What's that rattling noise you are hearing coming from your engine? One possible explanation could be your timing chain or timing chain tensioner. If it isn't keeping tension on the chain, then it is rattling against the timing cover as it runs it course, and it can also be skipping teeth in the gears. At first, this doesn't always have to be a completely debilitating condition for your engine. Sometimes, a slight lack of tension can still leave your engine in working order. Unfortunately, this can be slightly misleading for drivers as they may not associate this noise with a problem that can grow into something much more severe. As the timing chain gets more and more loose, its grab on the cam gears becomes less reliable and your engine timing will suffer. This results in reduced power as well as poor fuel efficiency. The absolute worse side effect of a broken timing chain tensioner would be when the chain completely jumps track and your valves get smashed by your pistons. Say goodbye to your engine, and hello to a HUGE repair bill.
Before there were timing belts (first introduced in the 1970s) there were timing chains. These were extremely durable parts that synchronized the motion of the crankshaft and camshafts so that engine timing could be maintained and adjusted. The key to maintaining and adjusting the tension on these chains was a hydraulic timing chain tensioner. Typically it is a small piston or valve that pushes slightly on a roller or rail that the chain slides on. Over time, this can eventually malfunction if the hydraulic fluid or oil leaks out of it. New timing chain tensioners are electronic, especially on vehicles with variable valve timing, but are still susceptible to failure if the solenoid malfunctions.
Replacing a faulty timing chain tensioner really depends on the layout of the engine. Since that can be so varied, it is impossible to give definitive instructions. But usually you can find the tensioner behind your timing cover. That doesn't necessarily mean it has to be removed to access it, but you will have to remove all the engine components that will interfere with access to the timing chain tensioner. This includes your intake air box, battery, coolant hoses, etc. Maybe just the removal of your valve cover is necessary, or sometimes a bolt that holds the tensioner to the block is visible from the side of the timing cover. Either way, consult a repair manual or build sheet that details the process of the job. If all else fails, take your car to a mechanic.
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