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03 Base PT- Problem with timing belt tensioner

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  • 2 Post By rsrocket1
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Old 29 Jul 2020, 10:16 am
Young Cruiser
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 77
Default 03 Base PT- Problem with timing belt tensioner

I have inherited my sister's 03 PT after it died on her and she didn't want to keep putting money into ti any more. She had owned it since 2005 and it only has 140,000 easy miles on it. It has been well maintained by myself.

I got the car and determined that the cause of the engine stalling and not restarting was that the timing belt had broken. This was a new Gates belt I installed about two years ago when I did the head gasket.

I have pulled the timing cover off and I cannot see any obvious signs or indicators of why the belt broke. I know there might be a bent valve or two since the motor was running when the timing belt broke, I will check for that later once I can do a compression check on the engine.

I bought a new timing belt and I am in the process of installing it but I am having difficulty with the timing belt tensioner. I have the tensioner that was on the ar when the belt failed and an older used tensioner from either a parts motor or an old one I took off this car. The problem I am having is that the tensioner does not seem to be operating correctly.

The tension is the second design that requires the installer to set the tension with an allen wrench or 1/4 drive ratchet. Both tensioners exhibit the same behavior/problems:

(1) if I bolt the tensioner to the engine and tighten the bolt down enough to hold the pulley in place but with enough slack to allow adjustment, the adjuster will spin but eventually come to a hard stop and not move.

(2) moving the adjuster does not bring the tangs in line with the spring. This is hard to explain unless you have done it before and know what I am talking about. No matter what I do the tangs stay rotated fully counter/anti-clockwise.

QUESTION: Is this normal? What am I doing wrong? I am following the factory method but it doesn't seem to be working. Is it possible the mounting bracket for the tensioner has a pin or protrusion that has broken off? How much of a PITA is it to remove the bracket for the tensioner pulley from behind the rear timing cover?

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Old 29 Jul 2020, 01:18 pm
rsrocket1's Avatar
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Default Re: 03 Base PT- Problem with timing belt tensioner

First of all, the PT engine is a non-interference engine so it's unlikely that you bent the valves unless the belt broke at a very high RPM. Best to check it out anyway.

The tensioner will not "grab" the spring arm indicator unless the pulley bolt is slightly tight but not too tight. Once the belt is in place and all marks lined up, at least for me, the belt did not have enough slack to slip over the tensioner pulley so I and to loosen the bolt completely to tilt the pulley inward to allow the belt to slip over it. Once the belt was on, there was enough slack to adjust the tensioner.

Once the belt is completely on the car, tighten the tensioner pulley bolt at least "finger tight". You should then be able to adjust the tension with an Allen wrench until the wire is centered in the groove slot. You can test this before mounting the tensioner bracket on the engine.

Use an inspection mirror or bore scope to get the wire lined up, there is no way to do this by direct view.

You should also run the engine for a minute before buttoning everything up. That will let you know the timing is right. Even without any coolant in the engine, a run for a few seconds won't overheat the engine but it will let you know if the timing is off.

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Old 29 Jul 2020, 02:11 pm
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Posts: 77
Default Re: 03 Base PT- Problem with timing belt tensioner

Thank you. That puts my mind at ease. I will try again tonight.
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Old 30 Jul 2020, 03:16 pm
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Default Re: 03 Base PT- Problem with timing belt tensioner

Got the belt back on, the timing marks aligned, and the tensioner set last night. Thanks for your help. I was able to find a spot where I could put my eye level with the engine compartment lip, peer through the AC lines, hold the belt out of the way with one hand, and actually see the tensioner well enough to align the tabs. I will reinstall the bracket, bolt, and motor mounts tonight and try starting it up.

RE: interference engine. I was remembering my brother's old 97 Neon. When the timing belt died on that one valves were bent and I ended up installing a new head.
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Old 30 Jul 2020, 04:45 pm
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Default Re: 03 Base PT- Problem with timing belt tensioner

Best of luck to you!

The EDZ engine in the PT isn't an interference engine......... Sort of. While the valves won't ever hit a piston, it is possible, however, for the valves to hit *each other*, if it broke at high RPM and if the two camshafts get out of alignment with each other. Not very likely, but it could be a challenge you face when buttoning up the job. As others suggested, I *strongly* reccomend firing up the engine without any coolant for a few seconds to check the timing. 30 seconds wont hurt it without coolant, even with the motor mounts out, so long as you have it well supported. Make sure it starts well by itself(Without any throttle help) idles, revs, runs, etc. Don't forget you will have to prime the fuel system if you took off the hose (Or broke it, if you're an idiot like me) Good luck!
glibbis and dougs like this.
-John P.
Go Canes! #TakeWarning
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Old 30 Jul 2020, 10:03 pm
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Default Re: 03 Base PT- Problem with timing belt tensioner

I never disconnect any hoses when I do the timing belt and don't do the water pump. There is enough slack to jack the motor up and down leaving them attached.

I test ran the engine and all is well. It fired right up and ran surprisingly smoothly. Now it is time to reinstall the !^*&% cast iron bracket and motor mounts.

Thanks for the assistance.
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