Would disconnecting a harmonic balancer cause anything more than a bit of driver discomfort?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 1999

Dear Tom and Ray:

My friend Sammie has been nursing along a 1989 Pontiac Bonneville with a 3.8 liter engine that has what her mechanics call a "bad harmonic balancer." As I understand
them, these devices are counterweights, designed to cancel engine vibration and reduce noise. Does she have to replace the harmonic balancer? Or can it simply be
disconnected, with some sacrifice of driver comfort? Thanks. -- Bob

TOM: "Some sacrifice of driver comfort" would be putting it mildly, Bob. The harmonic balancer is essentially part of the crankshaft pulley. And since the belts that go
around the crankshaft pulley run all of the car's accessories, without the harmonic balancer you'd have no air conditioning, no power steering, no alternator and no
water pump.

RAY: Plus, it does have a role in "balancing" the crankshaft. And without it, you can do damage to the crankshaft and the engine bearings. So you really do have to
replace it.

TOM: A new harmonic balancer costs somewhere around $150 or $200, Bob. But you can buy a used one at a junkyard, and that'll balance your harmonics just fine.

RAY: And it's an easy repair to do. There's one bolt that holds it onto the crankshaft. Even my brother could handle this, Bob. So tell Sammie to get it fixed.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One