendernissan maxima coolant reservoir

nissan maxima fendernissan maxima splash guardnissan maxima splash guard

Find Top Dead Center (TDC) for Cylinder 1 (p.65 of the Haynes manual)

nissan maxima distributor cap

nissan maxima distributor capnissan maxima distributor cap

nissan maxima crankshaftnissan maxima timing marks

nissan maxima distributor marks

Remove the Three Drive Belts (p.43 of the Haynes manual)

nissan maxima ac boltnissan maxima tensioner bolt

nissan maxima alternator bolt

nissan maxima idler pulley

Timing Belt Procedure (p.73 of the Haynes manual)

nissan maxima radiator clampnissan maxima radiator clamp hosenissan maxima radiator hosenissan maxima thermostat

nissan maxima idler pulleynissan maxima idler pulley bracket

nissan maxima water pump pulley

nissan maxima crankshaft boltnissan maxima timing belt covernissan maxima timing belt covernissan maxima timing belt distributornissan maxima water pumpnissan maxima ac boltnissan maxima timing cover

nissan maxima wiring harnessnissan maxima ac hose clampnissan maxima timing belt covernissan maxima timing belt covernissan maxima upper timing belt cover


Water Pump Replacement (p.128 of the Haynes manual)

I don't have any pictures of this because I did it a few weeks before creating this tutorial. The same goes for the thermostat replacement. Both are very straight forward so you really don't need any pictures to explain it.

nissan maxima water pump


Thermostat Replacement (p.122 of the Haynes manual)

nissan maxima thermostat


Timing Belt Continued

nissan maxima timing belt tensioner

Crankshaft front oil seal replacement (p.77 of the Haynes manual)

I couldn't get the crankshaft sprocket off. The directions say if this happens to drill and tap the sprocket. Then use a special puller to get it off. Then replace the drilled sprocket with a new one. No thanks. My seal wasn't leaking so I skipped this part.

Camshaft oil seal replacement (p.78 of the Haynes manual)

This I did do. It took up a good portion of the total job. Getting the seals out was the biggest challenge but moving all of the necessary items to get to the seals was also time consuming. The left camshaft oil seal was the most difficult to do. I even had to move my aftermarket strut tower brace among other things. Like the water pump and thermostat, I did this a few weeks beforehand so no pictures.

nissan maxima pry tool

Timing Belt Installation

nissan maxima camshaft sprocketnissan maxima camshaft timing beltnissan maxima camshaft sprocketnissan maxima timing belt

nissan maxima timing belt tensioner

nissan maxima crankshaft

The following is the Haynes manual procedure for setting the tensioner. I just adjusted it to feel so the belt deflects about a half an inch when pushed or pulled. I pretty much know how tight a belt should be but the following is the official method. I have no idea how you apply 22 pounds of force to the belt. Who has that tool? Not me.