Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches

Technical info on the Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix including do-it-yourself info

Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches

Postby pfaunce » Sun May 20, 2007 1:27 pm

03 Vibe with 92K miles and two noise problems:
1) A loud vibration rattling noise when engine was cold and transmission put in forward or reverse.
2) Repeat belt squeel chirping each time accelerator depressed.

Belt spray conditioner didn't help much but inspection found the 4 inch shock absorber on aft end of belt tensioner to be wet and covered with black grit from apparent shock oil leakage. Time to go shopping.

AutoZone sells the Automatic Belt Tensioner Assembly for $49 but none available at warehouse. O'Rileys sells it for $157 (ouch). Pontiac Dealer here in Houston sells the part for $249 (ouch-ouch!) I ended up buying the new part assembly from Advance AutoParts for $67. I also bought a new Gatorback Belt.

Suggestions and headaches: 1) Find or draw a diagram showing all pulleys & belt routing. 2) Use long box end 19mm wrench and pull forward to loosen tensioner and remove belt. 3) Use long box end 17mm wrench to break loose the main bolt that mounts the tensioner assembly. 4)Use 12mm wrench to remove nut at top end of shock absorber.

NOW THE FUN PART: After I broke loose the 17mm large bolt I discovered that the bolt would not come out all the way before bolt head hit the chassis. I ended up using a dremmel grinder and a long file to reduce the bolt head length plus I loosened up the right side engine mount and raised the engine with floor jack to get the bolt all the way out. Once it came out, I discovered the inboard bolt end had a 1/4 inch stubby pilot (no threads). I used a pedestal grinder to remove 1/8 inch of the pilot for the next person that has to pull this bolt out.
Reassembled everything with loctite, put new Gatorback belt on and both the rattling and squeel noises went away. What I thought was going to be a 20 minute job took me almost 2 hours. The manual that I read and the posts on this site did not mention anything about lack of bolt removal clearance and the need to raise the engine to get the bolt out. Just my 2 cents, hope it helps someone else.

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Re: Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches (pfaunce)

Postby NSimkins » Mon May 21, 2007 10:23 am

Wow, that definitely sounded like fun...

You're right too, the service manual has a nice whole 4-step removal process that mentions nothing of the bolt issue you had. Definitely good to know especially for those that may be doing this in the future.

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Re: Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches (NSimkins)

Postby Whelan » Thu May 24, 2007 5:09 am

Mine was much easier. I skipped the 19mm wrench part. I didn't have to replace the belt tensioner shock absorber. But once that was on, you could have done the following to make it much much easier on these cars.

1) Get a C-clamp and mount it on the underside of the absorber pump and then onto the engine block. (removal of the plastic cover necessary). Tighten until the belt goes loose for removal.

2) Belt routing pattern could be drawn, but also take not. Wherever a pulley has grooves in it, the grooved side of the belt goes there. Wherever they are smooth, they are simply guides and should be touching the backside of the belt.

All in all a 10 minute job including jacking up the car, putting stands down, popping engine cover and belt replacement.

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Postby Sublimewind » Thu Jun 07, 2007 1:30 am

i'm not sure about the Vibe, mines not with me yet, but "many" cars have a belt routing diagram under the hood somewhere, either on the bottom of the hood, or on the core support....

FYI

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Re: (Sublimewind)

Postby Whelan » Thu Jun 07, 2007 1:45 am

There is one on the Matrix under the hood. Your correct most cars do have it.
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Re: (Whelan)

Postby pfaunce » Fri Jun 08, 2007 12:57 pm

For clarification - this job was NOT simply a belt replacement job which could easily be done in 5 minutes with a 19mm wrench. My belt did not need replacement. It was the Automatic TENSIONER Assembly that was worn/broken and the 4 inch long bolt has to be removed from a clearance space of about 3 inches. Thus requiring raising the motor to make enough clearance to remove the long bolt that secures the automatic tensioner assembly. My worn tensioner assembly had a leaky shock absorber and a worn idler pulley. I've put 6,000 miles on the new one and everything is working smoothly
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Re: Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches (pfaunce)

Postby gtrst7711 » Thu Jun 21, 2007 6:00 am

I've got an '03 GT model, and it is in need of a new tensioner. Today, I went to replace it, but when I went to jack up the engine, the engine moved minimally and then the rest of the car went with it. I took the enginge mount loose that is next to the power steering unit. Is there something here that I am missing? Any help would be appreciated.
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Re: Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches (gtrst7711)

Postby Whelan » Thu Jun 21, 2007 11:02 pm

You jacked up the car and the engine moved first???

If that is the case then you jacked up the car from the bottom of the motor first which is a no no and puts strain on your mounts.

If you look under the car dead center about 1-2' back there is a tow flat tow hook that is bolted to the frame with a little nub on it. The jack should be placed there for lifting the car.

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Re: Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches (Whelan)

Postby gtrst7711 » Thu Jun 21, 2007 11:56 pm

I'm not trying to jack up the car, but the engine for the same bolt-clearance problem. Even though I took the engine mount loose, the engine is barely moving.
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Re: Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches (gtrst7711)

Postby Whelan » Fri Jun 22, 2007 12:26 am

Easiest tool to use would be racheting wrench and a long breaker bar.
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Postby xing512q » Sun Aug 19, 2007 1:43 am

my 04 vibe with 96,000 miles has the same problem, need to replace the belt tensioner soon, it really sounds like a hard job, can any one list out the step by step installation. recently i replaced my serpentine belt with the goodyear belt, but there is noise when the engine is cold, whenever you put in DRIVE and REVERSE! please help me?
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Postby Vibe_dude » Sun Aug 19, 2007 2:09 am

the belt tensioner is a known prob with toyota.has been for years.but they still will not fix the problem.


as for the trouble of changing it.it is a headache.had to do almost the same job as u...lift enegin out of its mount to get clearence..but my prob is now that it is back together the hub on the drivers side wheel clicks when i put it in gear..i think it may have pulled on the cv joint when the engin was moved...i have no idea how to fix it either.....

any thoughts on what to do?

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Postby 98ex » Mon Aug 20, 2007 12:01 am

FOr the diagram, if you have a stock hood, typically the diagram is there of how the belt goes. They ALWAYS put the diagram somewhere under the hood.

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Re: (98ex)

Postby joatmon » Mon Aug 20, 2007 12:05 am

Quote, originally posted by 98ex »
They ALWAYS put the diagram somewhere under the hood.

Well, maybe not always http://forums.genvibe.com/zerothread?id=5054

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Re: (joatmon)

Postby VibeHigher » Tue Aug 21, 2007 5:39 am

How can I tell if I need to replace just the pully or the entire assembly?
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Postby DopeVibeGT » Fri May 09, 2008 8:23 pm

Sorry to revive a dead thread, but I may need a belt tens. replacement in the future. After reading this, it may wait until really needed. Wonder what the dealers want to actually replace this part.


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Re: (DopeVibeGT)

Postby zionzr2 » Fri May 09, 2008 10:29 pm

You can add about an hours worth of labor charges to the $250 part mentioned eralier.

I would guess about $350 for a delaer to do the job.

Quote, originally posted by DopeVibeGT »
Sorry to revive a dead thread, but I may need a belt tens. replacement in the future. After reading this, it may wait until really needed. Wonder what the dealers want to actually replace this part.
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Re: (DopeVibeGT)

Postby AZViking » Fri Jul 11, 2008 5:44 am

Quote, originally posted by DopeVibeGT »
Wonder what the dealers want to actually replace this part.

I just found the receipt from the dealer that replaced ours in 2005 (thank God for the extended warranty = $50 deductible)

1 Tensioner (List $236.62)
Labor 0.90 ($82.60)
tax ($18.46)
Total = $337.88

39,512 miles at the time of replacment in 2005. (convenient how the part fails AFTER the factory warranty expires)

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Re: (AZViking)

Postby SkipD » Thu Mar 18, 2010 5:05 am

I just replaced the belt and tensioner in our 2005 Vibe. I had the same rattling noise that sounded just as if it were a loose heat shield in the exhaust system.

Tensioner was $114 at AutoZone and the belt (the Goodyear Gatorback) was $24.

I managed to do the entire job without getting under the car. Raising the engine for the tensioner replacement was very easy. I had to remove three bolts to disconnect the engine mount from the fender and then I could get the 1 inch or so of lift that I needed so the bolt would have clearance.

One very important tool is a 17mm ratcheting box end wrench. Without that, removing and reinstalling the bolt that mounts the tensioner would have been a pain-in-the-butt one-flat-at-a-time chore. There's very little working space in that area.

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Re: (SkipD)

Postby jkm311 » Sat Mar 20, 2010 9:20 am

Quote, originally posted by SkipD »
Tensioner was $114 at AutoZone and the belt (the Goodyear Gatorback) was $24.

Don't suppose if I showed up to a Toyota dealer with these parts, they would use them and only charge me for an hour of labor? Cue laughter from the peanut gallery...


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Re: Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches (gtrst7711)

Postby Jubjon » Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:33 pm

Whelan wrote:Easiest tool to use would be racheting wrench and a long breaker bar.


I didn't have that wrench, but I was able to jack that side of the engine high enough to get a socket and ratchet on the mile long bolt. It was tight, I needed a small pipe on the ratchet to break it loose, but after that it came out easy but took some time.
It sucked to get it (that bolt) in place when installing the new tensioner but I got it.
All in all not a bad job, just a really tight spot to work in.
It took longer to get that damn belt back on.
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Re: Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches

Postby cc333 » Sat Jul 26, 2014 10:20 am

Aah, this might explain the noise on our '06 Vibe.

I guess a replacement is in order. It lasted about 190,000 miles, so that's not bad. I don't understand why all the mechanics we consulted missed it, though, if it's such a simple fix (simple in the sense that it doesn't require any major work beyond some nuisance lifting to allow for the bolt to come off).

If I can find someone who is willing to help me out, perhaps I can get this done for around $150-$200 (a local mechanic quoted $400-$600 for replacing the engine mounts, which, by the looks of it, would not actually solve anything). Replacing that allegedly "failed" A/C compressor was a complete waste of $1,095!

Now I have to figure out how to do it....

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Re: Belt Tensioner Replacement Headaches

Postby Mark » Thu Jul 31, 2014 5:30 pm

I'm sitting here trying really hard to remember if the tensioner I replaced was on my 2000 Corolla or 2004 Vibe, and I can't recall. But anyway, I put a piece of 2x6 between my floor jack and the oil pan and was able to raise the engine enough to get the bolt out without having to loosen the motor mounts. I think you only need about an inch or so.
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