How to Change a Belt Tensioner

Written by ehow contributor
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Your vehicle's belt tensioner keeps the drive belt tight. If a belt becomes loose or comes off, the vehicle will immediately stop. This can be a result of a bad tensioner, meaning this part has to be changed. While removing a belt tensioner might not be extremely difficult (it depends on the number of other parts you must remove to reach it), replacing it with a new one is not an easy task since it must be tightened with the drive belt to a precise tension.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Breaker bar and socket
  • Jack stands
  • Blocks
  • Allen wrench
  • Ratchet wrench
  • Belt tensioner

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  1. 1

    Wait for the engine to cool, then check the position of the engine's number one piston at the engine's front. It needs to be at its highest point, also known as the top dead center position. Turn the crankshaft with a socket and breaker bar to move the piston into that position.

  2. 2

    Disconnect the vehicle's negative battery cable. Raise and support the front end on jack stands and block the rear wheels.

  3. 3

    Remove the engine parts blocking access to the tensioner and timing belt. This can vary a lot depending on the model vehicle you are working on. It can include the radiator, accessory drive belts, coolant reservoir, and the power steering pump.

  4. 4

    Take off the timing belt's cover (if it has one) by removing its mounting bolts. Relieve the tension on the belt by rotating the tensioner with an Allen wrench; whether you need to turn it clockwise or counter-clockwise can vary even on models with different engines. Slip the belt off the tensioner and pulleys.

  5. 5

    Disconnect the bolts mounting the tensioner and remove it from the engine. It can be attached by one bolt in the center or multiple bolts in a circle.

  6. 6

    Insert the new tensioner in place on the engine and tighten the bolts to the torque required on your vehicle. Push the tensioner upward with your hand and slip the belt back onto it and the pulleys, making sure the belt's teeth align with the teeth on the pulley sprockets. Tighten the tensioner by turning the wrench in the opposite direction as before.

  7. 7

    Replace all engine parts that were removed to reach the belt. When replacing the belt's cover, use a new gasket. Lower the vehicle and reconnect the battery cable.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep a guidebook handy for your specific model to learn its particular details. This will include the engine parts you must remove, the direction you must turn to loosen the tensioner and how tight the belt must be on the tensioner.

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