How to remove and install tensioners in accessory belt drive systems 

The importance of correct belt tension

If the belt tension is too low, the belt will slip causing noise, extremely high temperatures and premature belt wear, all of which can lead to the poor functioning of the belt-driven accessories. If the tension is too high, this will cause excessive wear to the belt as well as to the belt-driven accessories.

When to replace car tensioners

It is difficult to tell if a tensioner is ready to fail. Sometimes the tensioner pulley will show signs of wear such as damage to the pulley belt track section or grease leaking from the bearing seal. View our tensioner failure signs. As the tensioner is very important in the proper operation of the accessory belt drive system, Gates recommends that any time you replace the multi-ribbed belt your replace the tensioner too.

The following guidelines will help you to remove and install a tensioner in 8 easy steps. Note that tensioners are designed to suit particular engine assemblies, which means there is no universal replacement procedure. Before attempting to install any tensioner, always refer to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended procedures for replacement and maintenance.

How to replace an accessory tensioner in 8 easy steps


Draw a sketch or take a picture of the belt routing.


Unload the belt from the tensioner by rotating the tensioner.


Remove the old tensioner from the engine.


Place the new tensioner on the engine.


Torque the mounting bolts to 1/3 of the installation torque in a star pattern.


Retighten the bolts to 2/3 torque, then tighten to full torque as specified by the vehicle manufacturer.


Inspect the drive system for wear. Install a new auxiliary belt and make sure the pulleys are in perfect condition. Gates recommends the installation of a belt kit as part of a drive system overhaul.


Load the belt on the tensioner by rotating the tensioner into its correct position.

Inspecting for misalignment

Pulley misalignment is the most common cause of premature belt failure. Be sure to inspect your drive for misalignment and take corrective action.