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VR6 Serpentine Belt Tensioner Replacment

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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.

Please do thease procedures at your own risk and be ready to make small adjustments whilst doing them. Also, please be observant when removing parts so that they go 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)



1. 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.


2. 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).


3. 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.


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


5. 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!!!


6. 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.


7. 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.


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


9. 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.


10. 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.



12. 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.

13. 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.

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.

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  • 6 months later...
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where have the pics gone from start of thread??

Hi, anyone know if PeterVR6 is still about? (I'm very new). I'd like to see the Photos from the original post, any chance they can be fixed/recovered/reuploaded? Cheers

Ah great, thanks! Glad you're "still about" haha, Club Chairman hey? I probably should know that, but tooooo green here

Hm this appears to be the screeechy noise I am getting from my VR...and although those diagrams look perfectly lovely...I'm buggered if I am brave enough to have a go...obviously need to get it done. Has anyone NOT done this themselves or with any help and if so did it cost a lot to sort out?

My car often sounds like a plane taking off..lol...along with the lovely engine noise it also has a whirrrrrrrrrr that goes along with it...


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Anyone got any clues for me on this? Searched for the part itself but without much luck. Just wondering what to do about this, as it may be just as economical and safe to replace the whole thing. Not phoned round any mechanics yet, just wondering if it may be easier to source the parts and then get them fitted, which will keep me away from the VW Stealerships!

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Hey, just read this thread now, very interesting.

It's a pity though, i just replaced my tensioner approx 3 months ago, cost me 1600 Rands, don't know how much that is in pounds or euros, but here by us, you need deep pockets for that.

Good advise though! ;)

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  • 5 months later...

mine failed, and the wheel melted to nothing. bought a new part from GSF £64, and i didn't think replacing it would be so easy! the difficult part is replacing the belt, getting the old one through the small of the inner wing and bottom pulley, but all in all took me about 3/4 hour to do.

job's a good'un!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yeah it is. I just need the pulley as stupid me didnt take the pulley off went i sent the whole thing for polishing and i have a grove in one side of the pulley, just a bit worried the belt might get thrown off. Shame becasue beraing is smooth as u like.


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Yeah it is. I just need the pulley as stupid me didnt take the pulley off went i sent the whole thing for polishing and i have a grove in one side of the pulley' date=' just a bit worried the belt might get thrown off. Shame becasue beraing is smooth as u like.


So do you have the bearing part number? that one i quoted was a complete guess...


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  • 4 weeks later...

i dont think you can buy the pully on its own tho unless its an uprated pully.

the only reason i did this guide was after mine broke on a dark country lane on a hill it was some thing i would like to see happen to me or any body else agian....

so if yours is getting noisy you can try greasing it but will prob need to replace it or if its not noisy grease it now to save some money..

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Pete VR6, how did your bearing change go? A seller on ebay is selling the bearing race for £1.80 inc postage. Was it possible to remove the old race and fit the new one without damaging the pulley wheel?

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  • 1 month later...

For the record, bought the required bearing but found the that original is unfortunately cast into the plastic of the puley itself and so cannot easily be removed (if at all). So, off to the stealership to pay £66 for a new one. Baws.

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Hi guys sorry i didn't get back sooner. If your still interested, I managed to replace the bearing no problem at all. what you do is... remove the tensioner from the engine. remove the pulley from the tensioner (the thread on the bolt through the pulley is reverse thread so undo it in a clockwise direction) . now on both sides of the bearing itself there is a plastic ridge in the pulley (if you can understand that!) you need to take a sharpe Stanley blade and carve one side away allowing you to press out your old one and press in your new one. i used a crap vice a bit of wood and some old sockets! Honestly it is easy. I bought a second hand one from e-bay as a backup and as it was so easy i replaced them both. obviously i now have a spare with a brand new bearing so if anyone's interested maybe we could work something out!

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will be doing mine on moday (20th oct) i got a replacement one from another vr6oc member and will lube the bearing up using a high temp lithium bearing grease just to be safe before fitting it, with any luck this will shut up the rattling sound i have, if it dont im guessing main water pump or oil pump bearings are gone, just what i need ay!!

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