How to tell when your timing belt tensioner is worn out.
Engine timing problems can be devastating to your car's performance. If your timing is too advanced or retarded, then you will likely experience ignition knocking or misfiring, loss of power, or even complete engine failure. Often times, this is the result of either a worn out timing belt or damaged timing belt tensioner. When there isn't enough tension on the belt, then the crank timing pulley and the cam pulleys are out of sync. This puts the movements of the pistons out of unison with the valves; a dangerous condition for any engine. If one of your pistons is on the up-stroke while a valve is descending into the compression chamber, then the piston could damage the valve. All this because a potentially bad timing belt tensioner wasn't replaced when it should have been. If you notice a squealing coming from under the hood of your car accompanied by some engine stuttering or knocking, start paying attention to the timing belt tensioner. Noises or grinding indicates that it could be failing.
Why does a timing belt need a tensioner?
Today, a large percentage of automobiles are produced with engines that use timing belts to maintain synchronicity between your crankshaft and your camshaft(s). In order to do that, the belt must be kept at a specific level of tension throughout the cycle at varying RPM. That is the function of the timing belt tensioner. It is an assembly that consists of a roller or pulley that comes in contact with the belt, and it is attached to the engine by either a hydraulic cylinder or sprung bracket that is bolted to the engine block. The timing belt tensioner reacts to the speed of the belt and applies a varied amount of pressure to the back of the belt so it maintains a constant tension around the crank and cam pulleys.
D.I.Y. timing belt maintenance.
In order to replace your timing belt tensioner, you will need to get into some tight spaces. It is probably easier to lift the engine out first with a hoist or cherry picker. If you cannot do that, then we recommend taking your car to a mechanic. But if you have the fortitude and the appropriate tools, here's how you do it:
First, disconnect any cooling hoses, oil lines, wire harnesses, etc., and lift the engine out of and above the engine bay.
Next, remove the serpentine belt from the engine accessories and the crank pulley. This will allow you to easily unbolt the timing cover and expose the timing belt and tensioner. Make detailed marks or pay attention to existing marks that show the orientation of the timing gears. You will need to clock them all to top dead center before your engine will start back up.
Now you can pull the belt off the cam and crank timing gears. Once you have done that, you will be able to access the timing belt tensioner. Unbolt it, and remove the tension spring (if necessary).
Finally, install your new tensioner and put the belt back on. You may want to install a new timing belt at this time. Remember, make sure all the timing marks are in line so that your car will start properly. Finish re-installing all other components and put the engine back in.
You've tried the rest, now try the best.
Since the engine timing system is so vital to your car's performance, you should always install the best components possible. You can always find top quality aftermarket brands as well as original equipment manufacturers of timing belt tensioners on our site, Car Parts Discount. Not only are our parts top notch, but we ship fast. That means you won't be stranded and left without a car for too long when you need to order a replacement timing belt tensioner.