Drive Belt Replacement Saga

Discussion in '80-Series Tech' started by NorCalDoug, Jul 5, 2005.

  1. NorCalDoug

    NorCalDoug problems solved daily...

    Messages:
    6,293
    Likes Received:
    119
    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2003
    Location:
    uhhhh...duh...Northern CA
    My drive belts were looking pretty shot and my AC compressor belt squealed occasionally at start up. We had a 300 mile trip to make, so I thought it would be good to replace the belts before the trip -- better to fight with it at home rather than the side of the road ;). The dealership (and most shops) charge around $150 for the job; being up for a little engine work, I decided to tackle the belt replacement job myself. I had ordered belts (the matched pair and AC belts) from CDan a while ago, so I had them on hand. Prior to this, the only other time I'd ever replaced a drive belt was when I replaced the AC belt on my wife's 80...that was a 1 :banana: job, so I didn't think replacing all 3 belts would be too tough.

    I started by reviewing all the threads I could find on belt replacement in the 80s forum -- some great information there guys, thank you all for the posts. Based on the posts, I learned that the alternator could be a problem...I didn't necessarily look forward to dealing with that. After reading the various belt replacement posts, I reviewed the process in the FSM. I wish the steps for belt replacement was included in the maintenance section - it would've been nice to have all the information on one page instead of having to review the AC section and the EG sections...but I marked the pages for easy reference later and went outside to get started.

    It was a nice warm Saturday morning in the CA central valley...at 10AM it was already 80 degrees...on its way to around 100...”but it's a dry heat.” :rolleyes: I had the 80 parked in the driveway. I laid out all the tools that I thought I'd need; socket set, torque wrench; ratcheting wrenches; and the standard assortment of open/close ended wrenches. The first thing I noticed is that with my lift (2.5 OME) and larger than OEM tires (315 GY MTRs), I'm not quite tall enough to reach down into the engine compartment where I need to be to work on the belts. It didn't help that I parked in such a way that the front of my truck was right at the point where my driveway sloped downhill :doh:. Easy solution :idea:...get the little stool that we keep in the downstairs bathroom that the girls use to reach the sink. Perfect height!

    I set the stool aside and start by removing the skid plate that's right under the AC belt. I found that removing this plate makes work a lot easier than trying to work around/through it. It's held on by 4 screws, so it only takes a minute or two to get it out of the way. I started by loosening the bolt on the tensioner pulley and loosening the tensioner. As I recalled with my previous AC belt replacement, this was pretty simple. Now, back onto the stool so I can work from above.

    The FSM called for loosening the lock bolt on the alternator, loosening the pivot bolt, and loosening the adjustment screw. I had a difficult time breaking the lock bolt loose. The head of the bolt appears to be sloped a bit and the belts are in the way so it's not easy to get a socket or a wrench to stay on there. I had to use an extension with my socket and given the force I had to exert, the socket kept slipping off. What I didn't need is a stripped bolt head! I managed, somehow to fit a closed-end 12mm wrench on the bolt, but couldn't get enough leverage to break it free. I climbed down off the stool and found a short length of pipe that I could use to push against the end of the wrench (I couldn't fit the open end of the pipe onto the wrench to use it as a cheater bar). My gloved hand, pushing against the end of the pipe...nothing. I checked the positioning of the wrench on the bolt. It looked good, so I tried again -- one hand holding the lower end of the pipe against the wrench head, the other hand on the end of the pipe...pushing hard. More force this time...finally, the bolt breaks free :D too bad the screws and dowels in the stool do the same at the same time :eek: With my arms still inside the engine compartment, the stool collapses under me. I was somehow able to yank my arms out before my feet hit he ground -- that could've been very painful. The combination of the downhill slope of the driveway, my pushing against lock bolt, and my not-so-petite self bouncing on the stool proved too much for it. Note to self...get something much sturdier to stand on next time and get some longer tools and/or some real cheater bars. I found a sturdy step ladder to replace the stool so I could complete the job.

    Pivot bolt...where's that pivot bolt? I found it...I think; it was easy to loosen. Next I loosen the tensioner screw. Based on the various posts I read, I knew to loosen this guy until it's almost completely out. What a major pain in the ass it is to get to the end of this tensioner screw!!! I tried reaching in from the top and from below. There’s no good way to get to this thing. It's just in a very crappy location. Maybe I'll remove the battery box next time. The best I could do was twist the screw with my index and middle fingers when reaching up from below. Finally, I was able to figure out a way to squeeze past the PS fluid reservoir, twisting awkwardly, scraping the hell out of my forearms to reach the screw with my thumb and index finger. Obviously, my arms were not designed to work on this truck. Got the sucker loose enough, finally.

    Why isn't the alternator moving? It's supposed to move. Loosen the lock bolt, loosen the tensioner, loosen the pivot bolt. Alternator was not budging. Force it? That's my natural inclination...but rather than break something, I cleaned myself up a bit and went inside to review the posts again. No new information was gleaned from rereading -- I now really appreciate the aggravation expressed by those who have also fought with the alternator. :mad: Back outside. Reviewed the FSM. HOLD ON! The pivot bolt is UP THERE??? :doh: I didn't notice the location of the alternator pivot bolt when I first read the steps in the FSM – I didn’t see it marked in the diagram when I first read it. Climbing back up the step ladder, I located the actual pivot bolt, it broke free fairly easily. The alternator moved easily. :D

    Somewhere along the way while struggling with the alternator, I placed my hand on the fan shroud and broke a chunk off the top. I suspect it was cracked already -- I really didn't push very hard on it when it broke. I'll glue that chunk back on later – the edge where it broke off makes a nice sharp point that I can see myself impaling something on later. The upside to having this portion of the shroud broken off was that it made it easier to get the old belt off the fan and the new ones back on over/around the fan. I got the belts back onto the pulleys without any excitement. I shoved my arm back into the incredibly awkward and tight squeeze to access the tensioner screw on the alternator to tighten it up enough get some slack out. Then, I found that I could fit a socket on the tensioner screw easiest from underneath; I tightened up the belts. I wasn't sure how I'd be able to fit the torque wrench into position to torque the lock bolt and pivot bolt (and the other bolt that I incorrectly loosened), but everything went back together without any problems at all. The AC compressor belt went on easily too. I did have to fight with the skid plate a little to get it into position again…but it was nothing compared to everything else.

    Total time from start to finish was 3 hours. Given the lessons learned I think I could easily do it in half the time next time around. Good thing the belts last a while...this is not something that I'd like to do very often. I started the engine and it's SO quiet now :D
    My drive belts didn't seem to be very noisy before I replaced them, but they must've produced some noise -- there's a marked difference with the new belts. It's probably my imagination or maybe it’s my brain trying to justify the pain in my forearms, but the truck seems to run much better now than it did before.

    IMO, it’s a 3 :banana: job for first-timers, not reading the FSM correctly and with large forearms; a 1 :banana: job for experienced wrenches or those with little girly arms who can read.
     
  2. C6H12O6

    C6H12O6 SILVER Star

    Messages:
    1,609
    Media:
    15
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    753
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Location:
    Beaverton, Oregon
    Ditto on the frustration with the lack of detail on this job in the FSM. Granted, I only have the cheapskate digital version (obtained legally, of course), but I missed the pivot bolt step too. I kinda figured it out on my own, but I'm glad I didn't fall into the temptation of wedging a wrench against the PS hose I briefly entertained. :doh:

    The other issue I have with this job is the adjustment bolt. I couldn't figure out why I had to keep loosening the bolt when there was clearly enough slack in the bracket to push the alternator to the end of the slot. In looking a little closer, the head of the bolt bumps into the edge of the bracket, preventing it from letting the alternator slide any more. That, and I had to somehow wiggle both hands up to the bolt to hold it so the ratchet would work. If I didn't hold the socket, the bolt was too loose and would just turn back and forth.

    I didn't have any other catastrophes with my milk crate stand like you did with the stool, but it sure would be nice to build a nice, sturdy wood contraption to stand on while working on this rig. 6'1" and I still can't reach anything from the top.
     
  3. Rookie2

    Rookie2

    Messages:
    3,037
    Likes Received:
    88
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2003
    Location:
    Knoxville
    Okay... so what's up here? Do you, Cary and Idahodoug have some kind of 80's "story-teller" competition going? :flipoff2:

    So how'd you check the belt tension..., particularly the drive belt closest to the motor? :D.

    :beer:
    Rookie2
     
  4. mabrodis

    mabrodis

    Messages:
    1,151
    Likes Received:
    6
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2004
    Location:
    Castle Rock, CO
    So Doug...did you tighten whatever random bolt you loosened that you thought was the pivot bolt? :D

    I'm really surprised you had this much trouble with it, I did mine with no FSM, just knew to expect a tightener bolt and a pivot bolt, found them quickly. I do remember using my gearwrench 12mm to adjust the tensioner bolt, that helped alot...I do remember ending up with some beatup bloody fingers and knuckles from the job, but that's about par for anything I do so I've come to expect it.

    Well atleast it's done...with mine the adjustment bolt on the alt had so much dirt on the threads I couldn't turn it enough, so I had to retighten it, then spray the thread with anything I had (those are awesome to get to!) then it came off much better.

    :cheers:
     
  5. pound3151

    pound3151

    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    May 9, 2004
    Location:
    PA
    Damn, when is the book version coming out! Good writeup though.
     
  6. NorCalDoug

    NorCalDoug problems solved daily...

    Messages:
    6,293
    Likes Received:
    119
    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2003
    Location:
    uhhhh...duh...Northern CA
    There was no way I could fit two hands in there. That's why I was working the screw with my fingertips. I had to remove the gloves to get in there -- good thing I had the gloves on most of the time though...otherwise I would've ended up with hands and knuckles bloodied Brodis-style.
     
  7. NorCalDoug

    NorCalDoug problems solved daily...

    Messages:
    6,293
    Likes Received:
    119
    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2003
    Location:
    uhhhh...duh...Northern CA
    uhhh...checking belt tension?
    :D
    I don't have the tool to check tension yet. I tightened until the new belts were a bit tighter than the belts that I had removed. I do need to pick one up though -- once I do, I'll recheck and tighten, if necessary.
     
  8. Cruiserdrew

    Cruiserdrew On the way there SILVER Star

    Messages:
    15,512
    Likes Received:
    4,474
    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2003
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA
    Doug-good job. I'm here at work imagining you falling off that stool. Too funny. You should have called, I would have been happy to help.
     
  9. Boston Mangler

    Boston Mangler

    Messages:
    3,589
    Likes Received:
    5
    Joined:
    May 21, 2004
    Location:
    San Diego
    Great, i just got home from my local dealer about 20 mins ago with all my new belts in hand thinking i will "Throw" them on in an hour or so, but instead i decide to check Mud first and read this! What timing!!! :D
     
  10. mabrodis

    mabrodis

    Messages:
    1,151
    Likes Received:
    6
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2004
    Location:
    Castle Rock, CO
    That probably is ok...some people tighten them until the adjustment is in the same position as it was with the old belt. Mine wasn't even close, the old belts were factory, and I guess they could have stretched some, but the adjustment had never been touched by anyone, but it ended up probably 1.5" from where it was with the old belts (new belts were shorter)...so you're right, definetly tighten them by feel, not by where you think the adjustment 'should' be when you're done.

    Good job Doug...

    Hey, bloodied knuckle style is cool! :D
     
  11. Rookie2

    Rookie2

    Messages:
    3,037
    Likes Received:
    88
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2003
    Location:
    Knoxville
    You know... I just thought of a great idea! If someone with properly tensioned belts would hang a set amount of weight from the belts at the mid-point between pulleys, and measure the deflection of the belt, it could save a lot of folks the $150 on a belt tensioner.

    The apparatus wouldn't take much more than a piece of string, a small bucket, sand, a bathroom scale, a level, a measuring tool like a caliper, and just an accurately documented procedure.

    Any Volunteers?

    :beer:
    Rookie2
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2005
  12. Cruiserdrew

    Cruiserdrew On the way there SILVER Star

    Messages:
    15,512
    Likes Received:
    4,474
    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2003
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA

    On the tension thing-you want them just tight enough not to slip. Tighter just increases waterpump and alternator bearing wear. My guess is that yours are too tight.
     
  13. NorCalDoug

    NorCalDoug problems solved daily...

    Messages:
    6,293
    Likes Received:
    119
    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2003
    Location:
    uhhhh...duh...Northern CA
    Looking back on it, I'm sure the look on my face when the stool gave way would've been classic :D

    I figured it was a "quick and dirty, I'll swap it out in no time and get on the road" type of job...the only thing I got right was the "dirty" part. I almost called around for help while I was fighting with the alternator. Had I not "found" the pivot bolt, you would've received a call from a very frustrated man.
     
  14. NorCalDoug

    NorCalDoug problems solved daily...

    Messages:
    6,293
    Likes Received:
    119
    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2003
    Location:
    uhhhh...duh...Northern CA
    I'll look for a belt tension tool gizmo once I leave the office.
     
  15. Romer

    Romer fatherofdaughterofromer Moderator

    Messages:
    11,022
    Likes Received:
    2,566
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2003
    Location:
    Centennial, Colorado
    Nice write-up Doug. I had a similar experiance. It wasn't clear and I adjusted the wrong bolt too. My first thought when I saw your post is that this would be a lot harder for you than me because your hands are not designed to fit in small spaces very easy.

    Glad you got it done and its working fine. Don't worry the part you broke. I broke the radiator whn I was trying to get at #6 Spark Plug. The wife said, "Tell me how much money your saving again?"
     
  16. dd113

    dd113

    Messages:
    2,922
    Likes Received:
    6
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    Dont bother; I bought the really expensive Snap On one and I could only check the tension of the the AC belt. Damn thing was too big to get on any of the other belts. Just do it by feel
     
  17. Rookie2

    Rookie2

    Messages:
    3,037
    Likes Received:
    88
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2003
    Location:
    Knoxville
    Well in Doug's case, for 3 hours of work, that's about $195 that he would of had to earn (assuming 30% tax bracket) to pay the dealer to do it. That'll buy a lot of super-glue.
     
  18. LX_TREME

    LX_TREME

    Messages:
    2,645
    Likes Received:
    9
    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    I guess one more advantage being (lowered-sport packaged) easy to work on.. :D I mean way too easy to reach the tension, well not just the tension... any hard spot..you name it :flipoff2:
     
  19. IdahoDoug

    IdahoDoug

    Messages:
    8,864
    Likes Received:
    268
    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2003
    There's an excellent diagram of these bolts in my '93 factory manual, but it's not where you expect it to be. On my belt changing pages, I've made a note to "look at P.---" for the bolt locations. Next time I think if it, I'll post that page. Engine section diagram I believe.

    DougM
     
  20. LCphil

    LCphil

    Messages:
    113
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2005
    Location:
    Alexandria, Virginia
    Do you have pictures of your lowered sport package 80?
     
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.