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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Recently noticed a slight squeal at low speeds and the car felt a little sluggish accelerating. Took it in for service ... I've been told the timing chain tensioner is shot and needs to be replaced. The parts seem to run for about $300, but the dealer is listing this service (labor included) at $1700! They've explained this as the engine needs to be removed to access the chain. They've also told me that the engine mounts need to be replaced ($900 at the dealership vs $200 for parts online).

First, I would like to establish that I'm not about to perform this work on my own. I need it to be running in under 1 week. If I start this project, odds are my garage will be full of busted car parts for the next 6 months.

I've read numerous sites proclaiming that Nissan knew about this tensioner issue and failed to recall it, TSBs, class action lawsuits, etc etc. Ok, let's assume some class action lawsuit is going to save me tomorrow, what's the realistic situation? I'm not looking to get this serviced for free, but $1700 does seem like an outrageous price for just the tensioner. Considering the TSB and thousands of other Nissan owners experiencing the exact same issue, am I stepping out of line to ask the dealer to meet me in the middle? I'll pay for parts, that's semi realistic cost of ownership. But their labor costs.....?

I have no clue ... if I suggest meeting half way to the service manager, is he going to tell me to wait 5 minutes while he gathers half the techs and sales crew to come back to the lobby and laugh me off the lot? Obviously nobody pays sticker price for their car, but what about the maintenance?

Second, the engine mounts. I've searched the forums, but I can't come up with much regarding those. FYI, this car is not driven hard. Streets and highways only. Oh yea, all you car folks out there seem to find this specs interesting, 78k miles. Anyways, again, paying $900 for engine mount replacements seem a little odd at this point in the car's life. Realizing that there is not as much info out there on this issue, I can't quite justify the whole "class action / TSB" argument. But would their replacement require the same amount of engine removal labor as a timing chain tensioner replacement? If so, would it make sense to only be paying for parts (and minor labor) for the mounts since I'm already having the engine removed?

Lastly, they quoted me a bunch of other service items that all ranged in the hundreds to two hundreds ballpark (brake / steering / transmission / rear diff fluid, coolant, sway bars, fuel injection cleaning). I'm gonna have the injection cleaned and coolant exchanged, but the other items don't seem absolutely necessary at this point ... especially if I'm already dropping $3000 on a car that I barely drive).

And I know this is going to be a dumb question, but of all the items listed, are any of them really critical to the immediate use of the vehicle? I rarely drive it, maybe once every week for 10-20 miles, and I can't see myself keeping it for much longer (1, maybe 2 years). I am, however, going to be driving it from California into northern Utah next week. If I don't get this tensioner replaced, am I asking for trouble on this road trip? I'd much rather save the thousands of dollars and just trade-in in a couple years.

I don't want to be some idiot who was told he is sick, but refuses to take his medicine then dies. If the car truly needs these items for short term use, then I'll do it. But I'd hate to invest more in a weekend car I wasn't necessarily going to keep for many years.

Thoughts? Comments? Observations? Troll away!
 

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The engine does not have to be removed for the main timing chain tensioner, nor for the engine mounts. That being said, the main timing chain tensioner usually fails if the main timing chain guide (which is plastic) breaks.

This is exactly what happened in my case. The tip of the timing chain guide broke off, this caused the tensioner to fully extended in an effort to take up the slack in the timing chain. I had to replace the main timing chain guide and the main timing chain tensioner, too.

To replace the main timing chain guide and main tensioner, I had to remove the front engine cover - which is very labor intensive. While I had the front cover off, I replaced the water pump, as it was leaking. With the age of your vehicle, it would be a good idea to change the water pump at the same time (as it is easily accessible with the front engine cover off).

Some people elect to change out a bunch of stuff while they have the front engine cover off. This can include the main timing chain, the gears, the main tensioner, and the secondary chains, tensioners, guides, and gears. The $ for all of these parts adds up quick. Add that to the labor of removing the front engine cover, and the bill can be staggering. If the dealer is doing all of that, $1,700 is probably a fair retail price. That being said, if they are only quoting you for changing the primary tensioner only (which can be changed by itself without pulling the front engine cover), then they are attempting to overcharge you.

Messing with the timing chains, guides, and tensioners is an advanced repair that not everyone should attempt - especially if time is a factor. I am lucky to live across the street from a certified master technician who has 20+ years of vehicle repairs under his belt. He assisted me along the way with my repair.

Now, for the engine mounts: they are gel filled, and will fail over time. Once they crack, the gel will leak out, and your engine will begin to rock back and forth. If you have an automatic transmission, there is an easy way to check to see if your engine mounts are bad: open the hood, and with the engine running, put your left foot on the brake, put the transmission into Drive (D), and while your left foot is still on the brake, depress the gas pedal briefly with your right foot. If your engine mounts are bad, you will see the engine lift up several inches on the driver's side (you can see this from the driver's seat by looking through the windshield into the engine bay, or you can have an assistant standing on the side of the vehicle look for you). To check the passenger's side engine mount, follow the same steps above with the transmission in Reverse (R).

Changing the engine mounts can be done without removing the engine. You need to loosen the engine mount bolts, and then change one side out at a time. I did this by putting a wood block under the oil pan, and using a floor jack, lifting up the engine just barely enough to remove the engine mount and putting the new one in (loosely putting the bolts back in), and then doing the other side. Once both mounts have been changed, and the jack has been removed, be sure to tighten the engine mount bolts down to the appropriate specs. I'm sure someone must have done a How-To on this repair by now.

FWIW, I'm on my 5th set of motor mounts. The motor mounts can and will fail, especially with the year of your vehicle. I helped change out a set of mounts for a friend of mine, and she rarely leaves the pavement (the most difficult "offroading" she has ever done in that vehicle was a few graded dirt roads). Again, the money you were quoted for this repair is most likely retail price for the parts, and "book" time for the labor charge (they get several hours for this repair).

On the other services you mention, it is hard to know what is necessary, and what is not without knowing the prior maintenance of the vehicle. I will say that the dealer would always try to upsell me on services I didn't necessarily need when my vehicle was in for service (I only brought it to the dealer for stuff that was under warranty).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Awesome! Thanks for the info.

Follow up questions and info....

Agreed, I meant the guide. But that's good to know about its placement. But what kind of scenario would I be in if I didn't replace it. So it's currently maxed out and can't remove anymore slack. What if I had a new chain installed instead? Temporarily remove the slack until it stretches overtime, but maybe buy myself another year? Or is it not that simple? Are we looking at a single plastic piece ready to blow? Is the car going to come to a graceful stop in the middle of the highway? Or do I just suffer from a poorly operating chain? Poor mpg? What's my worst case scenario?

Agreed on the other line items, probably gonna hold off on those for now.

Still unsure about the mounts. They obviously serve a purpose, but they aren't keeping the engine from falling through the frame. It's mostly vibration reduction, right? Just for the passenger's comfort? Or is this to prevent long term damage to the vehicle? From the hundreds of class action band wagon folks I've read about online, I'm starting to realize that the $1700 is the average rate. It's just that $900 for the mounts that has me stumped. I'll call them back up to inquire a little more.

Thanks again!
 

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AZ-ted: Care to share how to change the primary tensioner without removing the front cover?

OP: I'm in the same boat currently... Dealer here wants $1800 to do my tensioners. After reading a bunch online though many say your able to drive with the whine for quite awhile before anything major happens. Some people have gone another 50k miles with the whine before having it done.
 

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fennerinium: I ran for several months with the broken guide and fully extended primary tensioner. I ran for longer with busted motor mounts (the 1st set).

As far as your question about replacing just the timing chain, you'll need to remove the front engine cover to replace the timing chain, so if you do that, you would want to also replace the guide and tensioner (especially if the guide is broken and the tensioner is fully extended). I didn't replace the chain, as it was not damaged nor stretched.

It's hard to say what the worst case scenario is. It would depend on where the break in the guide happened, and how long you ran it with the guide broken. At the very least, you will have some noise with the engine running. Beyond that, it could affect your oil pump performance and your water pump performance (both are driven off of the main timing chain). If it got really bad, your chain could "jump a tooth" on the timing gears and cause some serious drivability issues (due to maladjusted timing). Personally, I wouldn't recommend running it with a broken chain guide for a long time, but that's just my opinion.

Glamisdude: there are two inspection plates on the front engine cover. One is for the main chain tensioner, and one is for the water pump. It is designed this way so that you can let the tension off the main (primary) timing chain to remove the water pump without having to remove the entire front engine cover. I wasn't so lucky, as my water pump was fused into the housing.

In your post, you mention tensioners (in the plural sense of the word). The secondary chains also have tensioners and guides, as well. Some people with the "timing chain whine" have had a problem with their secondary chain guides and tensioners. This is a more involved repair, and simply changing out the main chain tensioner wouldn't necessarily help (assuming that the issue is with your secondary chain guides / tensioners).
 
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