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How to Replace a Belt Tensioner on a 99 Chevy Cavalier

by Kevin Mclain

The belt tensioner on the front of the 1999 Chevy Cavalier engine is a spring-loaded component that tensions the belt as it turns around all of the accessory pulleys. When the motor is running, the belt travels around the alternator pulley, crankshaft pulley, power-steering pump pulley, air-conditioner pulley and the water pump pulley. As the belt is turning each pulley, the tensioner pulley applies the proper amount of tension to the belt. If the belt tensioner no longer can keep the belt tight, change it before the belt slips out of the pulleys and breaks.

Open the hood, and prop it up. Move to the front passenger side of the engine, and locate the spring-loaded belt tensioner above the crankshaft pulley.

Remove the belt from the belt tensioner. Turn the belt tensioner clockwise from the bolt in the middle of the tensioner pulley with a breaker bar and socket. Slip the belt off the tensioner pulley, and release the breaker bar.

Hang the belt to the side of the alternator pulley with a bungee cord to prevent it from sliding out of any of the accessory pulleys.

Locate the mounting bolts that secure the belt tensioner to the front of the engine block. Remove the mounting bolts including the mounting bolt in the middle of the tensioner arm with a ratchet and a socket. The mounting bolts should be 13 mm bolts.

Reach in, and pull the tensioner off the engine block with your hands. Hold the new belt tensioner in place over the same area. Screw all of the belt tensioner mounting bolts into the tensioner. Tighten the bolts with the ratchet and the 13 mm socket.

Slide the bungee cord off the belt. Turn the tensioner clockwise with the breaker bar and socket. Slip the new belt around the tensioner pulley, and release the tensioner. Pull the breaker bar out of the engine well.

Crank the engine to ensure the tensioner is working properly. Make sure the tensioner pulley is moving up and down with the movement of the belt. Shut off the motor.

Tip

  • If the tensioner is stuck to the front of the engine block, use a flat-head screwdriver to pry the tensioner off the engine block.

Warning

  • Keep any tools and body parts away from any moving engine parts while the engine is running.

Items you will need

About the Author

Kevin Mclain has more than 20 years of automotive, home improvement and landscaping experience. He has been writing for various online publications since 2002. Mclain has U.S. Army certification in automotive maintenance and repair, among more than 15 additional certifications related to the automotive field.

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