7 Common Bad Timing Chain Tensioner Symptoms – Causes and Fixes

Do the strange noises coming from the timing chain cover bother you? If this is the case and this is how you found yourself, you have come to the right place because there will be a lot covered regarding the bad timing chain tensioner symptoms and the actions you must take to address the issue.

It can be frustrating to deal with a situation like this. Specifically, because this is one of the issues you probably don’t want to encounter. Engine timing is similar to a ticking time bomb. Everything is wasted if something is just a little off. So, your top priority should be to solve this issue as soon as possible.

An effective timing chain tensioner is necessary for the engine to run smoothly. The engine’s internal components may experience some issues if the tensioner malfunctions. Accordingly, it would be wise to consider all bad timing chain tensioner symptoms seriously.

In many high-displacement engines, the timing chain is frequently present and has a longer lifespan. It is located in front of the motor, where it is connected to gears and pulleys. The tensioner makes sure the chain inserts at the appropriate speed.

As a result, it influences when the intake valve and the exhaust valve open and close. Frequently, a failing tensioner is the main cause of timing chain breaks except when it appears too old.

Even though the chain is delivered in metal and appears to be quite sturdy, the issue still exists. Engine malfunction is the result of a bad timing chain tensioner, and putting off fixing the issue risks doing more harm.

Fortunately for you, when the timing chain begins to fail, some bad timing chain tensioner symptoms appear. These symptoms can help you make the mental connections necessary to determine whether the timing chain tensioner pulley or the chain itself is to blame.

We’ll talk about this and learn more about it in this article. And to solve this issue, you need to obtain a good education. However, we’re going to support you.

1. A timing chain
A timing chain by Kolossos / CC BY-SA 3.0. The engine needs a reliable timing chain tensioner to operate efficiently. If the tensioner breaks down, the engine’s internal parts can have some problems.

We will first go over the fundamentals of interference engines. The timing chain tensioner and its two primary types will then be discussed. We’ll talk more about bad timing chain tensioner symptoms and the reasons why timing chain tensioners fail in the future. We’ll also talk about how this work is diagnosed and how much it costs. So, keep reading if you want to learn more.

Conceptualizing the Engine’s Timing Interface

Now let’s learn more about interference and non-interference engines before we discuss the timing chain tensioner. For beginners, knowing this is very helpful in understanding the timing chain’s significance and main function.

So, what exactly is an interference engine? The camshaft or camshafts in an interference engine are situated on top of the engine head. Overhead camshaft engines, or OHC, is another name for them.

These engines are very dissimilar from non-interference engines, which have the camshaft positioned directly on top of the crankshaft in the center of the block. But in this situation, what do interference and non-interference mean?

It indicates that the valve in these engines is extending to a position where the piston is moving. So, timing is crucial here. The valves and pistons will collide if you have a bad timing chain tensioner, which will harm your engine.

The timing chain tensioner and timing chain are present for this reason. to keep the timing correct to prevent any engine damage.

As a result, installing these timing chains can be challenging if you lack experience because you simply cannot predict whether you will succeed.

In the shops, these tasks are typically carried out by the most knowledgeable and skilled mechanics. Engine damage is a certainty if the timing is off by even a quarter of an inch.

You will, at the most, replace a few valves. The worst-case scenario, however, involves the engine head and cylinder walls being harmed. And that kind of business is expensive. But let’s talk about the timing chain tensioner right now.

A Timing Chain Tensioner: What Is It?

You must be curious about how an engine’s camshaft and crankshaft rotate in perfect unison. Well, the timing chain and tensioner are responsible for that. The tensioner is the component that delivers the right amount of pressure required for the chain to be properly controlled.

The tensioner beneath the chain cover would frequently be seen working incredibly hard to keep the chain in the correct position for an extended period. What occurs if the timing chain is moved from its position? Well, as the pistons and valves open, the car’s performance declines.

The pulley, spring, and arm of the tensioner are all supported by a base. The tensioner’s various parts all play important parts in regulating how the chain moves. In essence, it would appear to be pretty difficult for the chain to remain in the correct position for an extended period if any part develops a problem.

Keep in mind that some car models have a timing chain, which is a crucial component of the engine. Simply put, this chain seems to be the brain of any truck, SUV, or car engine. Several car models may also have a timing chain made of nylon threads.

A hydraulic tensioner is propelled by hydraulic fluid. The assembly is composed of a tensioner pulley, a lever, and a hydraulic actuator.

Please be aware that these chains are made up of several links, much like a bicycle chain. This may sound familiar to you. Since the chain joins the rods in the combustion chamber, it has a big impact on how the valve and pistons move.

However, the tensioner exerts pressure on the chain to keep it operating at its best. Failure of the timing chain tensioner would result in a broken chain, and even a small misalignment could cause some engine issues.

You should attempt to address the timing chain tensioner noise as soon as you hear it because it might occur soon. You can quickly look online for solutions to how to stop the timing chain noise brought on by a broken tensioner or have the car serviced.

Once more, there are a few additional bad timing chain tensioner symptoms that can help identify the issue, and it is wise to watch for these signs as soon as possible. With that information, you can carry out additional diagnostic tests and work on repairing or replacing the tensioner to enhance the performance of the car.

Which are the Different Ranges of Tensioners Available for Cars?

We gained knowledge of timing chain tensioners and interference engines. Let’s now talk about the different kinds of timing chain tensioners that exist.

As you are aware, there are two different types of tensioners. And in the chapters that follow, we’ll go into more detail about them and discover their key traits.

1. The Hydraulic Tensioners

The first timing chain tensioner type we’ll discuss is the hydraulic type, which is less popular today.

Hydraulic fluid is used to power this tensioner. A tensioner pulley, a lever, and a hydraulic actuator make up the assembly. When it comes to maintaining the tension on the chain, the hydraulic actuator works all of the magic.

This means that in addition to hydraulic fluid, the hydraulic actuator inside also contains a spring and a cylinder. The spring is compressed and the right tension is kept when the timing chain tensioner is tightened.

There are fewer of these hydraulic timing chain tensioners on the market today. However, other kinds of timing tensioners are more frequently used, so we’ll talk about those next.

2. The Mechanical Tensioners

The mechanical type of timing chain tensioner is this one. Mechanical implies that a hydraulic tensioner lacks hydraulic fluid and all of its intricate components.

As a result, mechanical timing chain tensioners are much more readily available and less expensive to replace. The “traditional design” is another name for this pattern. But how will this design be implemented? How does it function mechanically?

The solution is very easy to explain. With the aid of the loaded spring, this is all accomplished.

Make sure of the type of timing chain tensioner your car is running before you jump into replacing it. However, they frequently come in separate kits along with the chain. Therefore, there is no need for concern. But have you considered what the bad timing chain tensioner symptoms are? We’ll talk about that next.

3. A crankshaft

A crankshaft by Alex Kovach / CC BY 2.0. A defective timing chain tensioner would prevent the crankshaft and camshaft from rotating. The valve’s opening and closing motion would also cease.

What are the Main Causes of Bad Timing Chain Tensioner Symptoms?

Let’s now discuss the reasons behind the symptoms of a bad timing chain tensioner. When figuring out what caused your timing chain tensioner to fail, knowing the causes will be of great assistance to you.

Because failures of the timing chain and timing chain tensioner happened for a reason, as do all other events. And to be completely honest, you don’t want any of these parts to malfunction in the first place. Let’s go into more detail about the reasons why the timing chain tensioner failed now.

1. Materials of Poor Quality

The use of subpar materials by the kit’s manufacturer is the main cause of this component’s failure.

You should always look for a timing chain kit that has a lot of positive reviews because this will almost certainly mean that you get a high-quality part.

Avoid buying no-name brands. They may be less expensive. But they are not that dependable over the long term. You simply don’t want to make a mistake with something as delicate as the timing chain and tensioner.

The engine will undoubtedly sustain damage if it fails. You don’t want a chain that is dangling loosely. Consider where and from what manufacturer you buy the timing chain tensioner. The production year is also very significant.

Rubber parts on the chain and tensioner may dry out after a certain number of years, in which case you would be installing an out-of-date part on your vehicle. Open your eyes before buying a timing chain tensioner and chain for that reason.

2.  Delayed Maintenance Service Schedule

The timing chain, tensioner, and idler pulleys’ overdue maintenance is another frequent reason for the failure of the timing chain tensioner.

It’s necessary to replace this set approximately every 60,000 miles. Even if the chain is in good condition, the tensioner could malfunction if this service is delayed and extended to 100,000 miles. So, the tensioner can also be the cause of issues; it’s not always the chain.

Purchase a quality kit from a reputable brand as soon as you can, as we mentioned above. especially if you don’t know when the timing chain tensioner was replaced and you just bought a new car. Let’s now discuss the next cause.

3. Defective Tension Spring

One more potential reason for the timing chain tensioner to malfunction is a tension spring. How come this is the case?

The spring inside the tensioner, which has been in place for who knows how many miles, tends to stretch and eventually break.

Noises or chain snaps will begin to occur when there is a slight stretch. However, if it breaks, the entire timing assembly will come undone, causing the chain to come off. Therefore, be on the lookout for these bad timing chain tensioner symptoms. And we will expand on them in the following sections of this article. Let’s now talk about the final likely reason for the tensioner’s failure.

4. The camshaft
The camshaft by Clivedog. In an interference engine, the camshaft or camshafts are located on top of the engine head. They are also referred to as OHC engines or overhead camshaft engines.

4. Leaks In Hydraulic Fluid

The hydraulic fluid leaks that form on the timing chain tensioner are the final reason for bad timing chain tensioner symptoms that we’ll discuss. Only the hydraulic-style chain tensioners are impacted by this issue.

They contain hydraulic fluid, and this fluid has the potential to leak and cause some of the bad timing chain tensioner symptoms that we will discuss in the following section of the article.

It’s important to note that while these leaks are serious, they are not as bad as when a spring on mechanical tensioner breaks. Let’s now discuss the signs of a bad timing tensioner.

Which are the Common Bad Timing Chain Tensioner Symptoms?

The reasons why the tensioner malfunctions have been discussed. Let’s now talk about the bad timing chain tensioner symptoms that you might experience when this component starts to fail.

It’s crucial to understand the bad timing chain tensioner symptoms to quickly identify and diagnose the issue. Once you know them, you’ll be able to tighten the tensioner or, if it’s broken, replace it. Therefore, if you don’t want to cause any lasting engine damage, stay away from them. Let’s now go into more detail regarding the bad timing chain tensioner symptoms.

1. Rattling or Squealing Noises

The squealing or rattling sounds that are made whenever there is an issue with the tensioner are the first thing to listen for when you experience bad timing chain tensioner symptoms.

When the engine is cold, these noises are more frequent, but as it warms up, they become less noticeable. They are nevertheless extremely annoying and are a blatant sign of either a bad idler pulley or a bad timing chain tensioner. It is your responsibility to identify the issue before the chain breaks or comes off. Let’s now discuss the following timing chain tensioner symptom.

2. Slapping or Knocking Off the Chain

When the chain begins slapping or knocking on the timing cover, this is another very typical bad timing chain tensioner symptom.

When the chain has a lot of play in it and is too loose, this is the situation. It is aware of these noises and knows to lose timing and jump a few teeth in response.

It is imperative to check for a potentially damaged timing chain tensioner or bad timing chain tensioner whenever you notice something strange occurring underneath the cover.

3. Leakages Emanating from the Tensioner

Leaks are frequently discovered on a hydraulic timing chain tensioner. These leaks are practically impossible to miss because they are located right where the tensioner is.

This is evidence that the hydraulic fluid inside the tensioner leaked out and is giving you problems. or will soon begin to cause problems.

Therefore, remove the timing cover to inspect the chain’s condition and determine whether the tensioner is in good working order. If it’s dripping, you’ve identified the offender. If you want to prevent potential engine damage, the tensioner needs to be replaced as soon as possible.

4. The Check Engine Light Illuminates

Only when there is an issue with the engine does the check engine light come on. In actuality, a variety of issues contribute to the timing chain tensioner failing. The chain may appear loose within its connected components when the tensioner malfunctions, leading to failure.

5. OBD2 Scanner Display
OBD2-Scanner Display by KarleHorn / CC BY 3.0. You might need to do a second examination to confirm that timing chain issues are the reason the check engine light turns on. The OBD2 scanner is one diagnostic tool that does this job reasonably well.

Once more, a broken timing chain results in engine problems, and in severe cases, the car won’t start. Please be aware that a bad timing chain tensioner could result in the valve’s timing moving faster than allowed.

As a result, the vehicle’s computer system must emit the CEL warning, which you shouldn’t disregard. However, a couple of other problems could result in the dashboard check engine light turning on.

To be certain that the issue is the result of timing chain problems, you might need to perform a second diagnosis. One diagnostic tool that performs this task fairly well is the OBD2 scanner. To find out more about the issue, read the warning codes.

5. Engine Misfires

When the fuel/air mixture inside the cylinder does not burn, an engine misfires. However, several factors can contribute to this problem, such as a poor ignition coil, poor injectors, poor spark plugs, low compression, low fuel pressure, and a leaky intake manifold.

But this issue might only be the result of a broken timing chain tensioner. A bad timing chain tensioner is known to cause some disturbances in the valve movement. It’s possible that the valve frequently opens and closes at a different moment than the piston rises and falls.

As a result, the engine would misfire because there wouldn’t be any combustion inside the cylinder. The proportion of the air-fuel mixture is also impacted by this issue. As a result, the engine might stop getting the boost it needs for a comfortable ride.

6. Troubles Starting the Engine

A bad timing chain tensioner is one of the main causes of your car’s engine starting slowly or not at all. When you turn the key and the starter motor engages but the engine won’t start, you will know there is a problem.

It wouldn’t cycle properly because the chain doesn’t have a good grip on the connected components. The crankshaft and camshaft would thus cease to rotate as a result of this problem. Additionally, the valve’s opening and closing motion would stop.

One of the most typical bad timing chain tensioner symptoms is this indication. Being unable to drive the car to the mechanic seems to be one of the most annoying things that could happen. To get the car to a service station when you notice this, you might need to hire a towing service.

7. The Engine Fails

The engine starts to fail when the movement of the crankshaft and camshaft becomes erratic, and the valves stop opening and closing. The engine is the heart of the car, and a broken engine makes it impossible to drive.

If you don’t deal with the “timing chain tensioner replacement cost,” you’ll have to deal with the typical bad timing chain tensioner symptoms. However, if you ignore them, the engine could completely fail, costing you money to replace both the tensioner and the engine.

How Can You Diagnose a Timing Chain Tensioner?

Drivers can greatly benefit from knowing the various bad timing chain tensioner symptoms that indicate when their tensioner is beginning to malfunction. The majority of seasoned car owners are aware of how challenging it is to remove the tensioner and timing chain.

6. A check engine light
A check engine light by Wikiuser100000 / CC BY-SA 3.0. The check engine light only illuminates when there is an issue with the engine. One of them is the defective timing chain tensioner. In reality, several problems cause the timing chain tensioner to malfunction.

Simply put, these components must be accessed from a distance, so it makes sense to wait until they are failing before removing them. These indications are only hints, so further testing is required to determine whether the check engine light or noise coming from the timing chain tensioner are signs of a bad tensioner.

Drivers can greatly benefit from knowing the various bad timing chain tensioner symptoms that indicate when their tensioner is beginning to malfunction. The majority of seasoned car owners are aware of how challenging it is to remove the tensioner and timing chain.

Simply put, these components must be accessed from a distance, so it makes sense to wait until they are failing before removing them. These indications are only hints, so further testing is required to determine whether the check engine light or noise coming from the timing chain tensioner are bad timing chain tensioner symptoms.

In essence, the car may exhibit these bad timing chain tensioner symptoms in addition to other issues. Again, it would seem necessary to assess the extent of the damage if the tensioner is failing. Therefore, you might be unsure of how to check the timing chain tensioner.

Here is a quick way to check your tensioner before your timing chain tensioner fails in your car.

Park Your Vehicle, Then Open the Hood

It would be beneficial to park the car safely and turn off the engine before you begin anything. Before continuing, you might want to wait for the car’s engine to cool down a little.

Then, lift the hood and peek through to the passenger side, where a chain cover should be visible. Look at the arrangement and make a good sketch or a photo with your phone’s camera of how it initially appears. When the inspection is complete, this action would help you fix the parts correctly.

1. Inspect the Tensioner

Once you locate the chain, you will see the tensioner completely attached to its side. The chain should then be moved in the necessary direction to begin releasing the tensioner from it. Once you’ve done that, the chain seems to be sufficiently loose to be removed without difficulty.

2. Start the Engine

You should be certain that the tensioner is the source of the issue before removing it entirely from its location. Please start the car’s engine and pay close attention to any strange noises.

If strange noises are still coming from the tensioner, you might want to have it checked further. However, be careful not to run the engine too much, as this could prevent the battery from charging after you disconnect the chain.

3. Remove the Tensioner

You can check the tensioner on your work table once more to see how badly it has been damaged. The manufacturer’s specifications for the car may provide some guidance on how to remove the tensioner.

A torque wrench test should be used to determine the extent of the tension it provides as part of the further diagnosis. You can always check your neighborhood auto store to see if the damage requires a new timing chain tensioner replacement.

Note: If you experience any 2.0TFSI cam bad timing chain tensioner symptoms, you can also check it from underneath the car on the passenger side. Please turn the engine off and find the tensioner. Use the proper tools to remove the plugs, and if necessary, you can also look up the model number.

7. A typical car engine 1

A typical car engine by CEFICEFI / CC BY-SA 4.0. When the valves cease opening and shutting and the crankshaft and camshaft begin to move erratically as a result of a bad timing chain tensioner, the engine begins to fail. Since the car’s engine is its beating heart, a damaged engine renders the vehicle immobile.

How Much Does a Bad Timing Chain Tensioner Replacement Cost?

Your engine and the performance of the vehicle would benefit from having the damaged tensioner replaced. The cost to replace the tensioner ranges from $786 to $958. To spare you the stress of having to do it later, it seems essential to replace the chain.

You can look up the price of a timing chain replacement in your area. The timing chain replacement, however, runs from $1,290 to $1,550. Please be aware that this price includes both labor costs and the cost of the parts.

Depending on your location, the degree of the damage, and the service station, the cost of this task may also change. In essence, the cost to replace the timing chain tensioner on an Audi A4 may be different from that of other auto models.

Once more, you can inquire about the precise cost of replacing the chains for a particular brand of vehicle. Search terms like “timing chain replacement cost for Mercedes,” “timing chain replacement cost for BMW,” and “Nissan timing chain replacement cost” can all be used.

However, since you would be replacing both components, your neighborhood mechanic might give you a discount. You can buy the necessary components from your neighborhood auto shop and get started if you believe you can repair the parts yourself.

Please be aware that the task could take a while since a skilled mechanic would need 4-6 hours to complete it. As a result, it appears that replacing the tensioner will be quite expensive. However, it is worthwhile, and your car would perform better for it.

The Conclusion

We have talked about the timing chain tensioner quite a bit in this article. First, we became familiar with interference engines and the purpose of this tensioner. We discussed the different types and the function it serves in an internal combustion engine, which is to maintain the proper amount of tension on the timing chain.

After that, we discussed the reasons why this tensioner is malfunctioning, and there are a few of them. Specifically, it had low-grade components, manufacturing flaws, and many miles on it. Then we talked about the bad timing chain tensioner symptoms, among which misfires and the check engine light featured in our list.

Finally, we learned how to diagnose the issue and the relatively low cost of replacing this component. You can expect to pay, on average, $200 for everything.

8. Bad Timing Chain Tensioner Symptoms 9. Bad Timing Chain Tensioner Symptoms
A timing chain by Kolossos / CC BY-SA 3.0