How to Remove the Belt Tenionser on a 1999 Chevy Tahoe


You see all kinds of things on service calls. I've seen buzzards in truck toolboxes, and I've seen blown-out engine blocks repaired with duct tape and sheetmetal screws. I even had to throw a rock at a panther once. But I still maintain that you haven't really lived until you've replaced a belt tensioner in the dark while surrounded by vampires. Sparkly, sparkly vampires.

Tensioner Replacement

  • The service call came at about 10:45 p.m., which in itself is never a good thing. The address given was also in the parking lot of what I knew to be a broken-down and boarded-up gas station on the outskirts of town. Not good. I stepped out of my truck with tire thumper in hand, and nearly swung when a teenage vampire jumped out at me from behind the Tahoe. Her face was pale white, her eyeliner dark, and she was dressed from head to toe in black. Well, black except for the giant picture of Edward on the front of her shirt. Then, I remembered -- tonight was the midnight debut of the very last Sparkly Vampire movie.

    Soon, I was surrounded by teenage vampires, all dressed in various shades of black and glitter. I waited for an adult to appear, and then I realized the mother was standing among them. She was wearing a Taylor Lautner shirt, and fanatically clutching a pillow with a life-sized picture of his face on it. She told me that on the way to the premier, they had heard an incessant squealing from the engine bay and pulled over. After starting the engine and tracing down the noise, I realized it was the tensioner.

    Fortunately, the Bad Part of Town always has a 24-hour parts store, so I made it back to the gaggle of Twihards in less than 30 minutes. I looked down into the engine bay and, using a flashlight, found the tensioner on the left side of the water pump. I inserted the drive end of my 3/8-inch ratchet into the square hole on the tensioner arm and pulled it counterclockwise to relieve tension on the belt. It required almost no pressure at all -- the tensioner spring was completely shot. I pulled the belt off the engine and checked it. No cracks, no splits, fairly sharp ridges. The belt was fine.

    The tensioner on this engine was held to the block with a single bolt going through the center of the tensioner arm. The bolt acted as the pivot for the tensioner. I removed the bolt and pulled the tensioner off the engine. I checked the new tensioner and noted the little pin on the back. I pushed the pivot bolt through the hole and held the tensioner up to the engine.

    Slowly threading the bolt in, I turned the tensioner so that the pin on the back slipped into the little hole on the block. I tightened the bolt down, and torqued it to 37 foot-pounds.

    I could hear the vampires growing restless; it was nearing the witching hour, and they were anxious to see Bella look nauseous for two hours. I slipped the belt off the water pump pulley and over the tensioner. Pulling the tensioner back toward the engine, I slipped the belt over the water pump pulley. I checked all around to make sure it was fully seated and centered on all the pulleys, in all the grooves.

    As the Tahoe drove away full of very pleased, very sparkly "goth" types, I looked toward the dark and broken-down storefront. In the shadows, I saw a pair of predatory, iridescent eyes, glaring back at me, as steady and still as death in dust. The eyes rolled upward and turned away, apparently of the same opinion I was concerning our modern "vampires."

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