All DSMs have what is called an "interference" engine. This means that the valves and pistons occupy some of the same space, but at different times. If the valve timing is thrown off, the valves and pistons can collide.
The timing belt keeps the valves out of the way of the moving pistons. If the belt should break...pistons and valves move very quickly, and the collision can bend or break the valves and other internal engine parts. Expect to spend $1,000 or more to fully repair the head.
The moral of the story is: Change your timing belt before the 60,000-mile service interval.
The balance shaft belt can also fail, which would not be a problem expect that it can get tangled in the timing belt, and then you're again out a load of dough.
So when you get the timing belt replaced, be sure to replace the balance shaft belt, and the tensioner pulleys, too.
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