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Old 11-05-2017, 07:09 PM   #1
rsg3
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1999 SL
Default Rattle/Clatter at idle

Whenever my car (99 SL, 111k miles) is warmed up, and therefore idling normally around 850-900rpm, I get a pretty loud (though not totally consistent) rattle from the accessory belt side of the engine. It seems worse when the ambient temperature is lower.

I've never been able to totally pinpoint the source. But I'm thinking it has to be the tensioner and/or idler pulley.

Before I owned it, someone swapped in a '97 engine because a previous owner killed the OE engine. I'm pretty sure the tensioner is not OEM, because it had a 15mm bolt instead of the OEM 14mm bolt (I think?) when I took off the belt to do the water pump (about a year, ~3k miles ago).

The swap was like 20-30k miles ago. I'd have to check records to be sure.

The only other thing that occurs to me is that the belt is the wrong size. Mine's unusual in that it has A/C, but no power steering. So I wonder if it's off by a few millimeters and is causing the tensioner to be noisy.

I hesitate to throw a new idler, tensioner, and belt at it just as a test. This is a car that I bought for $1200 three years ago, and I know the tensioner is a hassle to replace. I struggled enough with the water pump & starter.

Above idle though, the thing runs perfectly and I don't want to replace the car if I don't have to. But I also don't want the thing to rattle itself apart and leave me stranded in the winter.

Thoughts?

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Old 11-05-2017, 07:16 PM   #2
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Default Re: Rattle/Clatter at idle

"But I also don't want the thing to rattle itself apart and leave me stranded in the winter."
That's the situation facing you.
If it were me, I would purchase a genuine AC Delco belt tensioner. I finally did that after using at least 2 other brands and those failed easily within a year of installation. Biting the bullet, and paying more for a tensioner yielded ME much, because yes, it is not the most pleasant item to replace, I have never had to replace it again.
No power steering?? Did someone remove the pump or just never put one on when the 97 engine was installed? Are the PS hydraulic hoses still feeding into the steering rack? Plugged off so no moisture or junk can get into them, or are they just completely gone?

Last edited by toggenburg; 11-05-2017 at 07:22 PM..

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Old 11-05-2017, 07:22 PM   #3
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Default Re: Rattle/Clatter at idle

Quote:
Originally Posted by toggenburg View Post
But I also don't want the thing to rattle itself apart and leave me stranded in the winter.
Right. This is why I would like to try to diagnose and isolate the problem rather than just throw parts at an aging, inexpensive car.

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Old 11-05-2017, 07:32 PM   #4
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Default Re: Rattle/Clatter at idle

Correct, so to help you out, have the car in Park, open the hood, and watch the serpentine belt. At idle you should still see some bouncing of the belt midway. OR, turn off engine, open hood, and by pushing down on that belt, kinda midway from front to back, it should hardly flex if the thing is still good....if it moves like more than 3/4" downwards, it is most likely the tensioner. IF indeed the correct belt is NOT on the tensioner, you might have a tensioner slapping noise if that belt is either too long or stretched out.
Can you make out what numbers are stamped on the belt??

https://www.amazon.com/ACDelco-38112...ype=automotive

$62.99

Wait, 111K miles on it, and in a years time you have put only 3,000 miles??

Unfortunately, we have no carpooling, or public transportation to get me to & from work, and as a result, I put on at lease 2K per month on my car, and even more miles added onto my other 3 vehicles through out the year.

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Old 11-05-2017, 10:02 PM   #5
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Default Re: Rattle/Clatter at idle

Have you run the engine with the serp belt off, to verify the noise really is coming from something down there? Even when the engine is fully warmed it won't hurt it to idle it for a minute or less without the water pump turning.

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Old 11-06-2017, 10:49 AM   #6
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Default Re: Rattle/Clatter at idle

Could it be the timing chain? Our 99 sl2 is noisy at idle and 2600, but fine otherwise.

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Old 11-06-2017, 03:44 PM   #7
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Default Re: Rattle/Clatter at idle

Quote:
Originally Posted by rsg3 View Post
I'm pretty sure the tensioner is not OEM, because it had a 15mm bolt instead of the OEM 14mm bolt (I think?) when I took off the belt to do the water pump (about a year, ~3k miles ago). . . . The only other thing that occurs to me is that the belt is the wrong size. Mine's unusual in that it has A/C, but no power steering. So I wonder if it's off by a few millimeters and is causing the tensioner to be noisy.
A few people have had noise when there was a mismatch between an aftermarket tensioner's pulley diameter and the prescribed belt. The parts books assume certain size pulleys in determining the belt length

If you find some of those threads, you'll see the pulley diameter mentioned for the OE tensioner
Quote:
Originally Posted by billr
Have you run the engine with the serp belt off, to verify the noise really is coming from something down there? Even when the engine is fully warmed it won't hurt it to idle it for a minute or less without the water pump turning.
This would be a good first step.

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