READ THIS b4 timing chain tensioner job on a 2ZZ

Technical info on the Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix including do-it-yourself info
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READ THIS b4 timing chain tensioner job on a 2ZZ

Post by tinyfrogs » Sat Dec 19, 2015 12:36 pm

Hey folks,

I'm in the middle of a FUBAR situation with trying to replace the timing chain tensioner on my 2zz vibe. Lots of links suggest that the 2zz is a similar task to swapping the 1zz. If I had googled it harder before trying the job, I would have known that it wasn't worth trying to fix this oil leak myself. Since no hits on this site indicate this issue, I'm posting this as a public service.

Unlike in the 1zz, when you try to remove the unbolted tensioner from the 2zz it is stopped by the bracket for the idler pulley. You can't just push the tensioner back in and reinstall the nuts because the tension on the chain will be wrong since the tensioner was not reset before reinstall.

On the hacked matrix owners site, there is a thread telling the nasty story of someone going through this, then having to unbolt AC and PS lines and a motor mount, jack up the engine, and then loosen that idler before being able to swap the tensioner, only to have it continue to leak afterward. ... or-advise/

I'm about to go back to work to try to fix my mistake.
Last edited by tinyfrogs on Tue Dec 22, 2015 8:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: READ THIS b4 timing chain tensioner job on a 2ZZ

Post by tgsnellg75 » Tue Dec 22, 2015 7:25 pm

Need to make this a sticky or something. I just went through this myself. Did not see your post until after the point of no return. Horrible feeling when I discovered I could not get the timing chain tensioner out, or put it back in. Jacked the motor up and finally got the o-ring and tensioner replaced, then realized the belt tensioner nut had been rounded off by the previous owner. Had to then remove the belt tensioner itself and tap a hole into it for a bolt so that we could get leverage enough to replace the belt. !/2 hour job according to youtube turned into a 4 hour ordeal.
2004 GT

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Re: READ THIS b4 timing chain tensioner job on a 2ZZ

Post by Vortec » Sat Apr 09, 2016 7:48 am

i'm a little late posting on this but my solution because i had a major time crunch was to take some fine sand paper and take a little off the bracket and smoothed out the back of the chain tensioner so they'd slide past each other. yeah, i hated the idea too but nearly 4 years and 50K miles later things are still going well.
2009 Vibe GT (mine), 2003 Vibe GT (gf's)

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Re: READ THIS b4 timing chain tensioner job on a 2ZZ

Post by AttackingMid » Sun May 08, 2016 8:59 pm

Just did this job today on my son's 03 Matrix XRS. Some tight spaces to work in, but worth the effort to solve a moderate oil leak. The biggest secret is to loosen the three motor mount bolts and jack up the engine (I used a floor jack with a piece of lumber under the oil pan). This is necessary to gain clearance to get a 1/2 in. breaker bar with a 17mm socket in there to loosen the tensioner mounting bolt (I couldn't budge it with just a wrench).

The rest of the job was pretty straight forward as described in this and other threads. I installed a new o-ring from Toyota and sealed the flat mating surface with Hondabond 4. I'm hopeful that should keep him leak-free for a while.

While in there, I greased the belt tensioner mounting pivot surfaces and popped the seals on the pulley to clean and re-grease. The pulley bearing still had grease, but it was caking up. Wouldn't have been too terribly long before failure.


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Re: READ THIS b4 timing chain tensioner job on a 2ZZ

Post by joebiloba » Mon Jan 01, 2018 6:25 am

Did this repair yesterday. What a pain in the (removed) for a $4 O-ring!! Here is my contribution:

It went very well start to finish thanks to the advice in this thread. Took me over 3 hours but part of that was trying to find tools that would fit in the tight clearances, and taking relaxation breaths and I delved deeper into the job. I am very much a novice.

The prep work and tear down was the hard part...getting it installed and zipped up was a breeze.

It went just as expected with a couple minor exceptions. First, the wire bundle and power steering line as they pass along the wheel well had to be scooted out of the way to access the tensioner bolts. I know I had seen some mention of ps lines in the way but this was not where I expected it. I had to get a razor blade and cut the tape that secured the bundle to the plastic bracket on the wheel well, and had to pull the other tubes out of their brackets to wiggle a socket in there.


The second near snafu was when I removed the tensioner from the block. It was stuck on there pretty good- I ended up using a pipe to catch the little exposed lip and whacking it with a hammer. The tensioner went flying back into the oily abyss. I had get under the car and just feel around above the crossmembers and axle. It dropped it a few times (slippery!) as I blindly tried to guide it out. Finally went up top and was able to spot it and extract it with a magnet/ grabber tool I picked up at Walmart the night before.

Here's the cleaned up tensioner with new O-ring. Notice the red bungie holding my v-belt in place- sage advice from one of my sources...


I did use some RTV on the flange. So far, it's dry around the repair, though still some drips on the floor from the area. I'm not sure I don't have another leak somewhere, or it could just be residual oil finally working it's way down, or dirty brake cleaner that has dripped down. Time will tell.

Here are some other links I used in case anyone else on interested. ... ?t=1556962

By the way the Matrix users link above is recently dead.

Huge THANK YOU to all who posted about this!!

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Re: READ THIS b4 timing chain tensioner job on a 2ZZ

Post by ImUrOBGYN » Mon Jan 01, 2018 3:41 pm

Thanks for the additional information. I can't see the pics, though. :?

Well, if you right click and open image in new tab, you can view them.

Or, I guess I could just repost them for you. :D

(1st pic - "Loosening belt tensioner bolts")

(2nd pic - "Tricky (removed)")
I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered. - George Best

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Re: READ THIS b4 timing chain tensioner job on a 2ZZ

Post by ultrap » Mon Nov 18, 2019 9:58 pm

Did this job to fix a slow but persistent oil leak. It was much harder than I expected. Seriously, do not underestimate it. Required: skill, patience and good quality tools.

The access around the belt tensioner is awful to put it lightly. Removed belt with special tool. Trying to loosen the belt tensioner bolt without first lifting up the engine was futile. Ended up removing many brackets for better access. Removed the motor mount. Lifted engine 2 inches so I could put a proper 17mm socket on the bolt. Even then I was barely able to loosen using a 4 ft breaker bar. Unfortunately no way to put an impact on the bolt even with the engine lifted.

The chain tensioner itself is so buried in the back of the engine i had to remove it by feel from the top. No access from the bottom. Assembly was much easier. I replaced the O-ring and reused the chain tensioner. Added some RTV on the flange for good measure. Slowly turned crank by hand (forward) and heard the tensioner click and release.

Knuckles were harmed during this repair. :x
2004 Fusion Orange GT 6sp
2003 Silver GT 6sp

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Re: READ THIS b4 timing chain tensioner job on a 2ZZ

Post by tpollauf » Tue Nov 19, 2019 7:42 pm

ultrap wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 9:58 pm
Did this job to fix a slow but persistent oil leak. It was much harder than I expected.
Was the tensioner the actual source of the leak? On my 2004 Vibe GT Fusion (same as yours) my leak is from the timing chain cover! Tensioner area is dry ... no oil leaking there. Reply back in a few months to verify that you REALLY fixed the proper leak! Thanks ;)
2009 Vibe GT (manual), 2009 G8Gt, 2009 Vibe GT (auto)
2014 Silverado, 2004 Vibe GT, 2003 Vibe GT (project car)

"everything is modifiable"

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