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Change Timing Chain How-to Preliminaries;

[table="head"]Qty | Parts Needed | Comment
1 | Tube High Temp RTV |
3 | Gallons of Coolant | won’t use it all
7 | Quarts of Oil |
1 | Oil Filter |
1 | Roll of Wide Masking Tape |
1 | Clean Cotton Towel |
1 | Black Permanent Marker |

[table="head"]Part | QTY | Part Number
Secondary Timing Chains | 2 | 13028-ZK01C
Tensioner | 2 | 13097-ZK01C
O-Ring | 2 | 15066-ZL80A
O-Ring | 2 | 15066-5E510
O-Ring | 1 | 15066-31U03
O-Ring | 1 | 15066-31U02
Main Seal | 1 | 13510-7Y000

Addition Parts (Optional):
Drive Belt
Driver Belt Tensioner
Water Pump
Spark Plugs

Tools Needed:
1/4 Drive Metric Sockets 8mm – 12mm
3/8 Drive Metric Sockets 10mm – 19mm
1/2 Drive Metric Sockets 14mm – 22mm
Metric Wrenches
Needle Nose Pliers
Channel Lock Pliers
Flathead Screwdrivers
Philips Screwdrivers
Drift Pins
Soft Blow Hammers
Torque Wrench
Impact Wrench
Pry Bars
Cheater Bars
Breaker Bars
Impact Wrench
Punch Set
Hose Clamps

And of Course - Friends and Beer are Always Needed!

Be sure before you start to have all Parts and Tools needed. Also be sure to look over the Factory Service Manual (FSM) Engine Mechanical (EM) Section.
For example be sure to look at your specific year for any changes between years.

Start with a cold Engine.
If your Xterra is a Manual 4x4, put in 6th Gear and 4Lo
If your Xterra is a Manual 2x4, put in 6th Gear
If your Xterra is an Automatic 4x4, put into 4Lo
If your Xterra is an Automatic 2x4, you will need to either open up the Access Panel to Flywheel in the picture below to put a the biggest Flathead Screwdriver you can fit in the Flywheel or if you have the special Nissan Flywheel Stopper you can use that to hold your Engine from moving.
Disconnect and remove the Battery.
Remove any Skid Plates that will prevent access to the Transmission, Oil Pan and Radiator.
Disconnect any Electrical connection that lead to the Front Bumper
Remove Front Bumper for easier access to the Engine.
Drain Oil
Drain Coolant

Remove the Radiator Shroud by removing the three (3) screws at the top of the Radiator.
Then disconnect the connectors to the Electric Fan.
Remove the Electric Fan Assembly by push the Shroud back enough to make room for the Electric Fan to come out the top, (It should just pull straight up).
After the Electric Fan is out, remove the Fan Shroud, (this one is kind of hard).

With the Drive Belt still attached loose the nuts on the Fan Pulley.
Once the Fan Pulley nuts are loose, remove the Belt Tensioner with the single bolt in the middle of it.

Remove the Drive Belt, (if you are replacing the Belt Tensioner and Drive Belt, they can be tossed, if not set aside in safe place).

Disconnect and remove the Upper and Lower Radiator Hoses, (make sure to have a Bucket underneath so the remaining fluid does get everywhere).
Disconnect the Coolant Hose that run into the Engine, Oil Filter Housing and Throttle Body.

With all Hoses disconnected, start disconnecting the Electrical connections on the Throttle Body, Air Intake, Mass Air Flow Sensor.
Remove any Breather Hoses connected to your Air Intake.
Take off your Intake and Tape up the opening with Masking Tape to prevent anything falling into the Engine.

Move any loose Hoses that are in front of the Engine off to either side of the motor to gain easier access to the front Timing Case Cover.
Next is to remove the Bracket that the Belt Tensioner and Fan were attached to, (be sure to keep the four (4) bolts with the bracket).
After the Bracket is off, next is to remove the Alternator, Power Steering Pump, and Air Conditioning Pump from the Motor, (they do not need to be disconnected from their hoses, they just need to be pushed off to the sides to have clear access to the front Timing Chain Case).

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How-to: Change Timing Chain - Part Two - Continued

Ensure the Motor is at Top Dead Center, (TDC), as shown in the Diagram below, (sourced from FSM).

After your have secured the Motor from moving, you can either use a Impact Wrench or a ½ Breaker Bar with a Long Cheater Bar to remove the bolt from the Main Pulley from the Crank Shaft.
Then you need to use a Pry Bar to remove the Main Pulley.

STEP 8 - (Optional):
This step is only if you want to be able to verify your Motor is at TDC and will let you be able to put a Wrench on the Cams.

Remove the Spark Plug Wires and the Spark Plugs.
After those are removed disconnect the Electrical that connect the Fuel Injectors and the Spark Plug Harness, (to gain easier access to the Valve Covers).
Disconnect the Cam Position Sensors.
Remove the Valve Covers.

Remove all 25 bolts that connect the front Timing Chain Case to the Engine Block.

Remove the two (2) bolts that are in front of the Oil Pan.
(Note: The bolt on the Passenger-side will not come out all the way from the Timing Case, but will still come off though).
With multiple Pry Bars carefully pry off the Timing Chain Case, (it will be hard to break loose since you will most likely be the 1st to crack open the Timing Chain Case since it was put together in the factory).
Remove the Timing Chain Case and set aside.
Place a clean Cotton Towel in the opening of the Oil Pan to prevent any thing falling into the Oil Pan.

STEP 10:
Ensuring the Motor is TDC and mark with a Permanent Marker and take pictures of each right and left Cam Sprockets, as well as the Crank Shaft Sprocket.

With the Main Chain still attached use a ½ Drive Ratchet to break loose the bolts on both two (2) Sprockets on each side of the Motor.
Remove the two (2) bolts on the top of the Main Chain Guide and remove the Guide.

Remove the Main Timing Chain Tensioner, (be sure to hold on the Piston when removing, so you don’t have to find the small parts in it).
Now with the Main Chain loose, remove the Main Chain and set aside, (be sure to note what side is the front).

STEP 11:
Start with either the right side or left side of the Motor, (only do one side at a time).
Pull the bolts of both out of the Intake Cam and Exhaust Cams.
With a Pry Bar gently pry on the Sprockets to remove them.
Remove the Secondary Timing Chain Tensioner.
To remove the old Tensioner place the Metal Piston in a Socket slightly bigger then Piston and with a Punch that will fit in the small hole on top of the Plastic Piece use a Hammer and tap the Punch until they come apart.
(Note: Before installing any new parts in the Motor be sure and dip the parts in brand new Oil).

Old vs New;

To put the new Tensioner on put the Piston back in the hole place the new Tensioner on top of the Piston and use a big Hose Clamp to press the Tensioner on to the Piston.
Leave the Hose Clamp on the Tensioner.
Place the new Secondary Chain on the two Sprockets and align the Key holes so they are the same.

Place the whole Assembly on the two Cams and push on till they seat all the way on the Cams.
Replace the both bolts as they came out only hand tightening them.
Repeat for the opposite side.
(Note: For the Driver-side Tensioner be sure to place the Piston where it belongs, before attaching the Plastic Piece on it, otherwise it will not go back on).

STEP 12:
After the Secondary Chains are back on and Sprockets bolts are back in and hand tight, place the Main Timing Chain back on the Cam Sprockets and aligning the Permanent Marker you made before taking off the chain. Refer to Diagram posted below, (sourced from the FSM).

Once the Main Timing Chain is back on replace the Main Chain Tensioner.
Replace the Main Timing Chain Top Guide.
After the Main Timing Chain is back on and tight as it was when you took it off, tighten the four (4) Cam Sprocket bolts, (the Motor should be able to hold everything in place as long it is still locked in place. If you removed the Valve Covers there is a hexagon part of the Cam where you can place a Wrench to hold on to the Cams if you would like do so).

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How-to: Change Timing Chain - Part Three - Continued

STEP 13:
Clean off all old RTV on both the Engine Block and front Timing Chain Case using either a Gasket Removal Tool or a Razor Blade, (try not to scratch the machined surfaces as they may possibly leak if not sealed properly).
Replace the two O-Rings in the Engine Block, shown below.

Remove the two Cam Access Panels on the front Timing Chain Case Cover.
Clean off all old RTV.
Remove the old Crank Shaft Seal.
Clean the inside of the Cover with either Carb Cleaner or Brake Cleaner
Replace the O-Rings on the out points of the Cam Access Panels, shown below.

Put new High Temp RTV on the Cam Access Panels and put them back on.
Replace the Crank Shaft Seal.
Put new High Temp RTV to replace all the old RTV you removed, (you can either put in on the Engine Block or on the back of the Cover).

Remove the Towel from the Oil Pan
Place the Timing Case Cover back on to the front of the Motor.
Place Drift Pins in the big bolt holes in the cover for easier alignment of the Cover.
Apply force to push the Cover back on.
Reinstall all the bolts in the order they came off.

Torque Bolts 1 - 5 : 55.0 N•m (5.6 kg-m, 41 ft-lb)
Torque Bolts 6 – 25 : 12.7 N•m (1.3 kg-m, 9 ft-lb)
Reinstall the two (2) Oil Pan bolts and Torque to 22.0 N•m (2.2 kg-m, 16 ft-lb)
Reinstall the Main Pulley and Torque in two steps
Step 1: 44.1 N•m (4.5 kg-m, 33 ft-lb)
Step 2: 84° - 90° degrees Clockwise

STEP 14 - (Optional):
This step, is only if you used STEP 8.
Reinstall the Valve Covers.
Reinstall the Spark Plugs and Spark Plug Wires.
Reconnect Electrical that connect the Fuel Injectors and the Spark Plug Harness.
Reconnect the Cam Position Sensors, shown in the picture below.

STEP 15:
Remove the Masking Tape on the Air Intake.
Reinstall the Air intake.
Reinstall the Throttle Body.
Reinstall the Power Steering Pump, Alternator, and A/C Compressor.
Reinstall the Fan Bracket on the Timing Chain Case.
Reinstall the Belt Tensioner.
Reinstall the Fan Pulley.
Reinstall the Drive Belt.
The correct routing is below.

Before the Drive Belt is on all the Pulleys make sure the Fan Pulley is tighten down.
Place the Fan Shroud back on the Radiator.
Replace the Electrical Fan Assembly.
Tighten down with the three screws that were removed.
Reconnect all Electrical Connections
Reconnect all Coolant Lines.
Reconnect the Air Intake Tube and any Breather Tubes that were removed.
Install a new Oil Filter.
Reinstall the Front Bumper, if removed.
Reconnect all Electrical Connection to the Front Bumper.
Reinstall the Battery.
Fill the Radiator with new Coolant.
Fill the Oil with new Oil.
Check for leaks.
Start the Engine let the Motor heat up and shut down the Motor recheck the fluids.
Once the fluids are rechecked and there is no leaks take you X on a test run allow the ECU to Relearn itself before getting into the throttle.

If there is any Questions or anything I forgot just let me know.

3,441 Posts
Those little plactis pieces. They either used cheap plastic back in the day or it was a different design, but they eventually wear through...

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^^i understand that, but I wouldn't think it would give the metal on metal sound until it made it through to the perch. So, @ deadpilot, How did you know you needed it?

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If you let it go longer the chain will wear through those old plastic faces it will hit metal.
I was starting to hear noises from the motor and I also have almost a 100,000 on my X.
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Interesting. What kind of noise? Mine just rolled 180k and I am debating if is should do this or not at around 200k. I haven't heard anything though (at least I think).
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72 Posts
Nice write up! It was really detailed. All write ups should follow your format. How long did it take you to change the timing chain?

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i do have one question though, how long from putting your truck in 4low to you starting it up after everything was buttoned up? just a rough guess is enough.

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holy crap...mad props to you man! this is an awesome writeup! I will be using it when I do mine in the spring! :)

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threadjack... Hey rook you want to do mine as well? or at least... i supply parts and beer and then stand around and help ya by handing you a wrench every now and again?
end threadjack...
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