SR20DE Timing Chain Tensioner
Beginning around around 70K miles, my engine began
emitting strange noises: excessive clatter at startup, jingling at idle, and a
"mad cricket" sound under high load WOT. This obviously caused some
I studied TSB# NTB92-056 for the 1991-92 SR20DE that
mentioned "a rattle in the timing chain area for short period when the
engine is started after a one night soak or at low RPM caused by a leak-down of
oil in the chain tensioner." The "countermeasure" part is a
re-designed chain tensioner superior to the original factory one. This
difference is easily seen when both are viewed side by side. The oil chamber is
larger, with a much larger passage to allow greater flow and pressure. A fresh
O-ring is already installed. The new gasket is a stamped and crimped two-piece
metal design, compared to old one composed of a single stamping with a rubber
Installing the new tensioner eliminated the major problems
of clatter and jingling. I still heard some kind of 'cricket' or hissing sound
under high load WOT, but I suspected this noise was from another source,
possibly in the intake or emission control system.
Purchase the following parts:
This procedure will require 30 minutes and can be done
alone. If your next oil change is soon, I recommend you do it immediately after
installing the new tensioner, saving the trouble of removing the filter again.
Tools and supplies: small ratchet; long
10mm socket; small rags; oil pan; cup or small container
View the photos
- Let the car cool down.
- Fill a clean cup or small container with a few inches
of motor oil and immerse the internal mechanism of the new tensioner.
Pre-lubricating the mechanism in this way may ease deployment of the plunger
- Place the oil pan under the car beneath the oil filter
area. Oil will drip from the filter during removal.
- Remove the oil filter. IMPORTANT: wrap a rag around the
filter shaft to block the passages to the engine and prevent tiny parts from
- Remove the top nut and washer from the tensioner. Use
the ratchet and 10mm socket.
- Partially rethread the top nut. This will prevent the
tensioner from popping out while removing the bottom nut.
- Remove the bottom nut and washer, then slowly remove
the top nut.
- The tensioner should partly pop out. If not, tap it
lightly with the end of the ratchet until it does.
- Jiggle and rotate the tensioner until you can remove it
past the oil shaft.
- Compare the old tensioner to the new one (see photos).
If the old one looks wimpy compared to the new one, continue with the steps
below. If they are identical, STOP - you may re-install the old tensioner
using the steps below, or install the new one, but either way, your engine
has a related but different problem.
- Remove the new tensioner from the oil bath and wipe off
excess oil, leaving the O-ring lubricated.
- Ensure that the new tensioner is locked, with plunger
fully retracted and the catch engaged with the lock pin.
- Orient the new gasket 'wings up' (see photos),
and slide it onto the mounting studs.
- Orient the new tensioner 'teeth up', and SLOWLY slide
it into the hole until the studs reveal enough thread to start the nuts.
- Partially install the top nut to reveal more threads
for installing the bottom washer and nut.
- Install the bottom washer and nut but do not tighten
- Remove the top nut. Install the top washer and nut
again but do not tighten.
- Dribble some threadlock on the nuts and threads.
Tighten both nuts to about 6 ft-lb (or best guess).
- Remove the rag and install the oil filter (or change
the oil and filter now).
- To help prevent clatter during initial startup,
disconnet the coil wire and crank the engine several seconds to build oil
volume in the tensioner.
- Quickly reconnect the coil wire and start the engine.
The chain should clatter for a few seconds, then operate silently.
- Check for leaks, then go for a test drive. You're done!
Rick's SE-Rious Procedures
Original material is the creation of Rick
Zotz, 1999, 1998, 1997, and has been contributed to SE-R.net.