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FAQs Concerning Belt Tensioners
My engine squeaks when it runs. Is that the belt tensioner?
Squeaking is one symptom of a bad belt tensioner. Because the component spins on ball bearings, it's possible for those bearings to wear down over time and cause a squeaking noise coming from your running engine.
Is it dangerous to ignore a bad belt tensioner?
Most of the time a bad belt tensioner is nothing more than an annoying noise, but if ignored for too long it could leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. Since it's primary function is to hold your timing belt in place, it would be bad news for your engine if the belt slipped while driving. Unless you have a new belt and tensioner pulley in the truck, a tow truck is your only way home.
Signs You Have a Failing Belt Tensioner
It's hard to spot a faulty belt tensioner just by sight — it's often hidden away in your engine by the pulley itself is so small that a fault wouldn't look obvious. These are the more obvious signs of a belt tensioner going bad:
- Grinding or squeaking. The tensioner pulley is responsible for keeping the timing belt in place with the right amount of pressure. So when that doesn't work, the belt might cause strange grinding or squeaking noises coming from the engine bay.
- Unusual belt wear. Timing belts don't last forever but they should last a while. If you notice unusual fraying at the edges of the belt, it could be caused by a bad belt tensioner.
- Belt-driven accessories fail. The timing belt drives engine components such as the alternator, water pump and AC compressor. If any of those fail, it could be caused by a belt tensioner failing to keep the timing belt moving, which keeps those parts moving too.
Types of Belt Tensioners
There are three general types of belt tensioners:
- Fixed - Once these are installed, they cannot be adjusted to change tension on the timing belt.
- Adjustable - These belt tensioners are mounted in a fixed position, but the tension on the timing belt can be adjusted using pulleys and sprockets. These are commonly found in most cars because it makes the timing belt easy to remove and replace.
- Automatic - As the name implies, these belt tensioners adjust tension automatically depending on driving conditions and response. These types are less common in normal cars and considered a performance part.
How to Install a Belt Tensioner
Replacing a belt tensioner is as simple as a pulley and a socket set. Here are the basics for replacing your own:
- Obtain the correct carburetor for your vehicle. Once you remove the old carburetor, move on to the next step to install the new carburetor.
- Apply grease to the gaskets. Rub grease or gasket sealer on both sides of the gasket for improved sealing.
- Install gaskets. Install the first gasket on top of the engine intake manifold. Next, install the spacer, before adding the second gasket.
- Mount the carburetor. Place the carburetor on top of the gaskets, securing in place with studs.
- Attach cable linkage. Secure cable linkage to the carburetor then tighten each stud with a ratchet wrench.
How to Solve Common Auto Carburetor Problems
- You'll need a pulley tensioner bar, a ratchet and a socket matching the bolt on the old pulley (you'll need the new belt tensioner as well).
- Place the pulley bar on the bolt and turn clockwise to loosen tension on the belt.
- Remove the belt from the pulley and remove the pulley bar.
- Use the ratchet and socket to unscrew the bolt and remove the tensioner pulley. Be sure not to knock the timing belt off other parts of the engine in the process.
- Use those same tools to screw in the new belt tensioner the same way the old one was assembled. Check your owners manual for torque specs on the belt.
- Use the pulley bar to loosen tension and place the belt back on the tensioner pulley.
- Check to make sure the timing belt is placed correctly before starting the car's engine.
It's as simple as that. Replacing the belt tensioner is one of the easiest fixes involving the car's engine.