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Old 06-25-2020, 01:20 PM   #1
BrandonKastning
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Question GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

In my efforts of cleaning the oil deposits and repairing every piece of the engine compartment that needs replacement; I have decided to replace my timing belt also. Not only is the case hole full of oil (not sure how much inside the timing belt case is compromised as well.) On top of this, there is a strange, loud noise that sounds as if it's in the timing belt compartment. This concerns me.

The parts kit I am getting consists of the following:

~ Timing Belt
~ Camshaft Belt idler
~ Camshaft Belt Idler
~ Camshaft Belt idler

(However the picture) looks like the blue one is possibly the pulley. (I would like to replace that while I am in there as well).

At the same time I will be doing the Water Pump (which I am unsure if it's the cause of quite large amounts of actual water coming out of my exhaust pipes during / after idle / park run. I can run my fingers and a mini water fountain comes out.) However it's not orange like my Dex-Cool. It's just water; it doesn't smell funny or anything. The occasional dirt pile or deposit comes with it.)

Hopefully the water pump replacement fixes this if that is a) true and b) a "coolant leak"

Also while I am in there, I will replace my Thermostat before putting it all back together. I am hoping this fixes my Cooling Fan problem unless I have to replace Fan Control Module (which I would have to pick from a car at a junkyard and no L-Series are available at the moment.)

The timing belt tool kit for holding the camshafts and all the cool stuff I will be learning soon is this kit: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0195Y71BM

It's affordable and it's made for GM and SAAB V6 3.0L / 3.2L ; Even mentions my Make/Model/Year

Thanks!

Best Regards,

Brandon
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Old 06-25-2020, 02:06 PM   #2
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Question Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

My understanding is to immediately make timing marks using white out or some sort of markings over the camshaft / timings.

I will make sure to do this; if there aren't any markings, is it safe to assume it's factory and hasn't been replaced since?
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Old 06-25-2020, 03:26 PM   #3
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Default Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

Lots of stuff in this post. First off, the thermostat is not located underneath the timing belt like the water pump is. To get at the thermostat you have to remove everything on top of the engine... all intakes, plenum, upper and lower intakes and fuel injectors and then you will be able to see the thermostat housing. I wouldn't dig that deep without changing the valve cover gaskets along with all intake gaskets.

The timing belt tool kit is a necessity in my opinion. Locking those 4 cams in place is very important to keep the engine in "time". Once locked you can loosen the belt tensioner to remove the old belt. Providing you started at top dead center, the new belt will match up with all default timing marks =/- a tooth. Start on the bottom of the crank mark and match that to the proper mark on the timing belt. It is confusing because some belts have two different crank marks likely for different types of engines. Line up the correct belt mark dead on the crank mark, then without letting go of the crank/belt location mark, wrap the belt in a counter clockwise motion getting the next marks as close as possible to the default marks on each cam. It doesn't need to be perfect at this point. However, make sure you install the new idlers with the shallowest adjustments so you can add tension later. I used a series of spring clamps to hold the timing bell at each cam mark to maintain the timing marks as I loaded the belt.

Once you got the entire belt in place... tension the belt tensioner per the book. Don't make the mistake like I did at this point. I didn't tighten the tensioner enough. When I hand cranked the engine, the belt jumped the crank sprocket. I then loosened the tension by mistake and bam all the cams spun to rest as I heard the valves hitting the pistons.

What you need to do is turn the engine clockwise MANUALLY with a wrench on the crank bolt. You spin it 360 degrees until the crank mark is dead on. Then, look at the cam to the right side and visually inspect the mark. IF it is dead on, more on, if not... you need to adjust the lowest idler cam to pull the mark on to the default mark. Once that cam is perfectly timed, spin the engine again to the dead on crank mark again... recheck the first cam timing mark. If spot on, move on, if not readjust the lower idler and repeat. If cam is spot on, look at the next cam and check it for timing. IF off, adjust the idler above the lowest idler.

The concept is simple, but that's about it. You set the timing on the cam closest to the front bummer, spin engine 360, check timing, spin 360 verify timing, then move to next cam working your back to the far left cam. You will be hand cranking the engine many times to get the engine in "time". Once the belt is spot on every cam... the engine is in tune. There is no other way to do this because the belt must be stretched and tensioned throughout every cam to keep the engine in tune.

When all marks are spot on... and this is a critical step. You need to insert the cam locks from the timing kit to lock the cams in place. At this point, you loosen the belt tensioner and set it ahead of the hash mark and even a bit above the timing mark on the tensioner and torque the tensioner in place. Remove the locks and then spin the engine one more time to verify every mark is spot on. Some times you have to repeat steps until everything is perfectly timed.

IT is NOT easy and if you screw up you can kiss your engine good bye! I got extremely lucky I didn't fuk up our engine after the cams all spun. It was a sickening feeling when that happened.

The water pump is very easy. Install your cam locks on the old belt cams and replace the water pump before installing the new belt because antifreeze is will soak the belt.
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Old 06-25-2020, 04:51 PM   #4
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Thumbs Up Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rj 2000 LS2 View Post
Lots of stuff in this post. First off, the thermostat is not located underneath the timing belt like the water pump is. To get at the thermostat you have to remove everything on top of the engine... all intakes, plenum, upper and lower intakes and fuel injectors and then you will be able to see the thermostat housing. I wouldn't dig that deep without changing the valve cover gaskets along with all intake gaskets.

The timing belt tool kit is a necessity in my opinion. Locking those 4 cams in place is very important to keep the engine in "time". Once locked you can loosen the belt tensioner to remove the old belt. Providing you started at top dead center, the new belt will match up with all default timing marks =/- a tooth. Start on the bottom of the crank mark and match that to the proper mark on the timing belt. It is confusing because some belts have two different crank marks likely for different types of engines. Line up the correct belt mark dead on the crank mark, then without letting go of the crank/belt location mark, wrap the belt in a counter clockwise motion getting the next marks as close as possible to the default marks on each cam. It doesn't need to be perfect at this point. However, make sure you install the new idlers with the shallowest adjustments so you can add tension later. I used a series of spring clamps to hold the timing bell at each cam mark to maintain the timing marks as I loaded the belt.

Once you got the entire belt in place... tension the belt tensioner per the book. Don't make the mistake like I did at this point. I didn't tighten the tensioner enough. When I hand cranked the engine, the belt jumped the crank sprocket. I then loosened the tension by mistake and bam all the cams spun to rest as I heard the valves hitting the pistons.

What you need to do is turn the engine clockwise MANUALLY with a wrench on the crank bolt. You spin it 360 degrees until the crank mark is dead on. Then, look at the cam to the right side and visually inspect the mark. IF it is dead on, more on, if not... you need to adjust the lowest idler cam to pull the mark on to the default mark. Once that cam is perfectly timed, spin the engine again to the dead on crank mark again... recheck the first cam timing mark. If spot on, move on, if not readjust the lower idler and repeat. If cam is spot on, look at the next cam and check it for timing. IF off, adjust the idler above the lowest idler.

The concept is simple, but that's about it. You set the timing on the cam closest to the front bummer, spin engine 360, check timing, spin 360 verify timing, then move to next cam working your back to the far left cam. You will be hand cranking the engine many times to get the engine in "time". Once the belt is spot on every cam... the engine is in tune. There is no other way to do this because the belt must be stretched and tensioned throughout every cam to keep the engine in tune.

When all marks are spot on... and this is a critical step. You need to insert the cam locks from the timing kit to lock the cams in place. At this point, you loosen the belt tensioner and set it ahead of the hash mark and even a bit above the timing mark on the tensioner and torque the tensioner in place. Remove the locks and then spin the engine one more time to verify every mark is spot on. Some times you have to repeat steps until everything is perfectly timed.

IT is NOT easy and if you screw up you can kiss your engine good bye! I got extremely lucky I didn't fuk up our engine after the cams all spun. It was a sickening feeling when that happened.

The water pump is very easy. Install your cam locks on the old belt cams and replace the water pump before installing the new belt because antifreeze is will soak the belt.
Rj,

Thanks for sharing your detailed write-up and your horror story / scare regarding your timing and engine hit.

I will take note on your tips; regarding the thermostat; holding off until I can get to the valve gasket covers, I also agree (now knowing the location of the thermostat).

Water pump replacement before installing the new timing belt due to antifreeze coming out, also noted.

TIghten the tensioner once the belt is in place as much as possible, got it!

Appreciate it!

Best Regards,

Brandon
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Old 06-25-2020, 11:32 PM   #5
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Default Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

Is there a tool for the GM L81 timing belt system such as a socket for the manual turning's Rj has described?

Google is showing me other types of sockets for other models ... just don't see anything for this engine at all.
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Old 06-26-2020, 05:30 AM   #6
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Wrench Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

Also,

Is the timing belt replacement something that can be done with a hydraulic jack and a block of wood like I did the serpentine belt + alternator?

(i.e - Can I access the bottom of the belt) ?


Would a engine support mount be more practical for this type of repair attempt situation?
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Last edited by BrandonKastning; 06-26-2020 at 05:31 AM. Reason: add a question
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Old 06-26-2020, 06:17 AM   #7
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Default Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

The timing belt kit will have a crank socket with it. I used a jack with a block on wood to support the engine and transmission from underneath. Only one engine mount needs to be removed. There are other Engine mounts so the jack is only used to take pressure off the one you need to remove. Using an engine lift is the recommended method, but both work if you are gentle.
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Old 06-26-2020, 11:19 AM   #8
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Thumbs Up Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rj 2000 LS2 View Post
The timing belt kit will have a crank socket with it. I used a jack with a block on wood to support the engine and transmission from underneath. Only one engine mount needs to be removed. There are other Engine mounts so the jack is only used to take pressure off the one you need to remove. Using an engine lift is the recommended method, but both work if you are gentle.
Thank you RJ! Glad to read a hydraulic jack and a block of wood did the trick for you and you successfully replaced your timing belt.

I sure hope my kit includes the Crank Socket. I will double check. The FSM just told me J42098 (Part #) - Crank Hub Torx Socket is the manufacturer recommended one.

Is using the engine support different than an engine lift? (i.e. Will it raise it up enough to replacement the timing in full) or is that where the block of wood comes in?

The diagram of the timing belt and videos on YouTube make this thing look huge (which is it really is); Just want to ensure the rain doesn't come down on me mid replacement and have to depend on a hydraulic jack vs. something that could be set in place for even more than 1 day if necessary.

Best Regards and morning,

Brandon
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Old 06-26-2020, 12:51 PM   #9
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Default Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

Here's a couple tips before you begin this timing belt replacement.

1) The belt marks will only be spot on the first time you install the belt. After you start rotating the engine the actual belt marks are erroneous. The marks you want to align are the on the cam sprockets, the crank mark and the marks on the plastic timing belt cover. The crank mark must be straight down and the cam sprocket marks will remain static with the plastic cam cover marks. The belt marks are only useful for the initial installation of the belt on to the cams. After that... disregard the belt marks otherwise you will be chasing the wind. The designers purposely made the belt "off" a bit so the same tooth doesn't always land on the same belt "tooth". It extends the life of the belt. The belt marks will actually rotate one tooth per rotation of the engine. In other words, use the belt marks once and then forget them.

2) There are many CTS timing belt installations on YT. I suggest you watch a bunch of these to understand the basics before trying to replace the timing belt. It is the same engines as the 3.0L Saturn with different intake components. Some videos show installing the belt from left to right instead of the way I did it. However, there was this one video which I can't find today which explicitly showed how to re-time the engine by installing the belt right to left, and which way to rotate each cam in order to correctly set the locations of all cams to time the engine properly. That is the method I had to use after all cams let loose. If you manage to get your cams locked without issue... you can install the belt from left to right. However, I believe the Right to left method I used works best to properly "fit" the belt and setup the correct tension between all components. You could simply toss the belt on any old way, but if you don't rotate the engine by hand over and over again, while checking the marks at TDC... you could end up with a horribly timed engine.

3) Take your time, pun intended. Also, don't over tighten any component. These bolts can't take too much force. The main tensioner is only 15 ftlbs which to me seems way to light, but it works as it should. So don't go full gorilla on the tensioner for fear of slippage like what happened to me.

4) The last step is to set the tensioner properly. Many videos show the mark at the top of the corresponding set point. However, the guy who taught me to re-time all cams (in video I can't find otherwise I would send you a link)... he said to go past the top of the range by a few degrees to properly set the tension on a new belt. He also stressed to rotate the engine in the clockwise direction and set all components in a Right to left direction which properly sets the belt tension between all components.

I hope this helps and your belt/water pump repairs are uneventful!
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Old 06-26-2020, 01:18 PM   #10
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Default Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

Brandon, the item in the center of the tool kit you referenced is a vital component to achieve exact timing belt placement. Make sure you understand how to use it.
It is placed between the intake and exhaust cam sprockets. The little notches on the tool MUST line up with the timing marks on the cams. You can tweek the sprocket locations via the idler pulleys.
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Old 06-26-2020, 01:41 PM   #11
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Default Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

One more tip... don't listen to any video which makes claims that if the engine is at TDC... the cams will remain in place. That is BS. All cams will spin to their resting point unless you install the green and red cam locks.

I located my timing belt project which I posted on Saturn Forum. Here's the link https://www.saturnforum.com/forum/sa...uestion-11278/

I forgot what troubles I ran into with the crank pulley removal. It was really rusted on and I couldn't determine where it separated. Prepare for pain! LOL
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Old 06-26-2020, 10:48 PM   #12
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Thumbs Up Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rj 2000 LS2 View Post
One more tip... don't listen to any video which makes claims that if the engine is at TDC... the cams will remain in place. That is BS. All cams will spin to their resting point unless you install the green and red cam locks.

I located my timing belt project which I posted on Saturn Forum. Here's the link https://www.saturnforum.com/forum/sa...uestion-11278/

I forgot what troubles I ran into with the crank pulley removal. It was really rusted on and I couldn't determine where it separated. Prepare for pain! LOL
Rj,

Good job on your timing belt replacement. wow....

Cool pic:

Which kit did you go with?

I originally wanted to go with the one I posted; however it doesn't support the L300 V6 from the comments.

I looked at the threads in this forum and people have boasted in "Baum Tools".

I feel it's worth paying twice the amount for the recommended tool kit. And both my replacement kit and the timing belt alignment kit both have positive reviews for the 2001 L300!

That's hopeful!

Thanks again for all the tips. I will be studying my butt off and for certainly need to acquire a T wrench before moving forth with any of this.

Best Regards,

Brandon
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Old 06-26-2020, 10:53 PM   #13
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Thumbs Up Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lrbraner View Post
Brandon, the item in the center of the tool kit you referenced is a vital component to achieve exact timing belt placement. Make sure you understand how to use it.
It is placed between the intake and exhaust cam sprockets. The little notches on the tool MUST line up with the timing marks on the cams. You can tweek the sprocket locations via the idler pulleys.
lbraner,

Thank you for pointing that out helping me understand the critical need to achieve exact timing belt placement with that tool.

Like I said to Rj; the kit I changed to "Baum Tools" people here have had great success with from other threads and it seems to have the exact same tool you mention!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00UC4IK1K

When you say tweek the sprocket locations via the idler pulleys; do you mean once the green and red cam locks are set (after timing is set); then I can pull the old belt, the old idlers and the old pulley; replace all of those; then setup for the new belt while keeping / maintaining time? *Just make sure to keep the tension-er on or several of the 24 valves get bent and the engine is a brick* ?

Appreciate it!

Best Regards,

Brandon
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Old 06-26-2020, 11:32 PM   #14
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Default Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

The cam locks are used to remove the existing belt. Spin engine until it is at TDC. Verify by sighting the bottom of the crank case pulley mark found at 6 O clock. You must use a mirror. At that point, insert the cams locks and remove the belt and old tensioner/idlers. Install the new belt tensioner and idlers in the replacement kit. Then, install the new belt and temporarily tighten the tensioner. Then, start spinning the engine and tweaking the ilders to pull the timing marks into time. As I said, I like the Right to Left method, but you can do it the opposite way.

Honestly, I don't remember which timing kit I purchased. I bought it off Amazon and it said it was correct for our Saturn 3.0L engine.
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Old 06-28-2020, 11:22 AM   #15
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Default Re: GM L81 3.0L V6 Engine - Timing Belt Replacement - Any Tips?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandonKastning View Post
lbraner,

Thank you for pointing that out helping me understand the critical need to achieve exact timing belt placement with that tool.

Like I said to Rj; the kit I changed to "Baum Tools" people here have had great success with from other threads and it seems to have the exact same tool you mention!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00UC4IK1K

When you say tweek the sprocket locations via the idler pulleys; do you mean once the green and red cam locks are set (after timing is set); then I can pull the old belt, the old idlers and the old pulley; replace all of those; then setup for the new belt while keeping / maintaining time? *Just make sure to keep the tension-er on or several of the 24 valves get bent and the engine is a brick* ?

Appreciate it!

Best Regards,

Brandon
I agree with rj, work from right to left.
What I meant by 'tweek" is that since the idler pulleys are mounted eccentrically you can alter the position of the sprockets slightly to line up their timing marks with the marks on the tool.
You would use the pulley on the right to adjust the two sprockets on the right.
The pulley in the middle is used to adjust the two sprockets on the left.
One other tip. get the timing marks lined up and take photos of the pulley positions as a general reference to where the new ones should be before removing the old belt.
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