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96 Ford Explorer: Belt tensioner gone bad- is it worth it?

Diginick

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1996 Ford Explorer Sport
Hi,

Looking for some advice, issues have piled up a bit and I'm thinking of selling my 1996 Ford Explorer Sport; but not sure it's necessary.
For awhile I heard a 'chirping' sound which I assume was from the serpentine belt, so I bought a new one to replace it. Before I could even replace it, on my drive to work the battery light came on (new battery), the power steering tightened up, and by the time I parked it started smoking, and I heard a loud POP.
I later found that the serpentine belt had come off, and something caused the engine coolant cap to come off, which I bet was the POP sound. I don't really know but I suppose those are related somehow.
I was weary to drive it after that, so towed it straight to a repair shop, who said that the belt tensioner went bad, and they'd have to replace that. They also said the serpentine belt actually melted onto it on the bottom, not just come off the pulleys- which is all I could see from the top. Hopefully that's all...
At around a $500 quote, I figured that's too much, it might be time to move on. Now I'm second guessing, maybe I should get another quote?
I put an ad on Craigslist to see who may bite, but I'm hoping a mechanically inclined person would want it, as I'm not so inclined (I repair small issues but not under the engine much).
I'm not even comfortable driving it at this point, but I did watch the tow truck driver safely drive it into the parking lot when I had it returned to me from the repair shop. I just don't want to try now.
Quotes from junkyards have been ranging from $180-$300.. so I'm on the fence. It's in general good condition besides this, and the ball joints are lose and in need of repair.

Sorry to be so wordy, but basically I'm wondering how difficult it is to fix a belt tensioner, if it's really needed, and if I sold it to someone, should I advise them to first fix this before driving it? Most likely yes, but it does technically drive still.. just learned it will drain the battery, lights could go, and maybe Heat/AC are affected, among other things.

Explorere_serpentine belt.jpg


Explorer engine front.jpg


Explorer_right view from back.jpg
 



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94Eddie

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If you were quoted $500 for replacing a belt and tensioner then that is way too high. Parts should run around $60-$80 and it takes no more than 15-30 minutes to replace a tensioner and belt. IMO, this is a $150 repair. As for the radiator cap, it is likely the engine overheated due to the water pump not turning. This might have popped the cap. This is a $10 part and you can replace it yourself. I can't say if any overheating damaged the engine but it sounds like it probably did not if what you saw was steam and not smoke. If you are even remotely mechanically inclined then you can change the tensioner and it does need to be replaced before driving it. There are lots of Youtube video that will show you how to do this repair. Also, I would recommend getting a quote from another shop.
 






Diginick

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Thank you Eddie, that is good news! I will Youtube it, thought I should. And I still have the cap so don't need to worry about that. Couldn't tell you if it was smoke or steam, because I just got the hell out of there when I saw it haha.
 






Runnin'OnEmpty

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It's super easy to replace the tensioner. Takes a 13mm socket with ratchet, and a screwdriver
to remove the air tube (for easier access). It's held on with one bolt and it indexes itself by an
indention in the back of the tensioner. There should be a diagram on the radiator support
showing how to route the new serpentine belt.
 






XLTrunner

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I continue to be astonished by how much some of these shops are charging for repairs. As mentioned, this is an easy DIY job; even for the novice shade tree mechanic. Fix it yourself and when it comes time to have the ball joints done, stay far, far away from that mechanic who quoted you $500 for the belt & tensioner.
 






Terkins

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Thank you Eddie, that is good news! I will Youtube it, thought I should. And I still have the cap so don't need to worry about that. Couldn't tell you if it was smoke or steam, because I just got the hell out of there when I saw it haha.
Here's the same part I just put on my 2000 Explorer at <$20.00: More Information for GATES 38102
You might want to replace the idler pulley too while you're at it. Also an easy 1-bolt repair.
As far as belts go, this one: Good Year Gatorback drive belt, is reputed to be quieter than others. But then this Gates is only $10.43: More Information for GATES K060875
I replaced my tensioner in the parking lot after paying O'Reilly's $45.00 for the part above...but I barely made it there with my old tensioner failing/my alternator barely charging!
 












94Eddie

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Check your coolant level since the radiator cap popped off. You probably lost some and it will need to be topped off. Also, in the first photo you posted it shows a sensor plugged into the black plastic intake plenum. It appears to have been slightly pulled out by the belt flailing around. Make sure it is seated properly because it might cause a vacuum leak which will cause the engine to run roughly.
 






massacre

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I bet my wife could change a belt tensioner, it’s not hard at all.
I would replace the idler at the same time. Even easier than the tensioner
 






swshawaii

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Good advice above, IF you are replacing the tensioner alone I suggest using a short cheater pipe on the 3/8" ratchet handle for added leverage. New belt tensioner springs are very strong and you will be doing this one handed with the other hand routing the belt. BTDT.
 






swshawaii

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As far as belts go, this one: Good Year Gatorback drive belt, is reputed to be quieter than others. But then this Gates is only $10.43:
Can't say enough about the Continental Elite (formerly Goodyear Gatorback) belts. From day one had an annoying chirp when the engine was cold. ALL pulleys turned smooth with no binding when spun by hand. Tried new OE, Gates, and Dayco premium belts and the chirp persisted. About a month ago found a new old stock (NOS) Gatorback for around $17 shipped and installed it minutes after it arrived. My Trac has NEVER been quieter at idle, and looks cool to boot. Very happy with it but don't understand why the Continental Elite (Goodyear Gatorback) line is being discontinued. If you can wait here's one for your OHV for about $14 shipped.

4060805 Goodyear Gatorback/Continental Elite Poly-V Serpentine Belt | eBay
 






toypaseo

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I am an amateur mechanic by far, and changed the belt tensioner and idler pulley. It’s easy :thumbsup:

I used Motorcraft parts, and a Goodyear Gatorback belt. My ex-neighbor ex-Ford mechanic recommended the Gatorback belt, so that’s what I use.
 






toypaseo

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Very happy with it but don't understand why the Continental Elite (Goodyear Gatorback) line is being discontinued.

Seriously? I better snag a couple before gone...
 












Diginick

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Wow, after looking it up that is indeed an easy repair I can do. WTH I can't believe the mechanic quoted me that much, and he was recommended from a good source of mine! Well I think I will do it, the only worry is if something else went wrong.
Plus they said it melted into the engine somewhere, I'm not sure if that would cause any issues. Here it is, the damn thing was cut in half! Crazy

PicsArt_12-14-02.20.00.jpg
 












Diginick

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Check your coolant level since the radiator cap popped off. You probably lost some and it will need to be topped off. Also, in the first photo you posted it shows a sensor plugged into the black plastic intake plenum. It appears to have been slightly pulled out by the belt flailing around. Make sure it is seated properly because it might cause a vacuum leak which will cause the engine to run roughly.
That sounded like Japanese to me, but I will make sure things are plugged in around it. 'Black plastic intake plenum', new word for my vocab haha. Thank you again.
 






CDW6212R

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As said, check all of the pulleys while the belt is off, and change the idler pulleys if they feel rough. Those are easy to do and cost very little. Spinning the alternator etc by hand, can tell you if the bearings in it are in rough shape, or might make noise(I change them when they are like that).

Something caused the belt to come off, break etc, hopefully it's obvious after inspecting all of the parts again.
 






XLTrunner

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Wow, after looking it up that is indeed an easy repair I can do. WTH I can't believe the mechanic quoted me that much, and he was recommended from a good source of mine! Well I think I will do it, the only worry is if something else went wrong.
Plus they said it melted into the engine somewhere, I'm not sure if that would cause any issues. Here it is, the damn thing was cut in half! Crazy

View attachment 176453

I'm sure that mechanic is competent if he comes with good recommendations. However, you can see the need to learn to do as much maintenance of your own as you can on these older vehicles. It's really the only way to justify owning one; unless you have lots of disposable income to pay for all the repairs that will inevitably come your way. There is virtually nothing you can't find on YouTube to help you. Biggest obstacle to overcome when venturing into the unknown is self-doubt that you'll get in over your head. We've all been there. But, with each successful repair comes more confidence to tackle the next one. Here's a tip if you live within reasonable distance of a U Pull junk yard and have some spare time: grab your tools and run over there to do a practice run on removing/replacing parts on one of their vehicles prior to tackling your own to get some hands-on knowledge/experience.
 



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Meme2

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Thank you Eddie, that is good news! I will Youtube it, thought I should. And I still have the cap so don't need to worry about that. Couldn't tell you if it was smoke or steam, because I just got the hell out of there when I saw it haha.
Don't be cheap get a new cap
 






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