4 FAQs On Drive Belt Tensioner Replacement
Here are answers to four queries on drive belt tensioners and their replacement:
1. What Is A Drive Belt Tensioner? Why Does It Need Replacement?
A drive belt tensioner or an idler pulley is a component in the engine bay that maintains tension on the drive belt — which could be a serpentine belt or v-belt.
Why does the drive belt require tension?
The drive belt transfers power to various engine accessories, like the ac compressor, the power steering pump (ps pump), and the alternator (via alternator pulley). The belt tension helps the belt transfer power and stay functional by keeping it in contact with the crankshaft pulley.
However, the tensioner assembly and the drive belt can wear out over time, becoming less effective. This, in turn, can result in belt failure or reduced belt tension, which affects your car’s accessories like the alternator, and subsequently, the battery.
So, a worn-out tensioner needs to be replaced at the earliest.
Note: A vehicle may have a manual or automatic belt tensioner (spring-loaded idler pulley). It’s typically accompanied by a pulley that may also need replacement. And in most cases, a mechanic may replace an old belt as well.
2. What Are The Benefits Of Drive Belt Tensioner Replacement?
A bad v-belt or serpentine belt tensioner will reduce the performance of your car, so replacing it will mean your car will work as it should. But there are a couple of other benefits to consider, including:
- It’ll help the engine run smoothly
- It’ll keep the power steering (via ps pump) and cooling system (coolant pump, coolant radiator, etc.) functional
- It’ll prevent the engine from overheating
And as mentioned above, a bad tensioner could lead to other engine damage. So, it’s helpful to get a tensioner and an old belt replacement as soon as possible.
3. When Should You Replace The Drive Belt Tensioner?
A drive belt tensioner is designed to last the entire lifespan of a vehicle. So, you won’t need to replace it often. In fact, it’s more likely you’ll need a v-belt or serpentine belt replacement before you need a tensioner replacement.
On average, belt tensioners need a replacement once your vehicle nears the 125,000 miles mark. However, you could need a replacement as early as 50,000 miles due to unexpected wear and tear.
Typically, you’ll be able to determine whether you need a replacement if you notice a strange belt noise or any other symptoms. But you could also have it reviewed when you’re getting any automotive service, like a drive belt or timing belt replacement.
4. How To Replace A Drive Belt Tensioner: A General How-To
Whether you own a Camry, Chevrolet, or a Mazda, here’s a general idea of the steps involved in replacing a tensioner in any car:
- To remember where everything goes, take a picture of the belt routing. You can also find the routing diagram in your owner’s manual.
- Remove the engine mount retainer nuts and mounting bolt.
- Remove the engine mount to access the tensioner assembly.
- Release the belt tensioner (or tensioner pulley) with a breaker bar or ratchet and remove the old belt.
- Remove the old tensioner by unfastening the tensioner bolt (or pulley bolt). Use the right wrench size here to prevent rounding off the bolt head.
- Install the new tensioner onto the engine using the torque wrench to fasten the tensioner bolt (pulley bolt).
- Reattach the mounting bolt.
- Install the new belt (if the old drive belt needs replacement) and tighten the new tensioner or idler pulley according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Ensure that there’s proper belt tension.
- Reinstall the engine mount parts.
- Crank up your engine to check if the power steering, air conditioner, and other alternator-powered parts are functioning well.
Some of these steps may be difficult to do at home without the right tools. So, it’s helpful to enlist a car repair service instead of attempting a DIY repair. Moreover, professional service can be a safer bet to ensure that your vehicle runs as it should.