THE GARAGE GUIDES

Fixing the Timing Chain Rattle
(S13/S14 DOHC)

If you're reading this, chances are you have the dreaded "rattle rattle rattle"; noise coming from under the hood somewhere when you start the car or have it sitting at idle. You've searched around and asked around, and the common diagnosis is "your timing chain guide". So now you know you have to remove it, but you're not so sure you'll be able to do the job.

After seeing this question pop up countless times on the forums, I've decided to write a how-to on the procedure. Once again, we're doing the job on Eddie's S13; however I did the same job on my S14 a few months ago, and it's identical

 


ABOVE: Got that annoying rattle noise when your car is
at idle? Chances are it's the timing chain guide.

This procedure takes about 60-90 minutes once you start unbolting the valve cover. Take your time, you don't want to rush anything.
   

1. Get your necessary tools together. To do this job you don't need anything special except for some Silicone RTV. You can find this at any automotive supply store for about $5.

For this job you do not have to raise up the front of the vehicle. For tools, you will need the following:

- 10mm long and short socket
- 12mm long and short socket
- short socket extension (4-5 inch)
- small 10mm open end wrench, and a
- screwdriver with a thin blade.

Since you will be working in an oily environment, I suggest some rags and adequate lighting. Obviously, it's also much easier to work on a cool engine.

Most of the time, the original parts can still be used for re-assembly. In some cases (broken valve cover gasket, etc.) you might need to replace some worn or broken items. The part numbers for these items are as follows:

For KA24DE DOHC 2.4L Engine

Camshaft Tensioner
- Nissan OEM part #13070-4E101
(approx. $49.90)*

Valve Cover Gasket
- Nissan OEM part
(approx. $18.73)*

Spark Plug Seal
- Nissan OEM part
approx.($10.21)*

 


ABOVE: Sorry, this is the best pic I have of the tensioner
by itself. This little thing is about $50, but if yours isn't
broken, the original tensioner can still be used.


Again, RTV will be required for this job as you are working
with parts of the car that must keep a seal.


ABOVE: Here's a picture of the valve cover gasket and the
spark plug gasket. This picture is the same picture used in
the "paint your valve cover" guide, since we did both the
tensioner job and the painting at once.

2. Before you start the actual job, remove / disconnect the following from under the hood:

- Ignition wires (mark order and position on distributor)
- Distributor cap
- Unplug Camshaft Position Sensor (gray plug connected to distributor)
- Plastic ignition wire holders (10mm bolts)
- Strut tower bar (if equipped)

Also, mark the positions of the distributor and the distributor rotor for reference. Once anything blocking the removal of the valve cover is out of the way, use a 10mm socket and begin removing the 11 bolts that hold the valve cover to the head. Follow the order shown in the diagram above-right when removing the bolts. Start with the bolt at the center of the valve cover, and work your way from there.

With the bolts removed, get a clean, medium-sized (about 24" x 34" should be more than enough) rag ready. You will be using this rag to cover the exposed engine once you remove the valve cover. You don't want anything accidentally falling in there!

 


STEP 2, ABOVE AND BELOW: Remove the valve cover bolts
in this order
.

3. The valve cover just lifts right off of the engine head. If it seems stuck, use the thin blade screwdriver to gently pry up one corner of the valve cover until the seal breaks.

Lift the valve cover off the engine slowly, and put it aside. Cover the exposed camshafts with the rag at this time.

 

 

 


STEP 3, ABOVE: Lift slowly, don't tear the valve cover gasket.

 

4. If the valve cover gasket or spark plug seal gasket is still on the engine, carefully remove them and set aside.

NOTE: The valve cover gasket has 4 half-circle shaped rubber 'plugs' incorporated into it - 2 up front, 2 in the rear. When removing the valve cover gasket, be careful not to tear the gasket. If these rubber 'plugs' seem stuck, you can hold them with two fingers and GENTLY rock them back and forth until they loosen up.

 


STEP 4, ABOVE: Make sure you remove the 1/2-circle end
pieces for the valve cover gasket. You don't want them falling
in to the engine.

5. Set the #1 cylinder at TDC and then mark the position of the rotor. This is a good step to ensure correct positioning of the distributor when reinstalling.

Next, mark the position of the distributor and the rotor with a permanent marker (I stated this in step one, but this is important so I repeated it here).

Proceed to unbolt the distributor by removing 2 10mm bolts, on at the top (shown here) and one underneath the distributor. If you haven't done so yet, unplug the Camshaft Position Sensor (the 4-wire gray plug shown in the picture).

 

 

6. Now it's time to slowly remove the distributor itself. It won't come out without the help of a screwdriver to pry it out of position. While you're prying the distributor out, be very careful not to spin or rotate the distributor assembly or the distributor rotor.

With a little effort the distributor assembly will come out. Again, DO NOT spin the distributor or the rotor once the assembly is out. Carefully place the distributor aside somewhere where it can be left undisturbed.

 

 


STEP 6, ABOVE: Pull the distributor out slowly, and don't
twist it back and forth; you want a straight pull. This is why
you'll use a screwdriver to pry it from position.

7. Now let's check for the upper guide first. Compare your engine to the pictures shown here. Locate the two bolt holes highlighted in the image; there may be a metal plate bolted to these holes. This plate is known as the Upper Timing Chain Guide. You now have 3 routes:

A) My engine has those holes only (picture 1):
A previous owner might have removed the upper timing chain guide in the past. You're good - go to step 8.

B) My engine has a metal plate thing bolted to those holes (picture 2):
Your engine is still equipped with the upper timing chain guide. There is a Nissan TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) that instructs Nissan Service mechanics to remove this guide as it is not needed. If your upper timing chain guide is still here, simply remove the two bolts fastening it to the engine (I believe they are 12mm), remove the upper timing chain guide, and discard all 3 pieces (guide, 2 bolts) because you don't need them anymore.

C) My engine has a metal plate thing bolted to those holes, but there's a broken piece just sitting on top of the chains themselves:
Lucky for you you've gotten the engine open at the last possible moment. On some KA24DE engines, the upper timing chain guide actually breaks in two. In any event, remove what's left of the upper timing chain guide (see step 5B, above) and discard.

NOTE: In the event of step 5C, once you remove the parts of the upper timing chain guide, lay the parts out on a flat surface and try to "reconstruct" the guide. If it seems like there's a chunk of the metal guide missing. you might want to get a flashlight and peek around in the chain area for any of the missing fragments.

The last thing you want here is to have a piece of loose metal just bouncing around in the engine. Make sure you have all the pieces of the upper timing chain guide removed from the engine before continuing.

 


STEP 7, ABOVE AND BELOW: The upper picture (1) has the
guide missing; the previous owner had removed it
beforehand. The lower picture (2) shows what the upper guide
looks like when in position.

 

8. Now lets get to the lower upper chain guide (I know, it sounds weird).

The second chain guide you need to remove is located to the right of the upper timing chain, behind the front cover. You need to remove the front cover to gain access to it. The front cover is held onto the engine using eight 12mm bolts and 4 10mm bolts. For reference, all of the 12mm bolts are horizontal whereas all of the 10mm bolts are vertical in orientation.

To the right you'll see a little diagram I came up with showing the position of the twelve bolts you need to remove to get the front cover off.

Note that there are 2 10mm bolts that are located behind the distributor mounting area, near the upper left edge of the exhaust manifold. A regular socket probably won't fit in here, so use the 10mm open wrench and be careful not to cut your knuckles on any nearby metal edges (exhaust manifold cover, engine head, etc.)

 

 

9. Just as with the valve cover, the front cover might be 'stuck' in place even with all the bolts removed. Use a screwdriver or something similar (in this pic Eddie's using a tire iron for better leverage) to gently pry the front cover off of the engine.
 

10. Once the front cover is removed, place it somewhere safe from contamination. Note in the picture that we also laid out the bolts in the same pattern/position that they are on the front cover. Since the bolts are in different lengths, you want to make sure that you reinstall the correct bolts to the correct holes.
 

STEP 10, ABOVE: The front cover, with all the bolts used
laid out in a pattern.

11. Now let's check for the lower/upper chain guide. Compare your engine to the picture shown here. Locate the two bolt holes highlighted in the image; there may be a metal plate bolted to these holes. This plate is second Upper Timing Chain Guide. Again, you now have 3 routes:

A) My engine has those holes only:
A previous owner might have removed the second upper timing chain guide in the past. You're good - skip ahead to step 13.

B) My engine has a metal plate thing bolted to those holes:
Your engine is still equipped with the second upper timing chain guide - go to step 12.

C) My engine has a metal plate thing bolted to those holes shown, but it looks like there's a missing piece: Uh oh. This usually means that the guide broke in two (or more) pieces. If you're lucky, the broken pieces are sitting at the bottom of your oil pan. you'll have to drain the engine oil and remove the oil pan to get those broken pieces out of there.

However, there is a chance that the broken piece(s) are still hanging around near the timing chain area. Using a flashlight, check inside and around the timing chain area for any broken metal fragments, and remove anything you find. Then proceed to step 10.

 

STEP 11, ABOVE: Here's the side guide in the lower area
of the timing chain.

12. Time to remove the second chain guide. Removing this guide is as easy as removing the two bolts fastening it to the engine (10mm). Be careful not to drop anything inside the engine; remove the second upper timing chain guide, and discard all 3 pieces (guide, 2 bolts) because you don't need them anymore either.
 


STEP 12, ABOVE: Two bolts hold this guide in place.
Remove the bolts, and relocate the chain guide to the trash.

13.Now we move to the left side, where the upper timing chain tensioner is located. This tensioner is activated by oil pressure. First inspect it for any broken parts. It should be fine, even on high mileage KA's (my car is pushing 185k and the tensioner was just fine).

NOTE: DO NOT REMOVE the tensioner completely. If you run the engine without the tensioner there will be too much free slack in the chain, and there's a strong possibility that the chain may jump teeth and cause serious damage to your engine.

 


STEP 13, ABOVE: This is the hydraulic tensioner located
on the left side of the timing chain.

14. Now let's check the chain tensioner for proper operation. Take a thin-blade screwdriver and try compressing the tensioner by pushing the tensioner pin to the left (pin highlighted in the photo). You now have 3 routes:

A) The tensioner moves freely: You're good - go to step 15.

B) The tensioner seems stuck:
You can remove the two 10mm bolts holding the tensioner to the engine, then inspect it. Try spraying it with engine degreaser or carb cleaner - it might just be stuck. If you get it moving freely, reinstall and go to step 15.

C) I took the tensioner off, and it's broken / frozen / won't move:
Replace with a new tensioner immediately. As it's named, this is responsible for keeping the upper timing chain in place and removing any slack in the chain. With the chain guides removed, it is the tensioner's job that becomes more important. Replace the faulty chain tensioner ASAP.

 

15.AAlrighty, you made it this far - now all that's left is re-assembly. Start off by cleaning all of the mating surfaces for the front cover and the valve cover. Using a rag or heavy-duty towel, get as much of any crap off the surface; you want a clean, flat surface to ensure no leaks upon re-assembly.

Be sure to remove any traces of oil, old RTV, or old gasket material. Be careful not to let any bits fall into the timing chain area.

 

16. Now time to seal the front cover. Pull out the RTV tube and apply a continuous bead all the way around the surface where the front cover connects to the engine. You want at least 1/4" thickness.

I know - it looks like we put too much in the picture. If you put too much, just spread it around with your finger until you have an even bead of silicone.

Make sure there's no silicone on the inside edge or it will contaminate your oil and spread all over the timing chain, which isn't good.

 


17. Reinstall the front cover, pressing it evenly against the engine.

Don't worry if extra RTV squeezes out onto the outside of the engine - after it dries you can peel the extra off with your fingers.

 

18. Now start bolting the front cover in place. Begin with the 12mm bolts that sit horizontal to the engine. When you tighten these down, the holes for the 10mm bolts (positioned vertically) will line up and make it easier for you to reinstall them. Don't forget the two 10mm bolts behind the distributor mount.

 

19. Speaking of the distributor, once the front cover is bolted on, reinstall the distributor carefully, positioning it the same way as it was when you removed it. Remember the pen marks you made before you removed the distributor? This is why you did that.

Bolt the distributor in place with the 10mm bolts that hold it. You might want to recheck your timing after you have the rest of the engine re-assembled.

 

20. Again, apply a 1/4" bead of RTV around the top of the engine where the valve cover touches the head. Be careful not to get any RTV inside the engine.

Don't forget to put RTV in the small 'half-circle' edges at the front and rear of the engine.

 

21. Place the valve cover onto position and reinstall all of the 10mm bolts that hold it. When tightening the valve cover bolts, follow the pattern shown in the diagram (at right) and go around at least 3 times.

In other words, tighten each bolt in sequence, but don't torque them down. Do this for all 11 bolts. Then go back to bolt #1 and tighten it a little bit more, etc. The third time around, set your torque wrench to 12 lbs.ft. and tighten each bolt (again, in sequence) to spec.

 

22. With the valve cover secured, go ahead and reinstall the rest of the stuff you removed - spark plug wires, plug holders, oil cap, valve cover breather tube.

Final check - whenever I reinstall a valve cover, I like to start the engine up and let the car idle for about 5 -10 minutes. This gives me a chance to check the RTV seal for any oil leaks.

NOTE: if you noticed, Eddie's valve cover magically changed from stock metal to gold in color. This is because we did both the timing chain guide job AND we painted his valve cover at the same time. The valve cover painting guide is also on this site.
 

Download Adobe .pdf version, click here.
- print this version to read the guide offline.
If you need a .pdf reader, click here.

Download Word .doc version (text only), click here.
- print this version as reference during the procedure.

   

Thanks to to Jimmy N. and Eddie G. for helping with this guide.
Guide written by Raine (www.projectraine.com)
Original date: December 12, 2004
Last edit: September 4, 2006