Crappy upper tensioner? - Nissan Forum
GA16DE 1.6L Engine Engine Discussion: 91-99 Sentra, 95-98 200SX, 91-93 NX1600

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#1 Old Feb 25th, 2013, 03:51 PM
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Warning - cheap upper tensioners

-1994 Sentra 1.6 manual 175,000 miles-

Whenever my car gets to 3000 RPMs or higher, I start to here a loud fast paced chatter. I thought it was the upper tensioner and so I replaced it with a $40 one from autozone.

I read on a forum that these autoparts stores sell crappy ones that can make even more noise, but with a good return policy I decided to try the cheap one anyhow.

Two different people I have seen in the forums said they bought a cheap one and it made more noise, and the solution was to get a $80 genuine nissan one, both claiming that fixed their problem.

Well my old one was NOT worn down to the metal to my surprise. There was a large chunk of plastic(from the tensioner) sitting in the now larger hole where oil is fed, it used to be a pin hole when it was new.

I installed the new $40 upper tensioner and guess what: now it makes a new chatter at idle that never existed before. And on top of that the chatter at 3000 RPMs and higher is still there.

Well my plan is to get a genuine nissan one, and hopefully it will at least solve one of the current issues.



Now the question remains: will the new genuine nissan tensioner fix my 3000 rpm and over chatter problem. If not it could be my lower tensioner. I suspect the valve clearances might need to be adjusted (changing out shims), and so I'm going to get some feeler gauges and checking the clearances. I hope that it's not the valve guides, that would suck. Any other ideas what it might be?

So has anyone ever had the same symptom as me, where it starts to chatter at 3000 RPMs and over?

One theory I had is maybe the new tensioner didn't seal that well and I should have used some RTV, does anyone recommend using RTV between the tensioner and head, even though the FSM doesn't say to do it???


NOTE: my new tensioner had a piece of paper that said not to over tighten it or else the plunger won't work right. The FSM says that only 4.6 - 6.1 pounds of torque is needed. So I obviously didn't go overboard there.

I will keep this topic updated as I try and solve this issue. For now I felt people might want to be warned about the crappy tensioners sold at autopart stores.

Last edited by b13er; Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:46 PM.
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#2 Old Feb 27th, 2013, 01:05 PM
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I have a cheap one (China) with no problems but in retrospect I should have gone OEM for such a critical part.

1993 Sentra XE auto (original owner)
2005 NISMO Frontier
#3 Old Mar 12th, 2013, 09:48 AM
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Just did this job on my '95 Sentra, bit of pain (forgot to put a jack under the block when undoing the engine mount bolts- doh!), but also pretty straight forward. Good idea to make sure the mating surfaces are nice and clean of corruption, and for goodness sakes don't forget, once it is installed and bolted in to spec, to PULL THE LITTLE KEEPER PIN that holds the guide in before putting everything back together! The one on the tensioner I put in was a small wire one with a loop on the end so it was easy to get a pair of needle-nose on it to pop it out. I can imagine forgetting to to do this would make for a bit of noise, possibly skip the chain, etc... a friendly reminder because I'd have missed it myself if I hadn't read around here for a while, the packaging on the one I put in didn't have instructions or mention of it and no book of words.

"When a person cannot decieve himself the chances are against his being able to decieve other people."
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#4 Old Mar 12th, 2013, 11:06 PM
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I didn't forget, in fact one guy on here dropped the pin and ended up doing a complete timing chain job to retrieve the pin, so here is a tip:

Tie a long string to pin and use the string to pull out the pin, that way it's nearly impossible to drop it. It's also a great reminder to pull out the pin anyhow.
#5 Old Mar 12th, 2013, 11:25 PM
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Heck, after the problems I had with the chains/gears/etc, I think if I dropped that damn pin, it would stay dropped. meh...the metal is soft enough. It'll get caught up in the pickup screen before it gets anywhere else. But that's just me.
At any rate, I don't think rotten valve guides are going to cause any noise, especially a chattering type noise. Shims needed? Maybe...anything's possible. The FSM and Haynes manual show the procedures for doing them. But, with the oil flow that gets to the top of these engines, I don't see how those things could get any wear on them, even after a buttload of miles, unless the engine was starved for oil at one which case all bets are off.
If you've got a high RPM chatter, I think I'd be heading more for the oil pan and checking to see if the pickup screen is jacked up / plugged up, etc. If not that, then hook up an external oil pressure gauge and watch it for awhile and see what it does at higher revs. If it's starting to starve for oil at high revs, you'll know it right away.

99% of the questions that are "STRANGE" have a dirt simple answer...usually answered by a dirt simple search.


Is it just me, or does the majority overlook the obvious?

Somebody ate a whole bag of dumbass for breakfast.

Why do people continue to run a vehicle when a warning light comes on or starts flashing? Isn't that a clue that something is wrong and you probably should NOT drive it?
Is this whole car driving thing really freekin' brain surgery?

Here's something new for the crowd/clowns...
"A little bit of Google goes a long way!"

Ever notice the one post wonders for info on turbo'ing a GA16 are never heard from again after they figure out the cost???

And if you can read this, you don't need glasses! :)

And yes, I am diggin' it...
#6 Old Mar 13th, 2013, 05:18 PM
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Awesome tip with the oil pressure jdg, thanks. If my oil pressure is low and it's not the screen, what is the next most likely suspect, and also what all else could it be? I know a bad oil pump would cause it.

About the valves shim adjustment; I thought it might be that because the haynes manual says:
"Every 60,000 miles or 48 months
NOTE: the manufacturer recommends this procedure at the specified interval IF the valve gear makes excessive noise."

I know it says 'if' but mine makes excessive noise all right.

Last edited by b13er; Mar 13th, 2013 at 05:22 PM.
#7 Old Mar 13th, 2013, 11:28 PM
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Low oil pressure can be caused by a bad oil pump, leak in the pickup tube or gasket, low oil level, or excesive bearing clearances/worn bearings.
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#8 Old Mar 14th, 2013, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by b13er View Post
Awesome tip with the oil pressure jdg, thanks. If my oil pressure is low and it's not the screen, what is the next most likely suspect, and also what all else could it be? I know a bad oil pump would cause it.
You can check the pressure very easily by installing a temporary mechanical oil pressure gauge. You would remove the oil sensor which is located next to the oil filter and install the mechanical oil pressure gauge in it's place; you may need to get an 1/8 BSPT to 1/8 NPT adapter to hook up the gauge.

With the engine fully warmed up, the pressure should be as follows:
idle - at least 7 - 27 psi
3000 RPM - at least 50 - 64 psi

KA-T for life, yo!
#9 Old Mar 14th, 2013, 10:29 AM
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Some parts stores have loaner programs for tools where you might be able to get an oil pressure test gauge. Most have you leave a deposit and when you bring the tool back, you get your deposit back.
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#10 Old Mar 14th, 2013, 10:45 PM
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smj, can you tell me more in depth about what you said here:

"leak in the pickup tube or gasket"

Is that the square gasket on the valve cover that always goes bad? I think we established even b13s have them right?

What exactly is the pickup tube(is it replaceable?) and how can you find out if it's leaking?


Also you said:

"excesive bearing clearances/worn bearings."

I don't understand how bad bearing could cause that. You mean the bearings on the crank and camshaft right?

  Nissan Forum > Sentra, Pulsar, NX, B14 200SX > GA16DE 1.6L Engine

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