If your belt failed because of a faulty tensioner, your Saturn dealer may cover it.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

In a recent column, you mentioned the "infamous GM Quad 4 engine" in a 1991
Buick Skylark, and said the tensioner has been redesigned several times in
an effort to try to keep it from breaking. At 45,000 miles, I had to
replace the belt tensioner for the serpentine belt in my '95 Saturn due to
a loud squealing noise. I paid $134.90 for it and a new belt, which was not
covered by the warranty. Do I have the same engine with the same lousy
tensioner? -- Bob

TOM: No, you have a different lousy tensioner, Bob, and a different engine
altogether. The tensioner we mentioned in the Quad 4 is for the timing
chain. That tensioner is actually INSIDE the engine. And that's why it's
such a colossal pain in the butt to fix when it breaks.

RAY: The tensioner that broke in your Saturn is OUTSIDE the engine. It has
nothing to do with valve timing or the running of the engine at all. It
tensions the rubber serpentine belt that runs your accessories, like the
air conditioner and the power steering. And because it's so much easier to
get to, it only costs $100 to replace instead of several hundred.

TOM: And while belts and hoses are generally not covered by warranties, if
you feel the belt failed because of a faulty tensioner, you could probably
make a case to Saturn and ask them to cover it under warranty. Good luck,

* * *

If you want to ruin your car, we have 10 ways for you to do it. If you
don't want to ruin your car, we have "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car
Without Even Knowing It!" You can order this booklet by sending $3 and a
stamped (55 cents), self-addressed, No.10 envelope to Ruin No.1, PO Box
6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One