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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 10-12-2006, 09:35 AM   #1
Ausfahrt
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Changing from Mechanical tensioner to Hydraulic tensioner

This is an Easy DIY. You can change your Mechanical to Hydraulic. I skipped a lot of steps from taking apart the fan and shroud to taking off the old mechanical tensioner. Also I forgot the socket size I used and the allen socket but you can figure it once you get the parts. But there are DIY's out there to get you to this point of the DIY. This DIY basically show's you how to put the pieces together and show you the location it goes.

Here is the Hydraulic tensioner from realoem that you will need to buy:
http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts...90&hg=11&fg=18

Here is the mechanical tensioner from realoem note: This is just a comparison so dont buy this one)
http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts...05&hg=11&fg=18
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Last edited by Ausfahrt; 10-12-2006 at 09:38 AM.
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Old 10-12-2006, 09:37 AM   #2
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Another
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Last edited by Ausfahrt; 10-12-2006 at 09:53 AM.
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Old 10-12-2006, 09:55 AM   #3
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The last part shows you where to mount the bolts. I numbered them from 1-3 on both pictures.
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Old 10-12-2006, 10:06 AM   #4
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Thanks for pics and info.

Is hydraulic one supposed to be better? My car has hydraulic one.
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so 2004 bmw's dont come with a diff?
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Old 10-12-2006, 10:09 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by croat View Post
Thanks for pics and info.

Is hydraulic one supposed to be better? My car has hydraulic one.
Yes it's a lot better. The old mechanical will end up making a lot of noise when they wear. Plus I found it a lot easier pulling the Hydraulic Tensioner down. Plus when you take your car to the dealership to fix the noise problem they will replace it with the Hydraulic Tensioner if you had a Mechanical one.

Last edited by Ausfahrt; 10-12-2006 at 10:13 AM.
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Old 10-12-2006, 01:09 PM   #6
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I have gone to the dealer like 4 times because of a squeal noise i get on startup and i always recommend/suggest them to change out my mech. tensioner for the the hydraulic, and they never do. I think they do it in spite of my suggestions. Dealers cant be proven wrong, ya know?

Anyway, how much were the parts if i just want to do it myself?

Thanks for the DIY, btw.
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Old 10-15-2006, 08:48 AM   #7
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Alex, thanks for sharing... Great DIY!!!

Charlie
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Old 10-15-2006, 08:58 PM   #8
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Got a question. I used to have a belt squeak when my car was cold. It would happen for first 10-15 seconds and then go away.
I recently changed both of my belts and tensioner/idler pullies and the squeal went away.

Well, in last week or two it started getting colder around here and squal is back. Does this mean that my tensioner should be replaced?
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so 2004 bmw's dont come with a diff?
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Old 10-16-2006, 04:21 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by croat View Post
Got a question. I used to have a belt squeak when my car was cold. It would happen for first 10-15 seconds and then go away.
I recently changed both of my belts and tensioner/idler pullies and the squeal went away.

Well, in last week or two it started getting colder around here and squal is back. Does this mean that my tensioner should be replaced?
did you change out the tensioner for the AC belt?? also, the best way to pinpoint where noises are originating from is with a stethoscope. they are not expensive and come in handy. that's what you should do before changing out any more parts: use a stethoscope to pinpoint the noise.
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Old 10-16-2006, 05:15 AM   #10
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My AC is never on. So I assume it's the tensioner that Ausfahrt is talking about.

Upon startup there is a split second squeal and everything is quiet. If I decide to take off rigth away, the squeal will be heard while slowly letting clutch off (I assume more tension is being applied to belt/tensioner)
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so 2004 bmw's dont come with a diff?
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Old 10-16-2006, 11:42 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by croat View Post
My AC is never on. So I assume it's the tensioner that Ausfahrt is talking about.

Upon startup there is a split second squeal and everything is quiet. If I decide to take off rigth away, the squeal will be heard while slowly letting clutch off (I assume more tension is being applied to belt/tensioner)
I take it when you changed out your tensioner it was the mechanical one? The Mechanical tensioners are crap. The old mechanical ones are usually the culprit when you hear a sound in the engine. Get the hydraulic. Mine made noises when it was cold. But after a while it made the noise regardless of cold or hot. It just made a squealing sound. Now no noise at all after the install. The tensioner cost me $250.00

Last edited by Ausfahrt; 10-16-2006 at 11:51 AM.
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Old 10-16-2006, 06:01 PM   #12
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Mine is hydraulic. www.autohausaz.com has the tensioner shock for $50. So I just need to change shock, correct?
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so 2004 bmw's dont come with a diff?
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Old 10-16-2006, 07:58 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by croat View Post
My AC is never on. So I assume it's the tensioner that Ausfahrt is talking about.

Upon startup there is a split second squeal and everything is quiet. If I decide to take off rigth away, the squeal will be heard while slowly letting clutch off (I assume more tension is being applied to belt/tensioner)
the AC pulley and tensioner pulley will spin thoughout the whole time the motor is on regardless if use your AC or not. when you turn on the AC, a clutch inside the AC compressor engages so that the spinning pulley drives the compressor. again, you should use a stethoscope to pinpoint the noise before you spend anymore money to change out parts that may or may not eliminate the noise. spending $50 on a tensioner shock will be quite a bit of money if you find out after installation that the part did not fix the problem.
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Old 10-16-2006, 08:22 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ausfahrt View Post
I take it when you changed out your tensioner it was the mechanical one? The Mechanical tensioners are crap. The old mechanical ones are usually the culprit when you hear a sound in the engine. Get the hydraulic. Mine made noises when it was cold. But after a while it made the noise regardless of cold or hot. It just made a squealing sound. Now no noise at all after the install. The tensioner cost me $250.00
both types of tensioners (mechanical and hydrolic) will make noises eventually. i have the hydrolic and mine made the same noise yours did. the good thing about the hydrolic is that you can change out the pulley without having to replace the whole tensioner (as in the case of the mechanical) and will be less costly to replace--approximately $20 vs. $50 for the hydrolic pulley vs. the mechanical tesioner, respectively. with that said, i personally think switching from a mechanical to a hydrolic tensioner system is unnecessary and not very cost effective. assuming it is true that the mechanical tensioners have a significantly shorter lifespan than the hydrolic ones, and that on average a mechanic tensioner lasts approximately 50K miles, then if one was to keep his/her car for another 100K miles before getting rid of it, he/she will have to change the tensioner twice which will cost $100 total as opposed to $250 that you spent on the parts for a hydrolic tensioner. sure one may feel it will be a hassle to have to change out the tensioner 2 times, but seriously, replacing a tensioner is extremely easy and takes no more than 20-30 minutes, and one doesn't even have to jack up the car. installing a hydrolic tensioner may make sense if one pays a shop to do all the repairs on his/her car, but for a DIY person (which i'm assuming anyone who visits the DIY forum are), i personally think it makes more sense to just replace the mechanical tensioner whenever it needs to be replaced. ultimately, which ever route one chooses to take is fine, but i feel the factors i've brought up is worth taking into consideration before spending $250 on a hydrolic tensioner system.
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Old 10-16-2006, 10:32 PM   #15
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double posted

Last edited by Ausfahrt; 10-16-2006 at 10:39 PM.
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Old 10-16-2006, 10:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EDawg View Post
both types of tensioners (mechanical and hydrolic) will make noises eventually. i have the hydrolic and mine made the same noise yours did. the good thing about the hydrolic is that you can change out the pulley without having to replace the whole tensioner (as in the case of the mechanical) and will be less costly to replace--approximately $20 vs. $50 for the hydrolic pulley vs. the mechanical tesioner, respectively. with that said, i personally think switching from a mechanical to a hydrolic tensioner system is unnecessary and not very cost effective. assuming it is true that the mechanical tensioners have a significantly shorter lifespan than the hydrolic ones, and that on average a mechanic tensioner lasts approximately 50K miles, then if one was to keep his/her car for another 100K miles before getting rid of it, he/she will have to change the tensioner twice which will cost $100 total as opposed to $250 that you spent on the parts for a hydrolic tensioner. sure one may feel it will be a hassle to have to change out the tensioner 2 times, but seriously, replacing a tensioner is extremely easy and takes no more than 20-30 minutes, and one doesn't even have to jack up the car. installing a hydrolic tensioner may make sense if one pays a shop to do all the repairs on his/her car, but for a DIY person (which i'm assuming anyone who visits the DIY forum are), i personally think it makes more sense to just replace the mechanical tensioner whenever it needs to be replaced. ultimately, which ever route one chooses to take is fine, but i feel the factors i've brought up is worth taking into consideration before spending $250 on a hydrolic tensioner system.
With the Mechanical Tensioner you have to replace the whole thing everytime. With the Hydraulic you only have to replace the tensioner shock or the tensioner pulley/roller once you buy the whole unit. You dont have to replace the whole Hydraulic Tensioner. Besides if BMW makes a better replacement part for the car wouldn't you want the updated part. I know I would.

Last edited by Ausfahrt; 10-16-2006 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 10-16-2006, 11:01 PM   #17
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With the Mechanical Tensioner you have to replace the whole thing everytime. With the Hydraulic you only have to replace the tensioner shock or the tensioner pulley/roller. You dont have to replace the whole Hydraulic Tensioner. Besides if BMW makes a better replacement part for the car wouldn't you want the updated part. I know I would.
yes, it would be cheaper IF your car originally has the hydrolic tensioner, but if you have to switch from the mechanical to the hydrolic tensioner, you have to factor in the $250 to make that "upgrade". again, assuming a mechanical tensioner lasts on average of 50K miles, you will have to replace the mechanical tensioner FIVE times before you end up spending the total of $250--and that doesn't include the additional costs for replacing the worn pulleys on the hydrolic tensioner during that period. and at 50K miles per tensioner, that will be 250K miles!! i'm more than confident to presume that less than 1% of the e46 owners on this forum will keep their e46 for another 250K miles before getting rid of it. changing out the mechanical tensioner requires removing only TWO bolts that are easy to access, so replacing tensioners are hardly burdens. as for preferring "upgraded" parts, sure i would like to have upgraded parts, but ONLY if it is cost effective to upgrade to those parts and/or if the "upgraded" parts are absolutely necessary. now this is only my perspective on the situation, and i'm sure there are others such as yourself who feel otherwise, which is fine. i'm not trying persuade or dissuade others in making the conversion, only that the cost effectivenss of the conversion is a legitimate factor to contemplate before making the final decision.
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Old 10-17-2006, 02:15 AM   #18
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which tensioner design is newer...

on my e36 m3 they were all hydraulic vs my 01 iT all mechanical...i'm not sure which would be considered "newer" then. totally true that pullies can be replaced as needed with hydraulic vs. the whole unit with mechanicals. i believe that most squeals are from the bearing of the pullies being worn vs. the actual tension that is applied by the tensioner. if you were to disassembe a hydraulic tensioner you'll see that its actually a spring and oil inside it aka shock...works the same as the mechanical...the upside to going with hydraulic would be its increased "serviceability"....great write up since i've wondered if both were interchangeable
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Old 10-17-2006, 02:46 AM   #19
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yes, it would be cheaper IF your car originally has the hydrolic tensioner, but if you have to switch from the mechanical to the hydrolic tensioner, you have to factor in the $250 to make that "upgrade". again, assuming a mechanical tensioner lasts on average of 50K miles, you will have to replace the mechanical tensioner FIVE times before you end up spending the total of $250--and that doesn't include the additional costs for replacing the worn pulleys on the hydrolic tensioner during that period. and at 50K miles per tensioner, that will be 250K miles!! i'm more than confident to presume that less than 1% of the e46 owners on this forum will keep their e46 for another 250K miles before getting rid of it. changing out the mechanical tensioner requires removing only TWO bolts that are easy to access, so replacing tensioners are hardly burdens. as for preferring "upgraded" parts, sure i would like to have upgraded parts, but ONLY if it is cost effective to upgrade to those parts and/or if the "upgraded" parts are absolutely necessary. now this is only my perspective on the situation, and i'm sure there are others such as yourself who feel otherwise, which is fine. i'm not trying persuade or dissuade others in making the conversion, only that the cost effectivenss of the conversion is a legitimate factor to contemplate before making the final decision.

This is all in peace bro, but changing from a mechanical to hydraulic is fun, and cool. If $250 doesn't hurt to drop than it's fun and it's cool.

If someday the hydraulic tensioner proves to be inferior to the mechanical version, it's still fun and cool.

Good DIY. And I'm right.
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Old 10-17-2006, 01:02 PM   #20
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subscribed, very nice DIY, i replaced my mechanical tensioner and within 2 months **** started to make noises.
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