Oh well, I knew it had to happen at some point. After 22 years of driving and working on cars professionally and at home I experienced my first cam belt failure on my own car. My wife was using the Xantia to go shopping and after finishing and getting ready to leave for home, she started car, drove out of parking space and got ten feet before there was a 'bit of a clunk, then a rattle' (her words) then the dashboard lit up like the flight deck of the space shuttle.
Engine spun over very quickly as there's no compression which is a classic giveaway of snapped belt. I've been called out to many a cambelt failure and even a snapped cam-shaft! but never on any of my cars (and I've owned 'quite a few' over the years)
In some ways I'm annoyed at myself as I aways change belts when I get a new car. By 'new I mean new to me'. Our Xantia had full dealer history and belt still had 12,000 miles or year to run before looking at a swap.
Yesterday (monday 1st Feb) I've been stripping engine back to get it ready to remove as last year I bought a good low mileage engine last as spares back-up. Anyway, the belt was well shot, but clean looking with nice and dry timing belt covers and housing. Water pump was also good. All I can put it down to is bad luck and maybe the belt was a cheap part?
So the moral of the story is;
Don't assume the belt was changed even if the service history looks extensive.
Don't take for 'gospel' when a previous owner says belt was changed 'recently' unless there's cast iron proof that it was changed.
Follow manufacturers replacement intervals at your peril. As a rule I normally change belts every 3 years or 36 to 40,000 miles. Too many manufacturers give wildly optimistic belt replacement intervals for their timing belts. Crazy. After all, belts are basically rubber compound reinforced with nylon or kevlar type fibres. They're strong but not that
strong. Our belt still was within time and mileage and tensioner was checked every year. Citroen Xantias have 72,000 mile intervals but wouldn't recommend leaving it this long - even on late model HDi's as these engines are even more complex than the older diesel engines. You won't believe how many brackets, pipes, tubes, and mechanical componentry that has to come off just to be able to get to the parts concerned. Very time consuming and if you need to go to a garage to get it fixed - hellishly pricey. Many cars are scrapped because an engine swap is just too complex or labour intensive.
Even with a spare engine, time and skills I'm still in two minds as to persevere and swap it or see reason and sell it for scrap and go to the auctions.