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How to Change the Timing Chain on a 1996 Chevy Cavalier

by Eric Grosso; Updated November 07, 2017

Items you will need

  • Torque wrench

  • Socket set

  • Wrench set

  • Oil drain container

  • Drill bit

  • Hub puller

  • Engine oil

  • Jack stands

  • Automotive jack

  • Engine hoist

  • RTV sealer

A damaged timing chain can eventually harm many vital engine components if it is not replaced at the first sign of failure. Replacing the timing chain on a 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier can be done by backyard and novice mechanics, however, the task is relatively complicated and complex. The repair requires removing major engine components to access the timing chain. Some automotive repair experience is useful when tackling this job.

Place a wrench over the tensioner bolt and turn it clockwise to release tension on the drive belt. With the tension released, pull the belt off of the pulleys and out of the engine bay.

Remove the power steering pump mounting bolts with a ratchet wrench and remove the pump. Brace the power steering pump out of the way without disconnecting the power steering hoses.

Detach the wires from the back of the alternator. Remove the alternator mounting bolts with a ratchet wrench and remove the alternator from the engine bay. Remove the alternator bracket mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench and remove the alternator bracket.

Support the front of the engine from above with an engine hoist. Remove the four mounting bolts holding the front engine mount in place with the ratchet wrench then remove the engine mount from the engine bay.

Remove the water pump pulley mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench and remove the water pump pulley from the engine bay. Unscrew the engine accessory bracket mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench then remove the accessory bracket from the engine bay.

Raise the vehicle with an automotive jack and support it on jack stands. Pull both the right engine splash shield and exhaust shield away from the vehicle and detach their retaining clips.

Disconnect the electrical connections running to the starter. Remove the starter mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench and remove the starter from the engine bay. Remove the starter bracket mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench and remove the starter mounting bracket.

Loosen and remove the engine strut mount bolts with the ratchet wrench and remove the mount. Remove the bolts holding the strut mount bracket in place with the ratchet wrench then lower the bracket enough so that the oil pan can be removed.

Place an oil drain container under the oil pan and loosen the drain fitting with the ratchet wrench. Once the oil has finished draining, tighten the drain fitting. Remove the oil pan mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench then remove the oil pan and oil pan gasket.

Loosen and remove the crankshaft pulley bolts with the ratchet wrench then remove the pulley. Remove the hub nut with a wrench and use a hub puller to remove the crankshaft hub.

Remove the timing chain cover bolts with the ratchet wrench then remove the timing chain cover. Temporarily install the crankshaft pulley hub and hub bolt. Rotate the crankshaft until the timing marks on the crankshaft sprocket and camshaft sprocket align with the marks on the tensioner housing. Push the spring on the timing chain tensioner back and insert a drill bit into the hole to leave it in the retracted position. Remove the camshaft sprocket bolt with the ratchet wrench. Pull the camshaft sprocket off of the camshaft dowel pin then remove the camshaft sprocket and timing chain from the engine bay. Remove the crankshaft pulley hub and hub bolt.

Place the camshaft sprocket back onto the dowel pin along with the new timing chain. Run the chain over the crankshaft sprocket, ensuring the timing marks on both sprockets are still lined up with the timing chain tensioner. Install the camshaft sprocket bolt and tighten it with a torque wrench to 96 ft.-lbs. Press the timing chain against the tensioner and remove the drill bit and spring to place tension on the chain. Lubricate the chain and sprockets with engine oil. Rotate the engine through two complete revolutions and ensure the timing marks are lined up. Install the timing chain gasket and timing chain cover, tightening the timing chain bolts with a torque wrench to 97 inch-pounds.

Replace the crankshaft hub and hub nut with a torque wrench, tightening it to 77 ft.-lbs. Replace the crankshaft pulley and crankshaft pulley bolt, tightening the bolt with a torque wrench to 37 ft.-lbs.

Apply a thin coat of RTV sealer to the oil pan sealing flanges and the oil pan's front cover surface. Apply a thin coat of RTV sealer to the ends of the rear oil pan seal. Press the oil pan seal into position and install the oil pan: finger-tighten the bolts to hold it in position. Tighten the oil pan bolts with the torque wrench, tightening each bolt to 89 inch-pounds. Fill the engine with oil, using the dipstick to check the oil level.

Replace the strut mount bracket onto the engine strut mount and install the bracket bolts with the ratchet wrench. Replace the engine mount strut by reinstalling the mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench.

Place the starter mounting bracket into position and replace the bracket mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench. Place the starter onto the bracket and replace the starter mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench. Reconnect the electrical connections to the starter.

Push both the right engine splash shield and exhaust shield back into position and attach the retaining clips to the vehicle. Remove the jack stands and lower the vehicle with the automotive jack.

Replace the engine accessory bracket and reinstall the bracket mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench. Reinstall the water pump pulley into position and reinstall the water pump pulley mounting bolts with a ratchet wrench.

Put the front engine mount into place and install the four engine mount bolts with the ratchet wrench. Remove the engine hoist.

Put the alternator bracket into place and reinstall the bracket mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench. Reinstall the alternator and its mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench. Connect the wires removed in Step 3 to the back of the alternator.

Put the power steering pump into position and reinstall the power steering pump mounting bolts with the ratchet wrench.

Place a wrench over the tensioner bolt and turn it clockwise to install the belt. Place the belt over the pulleys according to the routing diagram on the radiator support. Turn the wrench counterclockwise to place tension on the drive belt.

Tips

Torque wrenches and engine hoists can be rented at most auto parts stores.

References

About the Author

Eric Grosso has been a journalist since 2002, working as a staff reporter covering government events, school districts, sporting events and entertainment acts. He has been published in "The Vindicator" and "The Jambar" as well as websites including KFFL and Plugged In Online. Grosso holds a Bachelor of Arts in telecommunications and journalism from Youngstown State University.

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