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Old 12-20-2020, 10:11 PM   #1
Melissa_M
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1999 SL2
Default pulley noise, maybe

I've just started having noise from the belt area. Got a both high and low pitched sound, not at the same time. So far they are intermittent and not affected by load/RPM.

Everything is original equip except for the water pump. Belt is tight and I see no significant pulley wobble. Previous belt looked fine but made slight noise that resolved with a fresh belt, so that may be a possibility here.

My guess is that this is the tensioner or idler pulley.
Since the noises are intermittent I figured I'd wait until they consistently occur to pull the belt and spin the pulleys. This of course makes me nervous.
Do they generally make an obvious/significant noise when they are bad?
How obvious is a bad pulley, sound wise, when you spin by hand?


If it is the tensioner I suppose I should put a whole new tensioner on, but what about the idler? Do I get whatever crap the FLAPS has or try to install a new sealed bearing in my existing idler pulley? Seems pretty straightforward, and I'm assuming I can get a loaner tool to press in the bearing.

The alternator bearing would be another possibility, and again, I suppose I'd replace the whole unit.
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Old 12-21-2020, 10:21 AM   #2
C52
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1997 SW2
Default Re: pulley noise, maybe

If you should end up needing a new belt tensioner it is always a good idea to replace the idler pulley and belt at the same time as well while you have it apart.

Rock auto currently has Gates belt tensioner's and idler pulley's as well as the serpentine belt on closeout, much cheaper than buying them at your local flaps. I recently replaced
these parts on my 97 SW2 with the Gates brand, however I didn't find out about the closeout at Rock Auto until after I had paid a much higher price at my local flaps.

Below listing is for DOHC 99 SL

https://www.rockauto.com/RSS/vehicle...l=en&html=true

Last edited by C52; 12-21-2020 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 12-21-2020, 06:06 PM   #3
Melissa_M
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Default Re: pulley noise, maybe

great reminder about replacing the extra parts, thanks!
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Old 12-22-2020, 08:56 AM   #4
Highmile
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1995 SL1
Default Re: pulley noise, maybe

I've replace the tensioner a number of time but the idler will outlast a tensioner by a factor of 2 or 3.

If you do replace the idler pulley be VERY careful removing it. It's very easy to break the boss off the timing cover.

If you have the belt off check everything that is belt driven. I've had water pumps make the same sort of noises.

The idler and tensioner are easy to tell, if they sound dry or make noise when you spin them by hand they are done. They will have some movement in them however. Also if they feel crunchy. Water pump, if there is any movement up/down or in/out its due to be replaced. Alternator should spin easily but may make a bit of noise due to the brushes on the armature. It should not feel crunchy though.

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Old 12-22-2020, 01:51 PM   #5
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Default Re: pulley noise, maybe

I agree with most of the post above, but want to caution that a belt squeak caused by the tensioner may not be from its bearing.

I had one (OEM) fail at the pivot of the tensioner "arm" such that it felt fine pulling the arm away from the belt (or pressing with your thumb in on a span of the belt), but could not travel inward against the belt enough to properly tension it. I never did actually "find" the problem, I eliminated everything else until a tensioner replacement seemed like the best option to try retain my sanity. Once the tensioner was off and I saw it had little-to-no inward travel it was obvious. On disassembly, I found the the plastic hub/bushing at the pivot had cracked and was limiting travel.

Lots of blather there, probably meaningless to many, but point is: Don't throw a lot of extra parts at this, little labor (and no money) is lost if you have to go back and replace the idler or belt later. And, don't focus on just the pulley bearing of the tensioner.
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Old 12-23-2020, 10:36 AM   #6
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2000 SL1
1998 VUE 3.5L
Default Re: pulley noise, maybe

Its only a few bolts, but its a pain replacing the both pulleys, but definitely worth doing while you are in there. There are various size pulleys depending on whether you have AC or not and some sources list the wrong sizes. I ran into that when I ordered online and had to grab one of the pulleys locally. I also was disappointed that most brands used a plastic pulley versus a metal one. So keep an eye out for that when shopping around too.
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