Hardlymoving writes about do-it-yourself automobile maintenance on various makes and models.
The Honda F23 series engine is a 2.3 liter, all-aluminum block, 16-valve, single overhead camshaft (SOHC) motor used in the Honda Accord (1994–2002) and Acura CL (2.3L). Timing belt failure may result in either the intake or exhaust valves bending after contacting the pistons. If the belt has broken, a compression leakage test is advised to determine if the valves require replacement. Compression leakage from any of the cylinders (indicating bent valves) will require the removal of the cylinder head. If compression leakage is present, inspection and rebuild of the head by a reputable automotive machine shop is recommended in lieu of doing-it-yourself. This article only covers timing belt and water pump replacement.
The belt replacement interval is either 90,000 or 105,000 miles based on the specific model year. Check the owner's manual for the specific service interval. If the mileage is below the threshold but the vehicle is over 7 years old, consider performing a replacement as preventative maintenance (PM). Timing belts cannot be visually inspected for wear. Moreover, a visual inspection would require the removal of the timing belt cover which is time better spent working on the replacement.
A typical timing belt component kit consists of:
- Timing belt
- Balance shaft belt
- Timing belt tensioner pulley
- Balance shaft tensioner pulley
F23 Timing Belt Part Cross Reference
Accord DX, LX, EX
Gates is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supplier for Honda; other OEMs include Aisin, Dayco, and Continental. No premature belt failures or problems have been encountered with any of these brand suppliers, therefore replacement with original Honda parts is not necessary.
The Cooling System
If the cooling system appears murky or has been replaced with anything other than Honda coolant, consider replacing the water pump. Coolant replenishment/replacement with non-Honda coolant containing borates and silicates will compromise the pump's rubber seals and aluminum, and the pump will eventually fail. If the cooling system contains original Honda coolant, a simple drain-and-fill with new Honda coolant is adequate.
The Valve Cover Gasket
The valve cover must be removed or raised to remove the upper timing belt cover. A new valve cover gasket is highly recommended to avoid future gasket leaks. If the gasket hasn't ever been replaced, using the existing gasket with the valve cover bolt grommets and the spark plug tube seals will result in oil seepage or leaks. Applying RTV sealant to the old gasket does not work to stop or prevent oil leaks from the valve cover gasket.
Since the F23 engine rotates counter-clockwise and in the absence of an impact driver that generates over 150 lbs of torque, a Honda crankshaft pulley holder tool must be used to keep the pulley from moving when attempting to relieve tension on the crankshaft pulley bolt. However, the pulley bolt could possibly be removed with a manual transmission Honda by keeping the car in gear with the wheels on the ground and the parking brakes on.
Honda, Toyota, and Nissan do not make their own replacement parts. They subcontract the manufacture of original and replacement parts and stamp their name on it. If belt longevity is of concern, only purchase a high saturated nitrile (HSN) belt within a belt component kit. To avoid a repeat belt replacement job due to a belt tensioner pulley bearing failure, replace the bearings with the new belts.
The video below provides a step-by-step procedure for performing a timing belt, water pump, camshaft seal, crankshaft seal, valve cover gasket, valve cover bolt grommets, and spark plug tube seals replacement on the F23 Honda Accord. Detailed text instructions with photos are available below the video.
2.3 L I4 F23 Honda Accord Timing Belt, Water Pump, and Component Replacement
Remove the Crankshaft Pulley Bolt
- Support the engine with a jack. Use a wood plank to prevent damage to the oil pan. See photos below.
- With the Honda crankshaft pulley holder tool on-hand, secure the tool in the pulley. Connect a long 1/2" breaker bar to the tool and lodge the bar to the ground. Otherwise, you can use a high-mass impact socket like this one with a moderately powered impact driver tool to remove the crankshaft pulley. (This only applies if no high torque impact driver is available.)
- Remove the crankshaft pulley bolt with a breaker bar attached to a long extension to clear the fender. The extension must be supported to offset the force needed to removed the bolt (usually one's body weight with momentum).
Remove the Accessory Belts
- Remove the power steering pump belt.
- Remove the alternator and air conditioner belt.
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Remove the Side Engine Mount
Valve Cover: Remove or Loosen All Bolts and Detach Plug Wires
The upper timing belt cover cannot be removed unless the valve cover is either removed or tilted up from the upper timing belt cover. If the tilt method is used, disconnect (but do not remove) the ignition wire for each plug and remove the valve cover bolts.
Set Crankshaft Pulley to Top-Dead-Center (TDC)
Temporarily screw the crankshaft pulley bolt back in and use a ratchet wrench to turn the motor to align the crankshaft pulley top-dead-center (TDC). Mark with the lower timing belt cover timing alignment indicator. Set the ratchet wrench to counter-clockwise rotation and with a quick snap of the wrist, remove the tension on the pulley bolt and screw off. If the timing mark is slightly misaligned, re-adjust with your hands.
Remove the Crankshaft Pulley after TDC alignment.
Remove Upper and Lower Timing Belt Cover
- Remove the bolts that secure the upper timing belt cover and detach the wire harness recessed in the cover.
- Pull out the oil dipstick and tube. A back and forth twisting motion on the tube will free it.
- After the bolts have been removed and assuming the valve cover is still on the engine, tilt up the timing belt side of the valve cover to allow the upper belt cover to be removed. A small crowbar can be used to keep the valve cover tilted up while the upper belt cover is removed.
- Remove the bolts that secure the low timing belt cover.
- Remove the bolts that secure the side engine mount and remove the mount.
Apply Paint Marks for Belt Alignment
If the number one cylinder is at top-dead-center (TDC) on the compression stroke, the camshaft pulley marking of "UP" should be approximately or slightly past the 12 o'clock position. Applying paint marks to the camshaft pulley juxtaposed to the backing plate will allow realignment if the camshaft were to shift after timing belt removal.
Apply paint marks to the three pulleys that drive the balance shafts.
Remove the Balance Shaft Belt and Timing Belt
There are two tensioner pulley bearings secured to the engine through one common bolt stud: the timing belt tensioner pulley and the balance shaft tensioner pulley. This may appear complex or confusing but the system is not too difficult to work with taking it one step at a time.
- Detach the pulley bracket tensioner spring from the mounting stud on the engine.
- Remove the pulley bracket nut.
- Remove the tensioner bolt (or nut) that secures the two tensioner pulleys and remove only the balance shaft tensioner pulley.
- Remove the balance shaft belt.
- Remove the balance shaft center pulley (it is attached to the crankshaft and will slide off).
- Temporarily re-attach the balance shaft tensioner puller and hand tighten the tensioner bolt.
- Using needle nose or vice grip pliers, remove the timing belt tensioner pulley spring.
- With the tensioner bolt being finger tight, between the camshaft and crankshaft, twist the timing belt 90 degrees. If there was any high residual tension on the belt, the twisting of the belt will remove the tension to ease belt removal and installation.
- Double-check the new belt installation:
- Apply paint marks on the belt where the belt meets both the crankshaft and camshaft pulleys
- Apply paint marks on the pulleys to match the belt
- After belt removal, transfer the paint marks to the new belt
- This will ensure that you will not be off by a single cog after installation of the new belt.
Remove the tensioner bolt, balance shaft tensioner bearing, timing belt, and the timing belt tensioner bearing.
(Optional) Remove Old Water Pump and Install New Water Pump
If the water pump is leaking through the weep hole or the bearing seems worn, replacement is advised. Worn bearings can be detected when the gear is hand turned and appears to "hang" or stop on specific spots during rotation. There are 5 bolts that secure the water pump to the engine. A rubber O-ring maintains the seal. If installing a new pump, the installation of a new O-ring is advised. Hand tighten all the bolts then apply the final torque with a 3/8" socket wrench. Do not over torque.
Install New Timing Belt and Balance Shaft Belt
- Install the new timing belt tensioner bearing, balance shaft tensioner bearing, tensioner bolt (finger tight), and the timing belt tensioner bearing spring. Push down the timing belt tensioner bearing to extend the bearing spring and tighten the tensioner bolt.
- Starting from the crankshaft sprocket, position the new timing belt on the sprocket (with the paint marks) and fit the new belt on the tensioner bearing, water pump, and the camshaft. If paint alignment marks were used, check for paint mark match up.
- Temporarily remove the balance shaft tensioner bearing. The timing belt tensioner bearing will stay in place but will be slightly cocked. This is okay and don't mess with it.
- Re-attached the balance shaft center pulley.
- Starting from the left balance shaft, attached the new balance shaft belt not disrupting the paint alignment marks. Keep the belt on with the plastic alligator clip. Fit the belt under the balance shaft center pulley and then to the right side balance shaft.
- While holding the right side balance shaft belt in place, attach the balance shaft tensioner bearing. Check the paint mark on the right side balance shaft for alignment. If misaligned, remove the bearing, adjust the belt, and try again. Once everything is aligned, finger tighten the tensioner bolt.
- Attach the tensioner bracket, tensioner bolt (finger tight), and the tensioner bracket spring.
- Once the tensioner bolt is finger tight, apply upward finger pressure on the timing belt bearing. This will remove any timing belt slack. Apply downward finger pressure on the balance shaft bearing.
- Tighten the tensioner bolt and the tensioner bracket bolt.
Re-install the following:
- Side engine mount bracket
- Lower timing belt cover
- Upper timing belt cover with the oil dipstick
- Crankshaft pulley
- Alternator/air conditioner belt
- Power steering belt
- Valve cover with ignition wires
- Side engine mount
- Add coolant if the water pump was replaced
- Remove the engine support jack
This concludes how to replace the timing belt and water pump in a Honda F23 series 2.3L motor used in the Honda Accord and Acura CL.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can I start the motor of my Honda Accord before I replace the timing belt cover?
Question: How long should a timing belt and water pump replacement take?
Answer: For first timers, around 6 hours.