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    Thread: DIY - Removing a VR6 serpentine belt tensioner and lubricating the tensioner pulley bearing

    1. 12-04-2003 08:08 PM #1
      I had some free time and all the necessary pics, so I put this little DIY together. Hope it's useful to someone.


      REMOVING A VR6 SERPENTINE BELT TENSIONER AND LUBRICATING THE TENSIONER PULLEY BEARING

      The following outlines the procedure for removing the serpentine belt tensioner from a VR6 engine and lubricating the tensioner pulley bearing. It is common for the bearing in the pulley to dry out, causing the bearing to become very noisy when the engine is running and eventually, to fail. The lubrication of the bearing as preventative maintenance or at the first sign of noise can significantly extend the lifetime of the tensioner pulley. Since VW does not sell the pulley separately, lubricating the bearing with a few cents worth of grease before bearing failure can prevent you from having to (1) purchase a whole new OEM tensioner unit for $100-200 (depending on where you buy it from), (2) purchase an aftermarket pulley (such as the Adrenalin version) for $50-100 or (3) buying a new bearing and spending the time and/or $$$ to install it in the existing pulley.

      The procedure below was based on a '99.5 MKIV Jetta GLS 12v VR6. The steps for accessing the tensioner unit may/will be different on other model VR6s (for example, I believe the airbox must be removed on a MKIII VR6), but the procedure for disassembling the tensioner and lubricating the pulley bearing should be the same.

      Please do these procedures at your own risk and be ready to make small adjustments while doing them. Also, please be observant while removing parts so that they back together correctly.

      The procedure below is very simple and should take around a half an hour to perform.

      The tools/parts needed to perform the procedures are:

      1) T30 Torx driver
      2) M8x**x1.25 pitch bolt, where ** is the length in mm (available at Home Depot, Lowe's or other hardware stores). I have not specified a length since it varies depending on the model year/version VR6 you have.
      2) 13mm socket or wrench
      3) 15mm socket or wrench
      4) Small screwdriver
      5) High-temp wheel bearing grease or other suitable lubricant
      6) 6mm hex wrench or socket (if the bolts on your VR removed in Step 5 are this type)


      __________________________________________________ __________________

      REMOVING THE SERPENTINE BELT TENSIONER

      1. The serpentine belt tensioner is located on the passenger's side of the engine, as indicated by the yellow arrow in the picture below.


      2. Remove the long cover piece on the passenger's side of the engine to reveal the tensioner. To do this, remove the two (2) T30 Torx screws (indicated by the yellow arrows in the picture below) and carefully pull upward on the cover piece.


      3. The serpentine belt tensioner is indicted by the yellow arrow in the picture below. The tensioner pulley which applies force to the serpentine belt is indicated by the red arrow.


      4. To remove the tension from the serpentine belt, thread a M8x**x1.25 pitch bolt into the threaded hole in the top of the tensioner unit (as indicated by the yellow arrow in the picture below) and turn using a 13mm socket or wrench until the serpentine belt is loose. ** is the length of the bolt in mm and will depend on the model year/version VR6 you have. Basically, you need a bolt that is long enough to fully remove the belt tension before the bolt head threads in completely, but is short enough to not interfere with the fuel lines overhead (red arrows in picture below). On my '99.5 VR6 a 60mm bolt works perfectly, however, on my friend's '00 VR6 the same bolt is too long. I recommend that you purchase a few bolts with different lengths and return the ones that don't work.


      5. Once the belt tension has been removed, remove the tensioner unit from the engine by removing the three (3) 13mm bolts indicated by the yellow arrows in the picture below (Note: On some cars, these bolts will be 6mm hex instead). When the three bolts are out, slide the serpentine belt towards the passenger's side of the car and off of the tensioner pulley. You should now be able to remove the tensioner unit from the engine.


      NOTE: If you do not plan on lubricating the pulley bearing and reinstalling the tensioner back onto the engine right away, I recommend that you remove the M8 tension-release bolt to release the extra tension from the spring inside the tensioner. While not likely, it's possible that the spring may be damaged or deformed if it sits for too long in an over-tensioned state. If you do remove the tension, make sure to thread the M8 bolt back into the tensioner and reapply tension to the spring before reinstalling the tensioner onto the engine. If you don't, you will not be able to get the serpentine belt back onto the tensioner pulley.


      LUBRICATING THE TENSIONER PULLEY BEARING

      6. The picture below shows the three main parts of the tensioner unit - the main body, the spring-loaded arm and the idler pulley.


      7. Remove the pulley from the tensioner arm by removing the 15mm bolt indicated by the yellow arrow in the picture below (shows the bolt partly removed). NOTE: THE BOLT IS REVERSE THREAD. TURN IT CLOCKWISE TO REMOVE!!!


      8. The picture below shows the pulley removed from the tensioner unit. Note that there is a pulley guard (top center of picture) that is used between the bolt and pulley.


      9. Use a small screwdriver to remove the seals from each side of the pulley bearing, as shown in the picture below. To do this, insert the screwdriver between the seal and inner race and VERY CAREFULLY pry the seal upward. Make sure you do not damage the rubber coating on the seal or it may not stay in place when reinstalled.


      10. The picture below shows the tensioner pulley with both bearing seals removed.


      11. Pack each side of the bearing with some high temp. wheel bearing grease or another suitable lubricant, as shown in the picture below. You can also add a drop or two of oil to thin out the grease if it's very thick.


      12. The grease that I used is shown in the picture below. I purchased it at either Home Depot or Lowe's (can't remember) for around $3-4.


      13. Once the bearing has been packed with grease, carefully reinstall the bearing seals. MAKE SURE THAT THE SEALS ARE INSTALLED FULLY OR THEY WILL WORK THEMSELVES LOOSE AND WEAR AGAINST THE PULLEY GUARD OR TENSIONER ARM WHILE THE PULLEY SPINS.

      14. Reinstall the pulley onto the tensioner unit and then reinstall the tensioner unit back onto the engine by following steps 2-8 in reverse. Remember that the pulley bolt is REVERSE THREAD - turn it counter-clockwise to tighten. If you have a torque wrench, the torque spec for the tensioner-to-engine bolts are 18 ft-lbs. I could not find the torque spec for the pulley-to-tensioner bolt, but 30 ft-lbs should be appropriate.

      15. After reapplying tension to the serpentine belt and BEFORE starting the engine, check to see that the belt is properly positioned on ALL of the pulleys that it contacts.


      Let me know if you have any questions.


      EDIT (3/5/04): For those interested in replacing the serpentine belt, the illustration below shows how to route the belt around the various accessory pulleys.

      As always, do this procedure at your own risk. I am not responsible for any mistakes that you make.



      Modified by VgRt6 at 7:40 AM 5-9-2005


    2. 12-04-2003 09:10 PM #2

      My car does not have this bolt, is this a bad thing


    3. 12-04-2003 09:10 PM #3
      very nice...Will be doing this tommarrow thanks to you...I love free maintinence.

    4. Member
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      12-04-2003 09:14 PM #4
      Quote, originally posted by Point_Blank »
      My car does not have this bolt, is this a bad thing

      i guess you could say that bolts not "oem"

      you only put a bolt in there when you want to remove the belt...

      Dirt-merchant world tour 2005'

      nETL, DCI

    5. 12-04-2003 09:46 PM #5
      Quote, originally posted by Point_Blank »

      My car does not have this bolt, is this a bad thing

      You need to buy it. I mentioned in the DIY that you can get it at Home Depot, Lowes or other hardware-type stores for around $0.50.


    6. Member GTO1's Avatar
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      12-04-2003 10:30 PM #6
      I had this very procedure done today at a dealership in florida after my belt started going haywire, and since i am on vacation, didnt have that much of a choice. $350... yeah, kinda pissed right now. Good write up though.

    7. 12-04-2003 11:35 PM #7
      Awesome thanks!

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      12-04-2003 11:50 PM #8
      Good stuff. Add this to the FAQ/DIY post????????????

    9. 12-05-2003 12:31 AM #9
      mines makin all kinds of friggin noise...almost like a supercharger

      anyway i need to prelace the belt...so i'll hit this while im there. awesome post!


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      12-05-2003 01:30 AM #10

    11. 12-05-2003 03:13 AM #11
      yeah mine was makin the worst noise, bought some WD-40 and pretty much emptied the bottle on it and the pulleys w/o taking out the tensioner, it didn't do anything at first, but then by the second day it was gone, and it hasn't reared it's ugly head yet. Will keep posted

    12. 12-05-2003 06:27 AM #12
      Just change the bearing, they're only £5.

    13. Member AIIIVentoVR6's Avatar
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      12-05-2003 06:54 AM #13
      yYu can remove and use one of the three bolt holding the tesioner on to losen tension.

    14. 12-05-2003 09:15 AM #14
      Vortex at its finest. VgRt6, you're the man.

    15. 12-05-2003 09:17 AM #15
      mine makes a funky screaching right when i crank it up ,but only for about 2 seconds,then goes away,sounds kinda like a belt i guess,could it be this bearing?

    16. 12-05-2003 10:53 AM #16
      Quote, originally posted by AIIIVentoVR6 »
      yYu can remove and use one of the three bolt holding the tesioner on to losen tension.

      On some VR6s you can't. I tried this on my '99.5 and my friend's '00 and the bolt is too short.


    17. 12-05-2003 10:57 AM #17
      Quote, originally posted by phatvr6 »
      Just change the bearing, they're only £5.

      You can do this, but it's a lot easier and cheaper to lube the bearing instead of tracking down a replacement bearing and installing it. I'm saving the bearing replacement until it NEEDS to be replaced. A dry bearing doesn't need to be replaced, it just needs to be lubed.


    18. 12-05-2003 11:00 AM #18
      Quote, originally posted by sikasssvr6 »
      mine makes a funky screaching right when i crank it up ,but only for about 2 seconds,then goes away,sounds kinda like a belt i guess,could it be this bearing?

      It could be this bearing. Give the lubing a try and see if it goes away. If not, check your water pump recently.

      I lubed my tensioner pulley bearing 16k miles ago and it's been quiet since. Last week, I heard the noise again and figured that the bearing was dry ... again. I removed the tensioner and relubed the bearing twice ... it didn't help. I though maybe the bearing was fried and finally needed to be replaced. That was until my water pump bearing failed soon after. The tensioner bearing is fine - the relubing actually lasts for quite a lot of miles. Now I just ahve to change the stupid water pump! That's the next DIY.


    19. 12-05-2003 11:20 AM #19
      Quote, originally posted by VgRt6 »

      You can do this, but it's a lot easier and cheaper to lube the bearing instead of tracking down a replacement bearing and installing it. I'm saving the bearing replacement until it NEEDS to be replaced. A dry bearing doesn't need to be replaced, it just needs to be lubed.

      and how long do you think the lube is going to stay in there now you've prised the seal off???

      I've got the number for the SKF bearing, I've been meaning to post it up for some time now but I keep forgetting.


    20. 12-05-2003 11:52 AM #20
      Quote, originally posted by phatvr6 »
      and how long do you think the lube is going to stay in there now you've prised the seal off???

      Mine's lasted 16k miles so far and is still good. Who knows. The seals aren't that great anyway. I don't think removing them has made them any worse. If the noise comes back relatively quickly after relubing then maybe it's time to replace the bearing.

      Quote, originally posted by phatvr6 »
      I've got the number for the SKF bearing, I've been meaning to post it up for some time now but I keep forgetting.

      Definitely post the number. At least that would give people the option of doing either one.


    21. Member Scooter98144's Avatar
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      12-05-2003 12:26 PM #21
      Yea taking the seal out is not the problem and trailer bearing greae is ok but I would sugjest a HIGH end Redline grease for very high speed bearings.

    22. 12-05-2003 01:07 PM #22
      Good write up, nice pics - prob very helpful if you are really stuck for a bearing.

      However, if you can hear the bearing, its dead - fact. No amount of greasing is going to make it better - the damage is done - replace.

      The cost of the grease you have there is prob more than the bearing costs...!

      Jules


    23. 12-05-2003 03:19 PM #23
      Nice one Gary! I'm gonna have to do this soon too... But first on the list is taking appart the starter and cleaning it out. Mine's starting to get stuck for a few seconds after initial start up...

      I'll make a write up for that as well.

      -Dom.


    24. 12-05-2003 03:35 PM #24
      Quote, originally posted by jcorallo »
      Good write up, nice pics - prob very helpful if you are really stuck for a bearing.

      However, if you can hear the bearing, its dead - fact. No amount of greasing is going to make it better - the damage is done - replace.

      The cost of the grease you have there is prob more than the bearing costs...!

      Jules

      It makes sense that the bearing is done when it starts to make noise, but if you catch it early it may be OK. My bearing was making a ridiculous amount of noise before I repacked it and has been silent ever since (16k miles). The pulley doesn't wobble one bit and spins ery smoothly.

      Repacking the bearing will not cure everyone's problem, but is a good place to start.

      The grease was extremely cheap - only a few dollars. I doubt I could get a bearing around me as cheap.


    25. 12-05-2003 03:38 PM #25
      Quote, originally posted by Scooter98144 »
      Yea taking the seal out is not the problem and trailer bearing greae is ok but I would sugjest a HIGH end Redline grease for very high speed bearings.

      Yeah, that grease would be optimal, but is probably not necessary. When I purchased the trailer bearing grease, I compared it to a bunch of others, including some synthetics. The trailer bearing grease had the best high temp numbers and I doubt the bearing will see temps anywhere near the grease's limits.


    26. 12-05-2003 03:39 PM #26
      Quote, originally posted by DasoGTI »
      Nice one Gary! I'm gonna have to do this soon too... But first on the list is taking appart the starter and cleaning it out. Mine's starting to get stuck for a few seconds after initial start up...

      I'll make a write up for that as well.

      -Dom.

      Nice! Can't wait to see it.


    27. 12-05-2003 04:08 PM #27
      exellent writeup

    28. 12-05-2003 04:31 PM #28
      Excellent write up, wish there were more like these. Thanks, much appreciated

    29. Member Fantomasz's Avatar
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      12-06-2003 12:42 AM #29
      it's possible to remove puley without removing tensioner?
      puley bolt is on outside the puley

    30. Member kevwithoutacorrado's Avatar
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      12-06-2003 02:48 AM #30
      dry bearings in anything make noise, but are not always dead.

    31. 12-06-2003 12:53 PM #31
      VgRt6 - Thanks for the post. We all appreciate the time and effort this kind of post takes and I am sure it will be referred to for many years to come. BTW I hope this post makes it into the FAQ VR6 post. - Thanks again - Bob

    32. Member James 93SLC's Avatar
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      12-06-2003 01:16 PM #32
      Quote, originally posted by phatvr6 »

      and how long do you think the lube is going to stay in there now you've prised the seal off???

      He didn't leave the seals off. You need to reinstall them, and if you are careful, they will seal just the same. I've worked with lots of sealed bearings and removing and reinstalling seals is a no brainer.

      Good writeup Gary


    33. 12-06-2003 02:14 PM #33
      Quote, originally posted by James 93SLC »

      He didn't leave the seals off. You need to reinstall them, and if you are careful, they will seal just the same.

      Exactly. See step 13.


    34. 12-06-2003 07:04 PM #34
      Thanks again for the great tutorial. The tensioner on mine (2000 Jetta) required a 40mm long bolt to take all the tension off. Now it will be going up for sale (totally had it with the POS), it's really unbelievable the things that have gone wrong with a car that has 38k miles on it. I shall never return to the VW's.
      Great forum you got here though.

    35. 12-07-2003 02:51 PM #35
      Ok my dad works in a machine shop and hes gonna get me a new bearing for free...how do you get the bearing out of the pully? Thats my question. Thanks!

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