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Old 08-23-2017, 12:52 PM   #1
Jcfippen
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Wrench Saturn Vue Timing Chain Tensioner Problem, Can Anyone Offer Advice?

Hi:

I'm a newly registered member of this discussion board, though I've read many posts over the past few years here. I registered so that I could post my crisis in hopes that someone might have a possible solution.

I have a 2004 Saturn Vue with 2.2 4-cylinder and manual transmission. We bought it from the Saturn lot in 2005 with 8600 miles on it; now it has 226,000 miles.

Around 2011, when it had maybe 170,000 or so miles, it started making a terrible rattling sound from the engine--all of a sudden. We assumed the worst, and figured a replacement engine was going to be our solution. However, after a few dozen miles driving it, the noise suddenly went away--while driving 55 MPH down the road. We didn't know what to think. It stayed quiet for a long time, running normally, but eventually did it again--over the years around 2013 to 2015, it made the noise (sudden onset) and then quieted down (like, noise, then...no noise!) several times. Finally, in early 2015, it started making the noise and didn't stop, so we figured we'd need to examine the problem more closely. At that time, it had the 226,000 miles on it.

It sat in my backyard from about April 2015 until earlier this month (August 2017), when I charged the battery and started it up again. Darned if it didn't start up right away, just as though it had last run the day before! It still made the noise. I drove it across the yard to a shady spot under a tree to check it out. I'd done research, and suspected the timing chain tensioner.

I removed the ignition coil, electronic ignition module, and spark plug connector assembly (as a unit) from the top of the engine, then removed the valve cover. Upon removal of the valve cover, the timing chain looked tight, but maybe it wasn't tight enough?

With the valve cover and ignition components removed, I turned the engine with the started a little in order to see if the noise was coming from the timing chain area, which I think it was.

I removed the timing chain tensioner from the backside of the engine and removed it in one piece. Once I got it out, I found it to be frozen in position. It was mostly extended, but the plunger wouldn't move. I finally broke it free, but when I took the plunger out, there was some scoring on the machined surface of the inner barrel, and reassembling it, it moved in and out with the pressure of the spring, but it seemed to bind when pressed in a bit (probably from that scoring I mentioned). Okay, so a new tensioner was in my immediate future.

I bought a new AC/Delco part number 12608580, which is the new "improved" tensioner. I installed it, torqued it down, then tapped the timing chain over the spot where the tensioner was located, and the tensioner sprang out, tightening the chain nicely.

I reinstalled the valve cover (using the old gasket; if it leaks I'll buy a new one later, I thought) and reassembled the ignition setup on top of the engine. With everything put back together, I tried to start the engine.

When I tried to start it, it didn't start. It just turned over and over, and there was some "puffing" from the exhaust pipe. The battery ran down promptly. I recharged the battery and tried again. This time, when I tried to start it, it stumbled and huffed, and finally backfired through the throttle body assembly, never starting.

I didn't expect this to happen. I figured that it would start up again and either (a) still make the noise or preferably (b), not make the noise and sound okay.

Here's where I'm hoping to get some advice: What did I do wrong, and how might I correct it?

I never took the timing chain off of any gear or sprocket. I "did" removed the little guide at the top between the two cam sprockets, just to check the tension before removing the tensioner (it was fairly tight but did have some "give; maybe more than it should've), then I replaced it. It looks like a thing to keep the chain from rubbing against the valve cover. Of course, I did spin the engine with the ignition system removed.

I feel like this is an ignition problem. Backfiring through the intake sounds like the spark is 180-degrees out of time. This has distributorless ignition, so I don't know how to adjust the ignition timing or how I might've messed it up, unless a crank position sensor is telling it to spark at about the opposite of when it should. I can't simply reverse the wires (1/2/3/4 now becomes 4/3/2/1--a tune-up guy's nightmare, but it works!!) because there aren't any wires to rearrange.

I really don't "think" I jumbled up the timing chain at all, but I feel like this is an ignition problem.

What do you think? Any suggestions? Any thoughts as to what I did wrong? To recap, the car ran smoothly (just noisily) right up until I took it apart; now it won't start and backfires through the intake. The timing chain looked fine, with no apparent wear or damage visible.

Please offer any suggestions!!

Thanks so much for reading this!!

Josh

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Old 08-23-2017, 02:36 PM   #2
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Default Re: Saturn Vue Timing Chain Tensioner Problem, Can Anyone Offer Advice?

You did fine and didn't cause the backfiring. Replacing the chain tensioner may be only part of a larger problem. What you may have missed when unfamiliar with any engine is mechanical timing - the camshaft and valves are mechanically timed to crankshaft so valves open and close relative to piston travel. This isn't an electronics problem with spark or injectors.

All engines are mechanically timed in reference to cylinder #1 at top dead center with reference marks on timing chain and camshaft sprockets. Setting mechanical timing is crucial to allowing the EFI system to run the engine. If mechanical timing is off, the EFI system still runs but incorrectly because of incorrect mechanical timing. The EFI system uses the crank sensor to operate the engine computer precisely. The dance between mechanical timing and EFI system relies on everything being perfect. Every 4-stroke engine rotates two full crankshaft rotations before top dead center occurs; intake and exhaust valves are closed with piston at the top of its travel. Number one cylinder is timed to the crankshaft mark in a specific position along with the camshaft sprockets. If during the 226k miles with the chain tensioner retracting to allow a loose chain, timing may have skipped where one or both camshafts slipped one tooth or more. This can result in backfiring with a valve not closing before spark occurs and a flame front travels thru the intake manifold and out the throttle body. There are a few incidents where this occurred but not from timing.

The S-series engines are all plagued with the infamous faulty coolant sensor that sometimes leaned out fuel mixtures on startup and caused the same scenario of backfiring thru the throttle body. The majority failed by running rich fuel mixtures. All members here learn about it and replace the faulty one with the correct sensor made of brass. This isn't a timing issue but a faulty sensor causing a an extreme lean fuel mixture.

Your engine may have its timing chain off and require setting up timing to see if its correct or not.

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Old 08-23-2017, 03:04 PM   #3
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Wrench Re: Saturn Vue Timing Chain Tensioner Problem, Can Anyone Offer Advice?

Thanks for your reply!

The thing is, the timing chain wasn't removed during tensioner replacement--the tensioner goes in through the back of the engine. I didn't remove the timing chain from any sprocket nor did I rotate the engine with the tensioner removed. The thing ran--just fine, but with noise--the other day when I moved it from a sunny spot to another spot under a tree to provide shade while I took the valve cover off.

So...without changing the relative positionality of the timing chain to the sprocket teeth to which it was attached at the time it was running, I simply rotated the engine with the same decreased tension on the chain that was present while it was running, then removed said tensioner (allowing the chain to relax a little, but it wasn't loose enough to jump across sprocket teeth) and replaced it with another. When the tensioner was removed, the engine didn't rotate.

It was running when I moved it, then, a few days later when I received my new tensioner and installed it, it appeared to be way off time. When I rotated the engine with the valve cover removed, all chain guides were in place, the faulty tensioner (which was installed while the engine was running just a few days ago) was also in place, and I watched and listened as the engine rotated with the valve cover off, and I didn't see any "burps" in chain motion at that time that might indicate a jump on any topside sprocket. Because it was running--and running smoothly--when I started, I can assume that the old tensioner was doing a good enough job so as to prevent timing chain jumps. If it had jumped on the sprocket prior to my starting repairs, it wouldn't have run well, or at least it should've run the same as before. The before and after difference is so dramatic (before it started up and ran fine, just with noise from the loose chain; after the repair, it wouldn't start at all and now backfires through the intake). I guess I shouldn't call this a "repair," as I've really "fixed" it now :-P

I can conceive of a faulty sensor becoming noticeable once some other component has been replaced, but it seems a stretch to think that an engine that was running fine before component replacement would now, suddenly and so dramatically, misbehave like this, don't you think?

Do you suppose that if the crankshaft stopped at some point approximately opposite the point where it should be to trigger spark, that this might cause the spark to occur at a very wrong point in the engine cycle? I was kind of imagining that there might be some electronic controller that's gone off correct timing that's causing the spark to occur incorrectly.

Is there a way to set the crankshaft position sensor/crankshaft at some neutral/starting position? Perhaps after a timing chain replacement or head removal and install, or engine rebuild, there's a procedure to get the CPS and crankshaft--and any other controllers which rely on engine positionality--back to a base "starting" position in order to allow spark, fuel injection, and mechanical timing to all align properly?

Any additional input would be appreciated :-}

Josh

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Old 08-23-2017, 03:28 PM   #4
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Default Re: Saturn Vue Timing Chain Tensioner Problem, Can Anyone Offer Advice?

Its understandable if you're not familiar with electronic fuel injection systems. They're all precise and do not suffer timing issues. You may be confusing a mechanical timing issue with precision electronic timing of fuel injection and spark, all determined by a fixed in position crank sensor detecting machined teeth on a crankshaft. No adjustment of crank sensor, its fixed in place. The engine computer cannot run without precise timing signals from the crank sensor and all of is fixed permanently. Nothing in EFI systems are adjustable to alter timing. The only variables with EFI systems; throttle position sensor, intake air and coolant sensor, manifold absolute pressure sensor, vehicle speed sensor, etc.. These are sensors that vary signals so the pcm knows what's going on.

Pm me an email address for timing chain setup. Even of you insist on the chain not skipping over crankshaft or camshaft tooth, things do occur that's not readily seen or accepted. I never assume anything when presented with a problem. The old saying about assume making an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me' is a hard learned lesson if not aware of everything......

BTW, are all electrical connections intact, none inadvertently disconnected?

Last edited by fdryer; 08-23-2017 at 03:34 PM..

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Old 08-23-2017, 03:55 PM   #5
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Default Re: Saturn Vue Timing Chain Tensioner Problem, Can Anyone Offer Advice?

Thanks for your response!

You're right, maybe this thing has slipped a little bit and I didn't catch it doing it.

I think I have everything hooked back up. There was a ground connection to the valve cover and the connector for the ECM, but I don't think anything else was connected.

I figured that the CPS ought to be keyed to a permanent mark on the crankshaft, but I was thinking that maybe it was just out of phase.

I'll send my email address shortly.

Thanks for putting up with me :-}

Josh

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Old 08-23-2017, 07:11 PM   #6
waiter21
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Default Re: Saturn Vue Timing Chain Tensioner Problem, Can Anyone Offer Advice?

If you only removed the coil pack and valve cover, then nothing else should have been disturbed.

1) Its possible it may have jumped a tooth on the lower (crankshaft) gear when the chain was hanging lose. If it only jumped one or two teeth, you may have lucked out and not bent any valves. But the valves may not be closed yet when the spark plug fires (causing the backfire)

Timing marks. There aren't any. The chain and gears have assembly marks that line up when assembling, but these marks only come in to alignment once every 44 (???) revolutions of the engine. You may be able to find TDC with a piston probe and look at the two cams, but I don't think this is accurate enough.

The only way to verify is to pull the timing chain cover and inspect the marks. If you do this, you may as well replace the chain.

take a look thru these photos

http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=218942


2) POSSIBILITY - Look very carefully at the coil pac / valve cover to make sure you didn't miss a ground wire when you re-assembled. There may also be a braided jumper ground between the coil pack and the engine block.

Consider adding additional ground wires:

http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=216101

..

...
2003 Vue - 2.2L with Manual Trans. (Swapped)
Originally had 2.2L and Auto trans.

Last edited by waiter21; 08-23-2017 at 07:19 PM..

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Old 08-23-2017, 10:42 PM   #7
billysvue
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Default Re: Saturn Vue Timing Chain Tensioner Problem, Can Anyone Offer Advice?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jcfippen View Post
Hi:226,000 miles.

Around 2011, 170,000mi..terrible rattling sound . few dozen miles noise away..did it again--over the years around 2013 2015, it made noise then quieted down several times. Finally, in early 2015,...the noise and didn't stop, ... 226,000 mi..... April 2015 earlier this month (August 2017), charged battery and started made the noise suspected the timing chain
Josh
It was the TC tensioner 6 years ago. But for "a few dozen miles"( and a few years) you kept driving with a terrible rattling sound.

At that time (and since) the motor has been shredded. A total rebuild by the numbers doesn't pencil out and would be the only solution( apart from a JY motor). THe inside of the motor is all polluted and needs to be gone through thoroughly.
All internal bearings, oil pump, and critical clearances of moving parts were ferkakta 6 yrs ago( besides the TC/balance chain, water pump and more).

RIP.

Get a JY motor or scrap it.

Bryan
PS. post to CL auto discussion forum if you want them to tell you to ,"cliff it"

...
'05 ,2.2L, FWD,5-speed stick with transaxle death rattle is history,,,
'17 Suby Forester

245216 mi. VUe is off to the dealer auction
I'm a secondhand vegetarian.
Cows eat grass, I eat cows.

Last edited by billysvue; 08-23-2017 at 10:48 PM..

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Old 08-24-2017, 11:32 AM   #8
Beasleylou
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Default Re: Saturn Vue Timing Chain Tensioner Problem, Can Anyone Offer Advice?

As others have said, you are going to have to take the engine cover off and check the timing and other components in there.

When I dealt with this I found a totally busted upper guide, sheared off oiler and worst of all sheared off upper guide bolt screw. See attached pics.

The second pic is using a mirror to look in the inspection hole for the upper guide screw. Not fun backing that out I can tell you.

Apparently when the tensioner goes out, the slack shows up on the right side and can take out components there if left for too long.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg IMG_0771.jpg (73.2 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_0772.jpg (129.1 KB, 21 views)

Last edited by Beasleylou; 08-24-2017 at 11:39 AM..

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Old 09-02-2017, 07:27 PM   #9
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Default Re: Saturn Vue Timing Chain Tensioner Problem, Can Anyone Offer Advice?

You could do a compression test and determine the health of the valve train quickly. You won't immediately be able to determine if a valve is bent or not until you get the chain exactly lined up per the factory specs. Once the chain is lined up or verified as being installed correctly, the compression test should give similar readings on all cylinders. If you have one or more that is zero or very low, you have a bad valve. Verify with a wet test too.

You have done pretty good with the mileage on that engine. Very few people make it to over 200,000 miles without a chain or guide problem.

If the rest of the vehicle, including the transmission, is in good shape, consider putting in a JY engine as mentioned.

...
John.... 2006 Saturn Vue, 2.2, 186,000 miles Recently junked out - (threw a rod)

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