Replacing the Timing Chain
By Rick Zotz
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 concern.
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 insert.
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.
This procedure will require 30 minutes and can be done alone. If
your next oil change is soon, I recommend you replace the tensioner when you perform the
oil change. This will saving the trouble of removing the filter twice.
Tools and supplies:
- small ratchet
- deep 10mm socket
- small rags
- oil pan
- 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 during startup.
- 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 falling in.
- Remove the top nut and washer from the tensioner. Use the ratchet and
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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!
This procedure originally appeared as part of Rick's
SE-Rious Procedures created by Rick Zotz which
appeared on his excellent site www.zotz.com.