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DIY - A6 3.2 Upper Timing Chain Tensioner Replacement

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Old 02-15-2014, 02:51 PM   #1
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Default DIY - A6 3.2 Upper Timing Chain Tensioner Replacement

Okay, here it is. After getting the run around from the "Audi Specialists" in my area, I decided to just do it myself. I've tried my best to outline the entire procedure to change the timing chain tensioners on the Audi 3.2 Liter engine. If you hear a loud clicking noise from the rear upper area of the engine, this is apparently a common problem and the upper tensioners are most likely the culprit. There is another lower hydraulic tensioner, if that has failed then you're out of luck and have to pull the engine. This procedure is not hard, just be careful, be patient, and take your time. Most importantly, you do NOT have to pull the engine out to do it. Someone with average mechanical skill should be able to knock this out in a couple hours. Good luck!

Audi 3.2 FSI Upper Timing Chain Tensioner Replacement


Parts

Warning - Please fight the urge to pull the retaining pins when you get the part. The seals inside can be damaged trying to recompress them and they must be compressed to install. The rear photo shows the dark backing plate, they're held only loosely with metal tabs. Be carefull when installing that they do not become misaligned.

1. Timing chain tensioner, left upper - Part Number: 18266-01183647 (Partsgeek.com) $219.17
Click the image to open in full size.
2. Timing chain tensioner, right upper - Part Number: 18264-01183648 (Partsgeek.com) $191.99
Click the image to open in full size.
3. RTV Silicone

Tools Needed

1. T40058 Ė Crankshaft Turning Socket - ebay $19
Click the image to open in full size.
2. T40070 Ė Camshaft Locking Tools - ebay - Audi timing tool set $158 (el paso tools store - made by baumtools)
Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.
3. T10035 Ė Multi-point Socket (12 Point 14mm Socket) - Included in timing toolset
Click the image to open in full size.
4. T-30 Torx Bit (6mm)
5. 3/8 Stubby Swivel Ratchet - Harbor Freight $9.99 - Bottom torx bolts on cam covers are a bitch and tough to get to, this tool and a 1" extension are life savers! DO NOT STRIP THOSE TORX BOLTS!
Click the image to open in full size.
6. Ĺ Extendable Ratchet - Harbor Freight $16
7. Torque wrench
8. Metric Sockets
9. Ratchet extensions

Installation Procedure


1. Remove air filter plenum and upper filter housing ( You can leave back part mounted to inner fender)
2. Remove radiator coolant reservoir
3. Disconnect spark plug harness on both sides
4. Mark and remove any sensors that may restrain the spark plug harness so it can be moved clear of the valve covers
5. Carefully pop out all 6 individual ignition coils from the spark plugs
6. Use T-30 torx bit to undo all valve cover bolts for each side
7. Remove right and left valve covers
8. Use T-30 torx bit and stubby ratchet to undo all rear timing chain cover bolts on each side (Be careful, they can be tough DO NOT STRIP!)
Click the image to open in full size.
9. Use T40058 Crankshaft tool on Ĺ Drive extended ratchet to manually turn engine clockwise until the threaded holes on the end of the camshafts (firewall side) face upward on each cylinder bank.
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.

10. Bolt on T40070 locking tools on each cylinder bank. Make sure the holes are aligned upright and the bolts screw in smoothly. If needed rock crankshaft with back and forth till itís perfectly aligned. You donít want to try bolting it on unaligned or you can break bolt on the camshaft. Then you have to MIG weld a nut on it to extract (Donít ask how I know this)
Click the image to open in full size.

11. With both camshafts locked, you can now remove the cam adjusters bolted to the end of the camshafts.
12. Use T10035 Socket and loosen the 12-point bolts on each of the camshafts on the right cylinder bank.
Click the image to open in full size.

13. Carefully wiggle the cam adjusters off the end of each camshaft. Start with the intake and when itís off just rest the chain on the cylinder head casting directly behind the cam adjuster. Do the same for the exhaust camshaft. Mark each cam adjuster as intake or exhaust (the exhaust cam adjuster has a metal spring/clip on it, the intake doesnít) Donít worry if the chain moves, the engine is locked in place. Just Don't touch the crankshaft while the engine is locked.
14. Take the new right tensioner out of the package and note the location of the mounting holes, you will be undoing these on the old tensioner in the engine.
Click the image to open in full size.
15. Stuff some shop rags or paper towels down the galley were the timing chain comes up from, this is so you donít accidentally drop any of the tensioner mounting bolts down into the rear of the engine. That would be a world of hurt.
16. Undo all the mounting bolts (T-30 torx) and carefully wiggle the tensioner up and out of the rear of the engine. The hydraulic piston in the tensioner may drop out just be careful when removing. My old one was completely compressed and stuck down.
17. Carefully place new tensioner into position, you may have to move the chain around to get it into place. BE CAREFULL THE BACKING PLATE ON THE NEW TENSIONER STAYS ON AND DOESNíT SHIFT. DO NOT REMOVE THE RETAINING PIN (T40071)ON THE NEW TENSIONER YET!
18. Reinstall all of the chain tensioner mounting bolts. I started with the top/easiest one then wiggled it around till I could get a second bolt in making sure itís aligned. Then I installed and tightened the remaining bolts.
19. Reinstall the cam adjusters, start with the exhaust, pull the timing chain out slightly and place it around the cam adjuster. Then gently wiggle adjuster back onto the camshaft. Do the same for the intake cam adjuster. You may have to play with it a little, be patient and careful and make sure both adjusters are on straight. UPDATE - I've been asked several times about do the cam adjusters need to be aligned in a specific position when reinstalling. They are not notched or indexed in any way. The factory manual makes no mention of installing them in any spefici aligned position so it appears it doesn't matter. Just make sure they're on!
20. Now, you may now pull out the tensioner retaining pin. The piston should pop out and tension the chain.
21. If the retaining clip pops out before you get the cam adjusters back on, you must remove the tensioner from the engine and manually squeeze the guide rail till itís completely compressed. Then, while holding it, you can put the retaining pin back on it. There is a ratchet mechanism inside the tensioner piston that will not release until itís compressed fully. Be careful, you can damage the seals inside if you try forcing it. I think this is the reason these tensioners fail again prematurely, so be careful!
Click the image to open in full size.
22. Reinstall the camshaft adjuster retaining bolts. First torque them to 30 lb/ft, then60 lb/ft, then tighten them another ľ turn.
23. Repeat this procedure for the left cylinder bank
24. Clean old sealant from rear camshaft covers and apply new RTV silicone
25. Reinstall the rear camshaft covers
26. Reinstall valve covers
27. Reinstall coils, wiring harness, etc.
28. Reinstall intake and coolant reservoir
29. Make sure crankshaft turning tool has been removed
30. Double check everything is back in place and fire up the engine!

My engine fired right up, problem resolved, and I saved thousands. Every European specialist shop I called in Tampa Bay either didn't have the timing tools or refused to do the tensioners without pulling the engine. I've seen timing chains last 300k+ miles on many vehicles, they are designed to last the life of the vehicle. If your shop tells you you MUST pull the engine because of chain stretch or broken guides, ask them whats more likely to fail, a hardened alloy chain or a plastic hydraulic piston seal. That's the purpose of tensioners, to compensate for chain stretch (to a point of course). Yeah, okay, sure it can't be done.

Last edited by mkongsiri; 07-19-2014 at 04:49 AM.
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Old 02-15-2014, 03:42 PM   #2
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That's a great post!!!! too bad I have a 4.2
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Old 02-15-2014, 05:18 PM   #3
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Great write-up and post. Hopefully, I won't need to do this repair on my '06 A6 Avant. But if I do, I have your write-up saved in my files. Thanks.
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Old 02-16-2014, 06:04 PM   #4
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Default Fabulous Writeup!

Thanks for taking the time to photo and write it up!
I was just looking at the upper chain covers last week, thinking that this should well be possible without removing the engine, and you just proved it.
Did you use the blue handled tool from the set to hold the cam adjuster in place while undoing the T10035 bolt?
The 'cam aligners' that screw in from the top are great holders, but don't really look designed to hold against the 60 ft-lb.
how easy was it to clean up the RTV from the back of the head without getting crumbly bits down into the engine?
If you have photos (both front and back side please) of your old guides, I would be interested to see the wear patterns. How many miles again on the old ones?
superb job!
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Old 02-16-2014, 06:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FL C6.5 Avant View Post
Thanks for taking the time to photo and write it up!
I was just looking at the upper chain covers last week, thinking that this should well be possible without removing the engine, and you just proved it.
Did you use the blue handled tool from the set to hold the cam adjuster in place while undoing the T10035 bolt?
The 'cam aligners' that screw in from the top are great holders, but don't really look designed to hold against the 60 ft-lb.
how easy was it to clean up the RTV from the back of the head without getting crumbly bits down into the engine?
If you have photos (both front and back side please) of your old guides, I would be interested to see the wear patterns. How many miles again on the old ones?
superb job!
Hi, well the shop manual shows using them and it also specifies to install the crankshaft locking pin which is utterly impossible with the engine still in the car. I considered it but I ended up having no trouble installing and removing the cam adjusters with just the camshaft locks in place on both banks. The flat mating surfaces on the locks and cam when bolted together stop any kind of movement whatsoever and did not appear to put any undo strain on the assembly. Cleaning the cover mating surface was no problem, there's sufficient room. I'll see if I can get pictures of the old tensioners but honestly, they showed very little signs of abrasion or wear. I just bought the car about 2 months ago with 100k miles on it. I have no clue if these are the original tensioners or not but the engine appears to have been untouched (or at least properly reassembled) when I got into it.

Last edited by mkongsiri; 02-16-2014 at 07:10 PM.
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Old 05-16-2014, 11:25 AM   #6
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Hi,

one of the best posts on this forum. Think I may be going down the same road. What were your symptoms? Or, did you just do this as preventive maintenance?
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Old 05-16-2014, 01:17 PM   #7
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Hi,

one of the best posts on this forum. Think I may be going down the same road. What were your symptoms? Or, did you just do this as preventive maintenance?
My 05 A6 3.2 just started acting up.. Loud diesel sound. How long before i need to change the tensioner?
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Old 05-16-2014, 03:17 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by starkenl View Post
My 05 A6 3.2 just started acting up.. Loud diesel sound. How long before i need to change the tensioner?
My check engine light came on and gave me enough warning to get the car to the dealer. Since I was already aware of the issue I went straight to the dealer and put less than 20 miles on the car once the light came on.
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Old 05-22-2014, 05:11 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by mkongsiri View Post
Hi, well the shop manual shows using them and it also specifies to install the crankshaft locking pin which is utterly impossible with the engine still in the car. I considered it but I ended up having no trouble installing and removing the cam adjusters with just the camshaft locks in place on both banks. The flat mating surfaces on the locks and cam when bolted together stop any kind of movement whatsoever and did not appear to put any undo strain on the assembly. Cleaning the cover mating surface was no problem, there's sufficient room. I'll see if I can get pictures of the old tensioners but honestly, they showed very little signs of abrasion or wear. I just bought the car about 2 months ago with 100k miles on it. I have no clue if these are the original tensioners or not but the engine appears to have been untouched (or at least properly reassembled) when I got into it.
Hi,

Your description says that you do not need to take the engine out. Yet the one photo you show is with the engine out. Did you remove the engine?
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Old 05-23-2014, 10:00 AM   #10
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Hi, great instructions thanks. I had loud clatter and desiling sound from the driver side bank. After watching a few videos and reading this fourm decided to replace the driver side tensioner. But looking at it it seems like the Spain is tight and when I push on it, has very little movement. Kinda stumped now. Any help? Thanks.
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Old 05-24-2014, 04:19 PM   #11
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Hi, great instructions thanks. I had loud clatter and desiling sound from the driver side bank. After watching a few videos and reading this fourm decided to replace the driver side tensioner. But looking at it it seems like the Spain is tight and when I push on it, has very little movement. Kinda stumped now. Any help? Thanks.
That happened to me also, but when you run the engine, it won't hold pressure. First, make sure you're looking on the correct side. You can run the engine briefly with the cover off and verify it's the tensioner. If you run it for a short time, the piston should bleed out and start clacking. It's very loud when it's failed, you can't miss it. Shut of the engine and check the tensioner again. I'd stick some rags all around the area as oil will be forced out the opening.
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Old 05-24-2014, 04:20 PM   #12
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Hi,

Your description says that you do not need to take the engine out. Yet the one photo you show is with the engine out. Did you remove the engine?
Hi, that photo was one I pulled off the internet. I did not remove my engine.
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Old 05-24-2014, 04:24 PM   #13
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<<<@!1!@>>>

Thanks! I was driving home and when I pulled into my driveway, it sounded like this (no check engine lights or warning):


Last edited by mkongsiri; 05-24-2014 at 04:35 PM.
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Old 05-24-2014, 04:34 PM   #14
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My 05 A6 3.2 just started acting up.. Loud diesel sound. How long before i need to change the tensioner?
If it's making noise, it's not tensioning the chain properly. If it's only at cold start and goes away, you may have some time but your guess is as good as mine! I've read alot of people continuing to drive with it like that. The chain will most likely eventually jump the cam sprockets and you'll end up bending some valves.
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Old 05-27-2014, 06:10 AM   #15
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Ok guys quick question. If I mark the chain and the exact sprocket tooth on the cam then remove the tensioner and replace it, would I be able to get away with not buying the cam locking tool thing. What do you guys think? Figured by marking it I could put the chain right back where it was.
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Old 05-27-2014, 06:16 AM   #16
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Ok guys quick question. If I mark the chain and the exact sprocket tooth on the cam then remove the tensioner and replace it, would I be able to get away with not buying the cam locking tool thing. What do you guys think? Figured by marking it I could put the chain right back where it was.
Really bad idea. when you try removing/installing the came adjuster bolts the cams are going to move all over the place. The locks hold the cams in place when applying torque to undo/tighten bolts. The cam adjuster sprockets aren't indexed so they do not lock into any specific position on the cam. The $150 for the tool set is going to save you alot of time and headache in the end. Just resell them on ebay when you're done with them.
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Old 05-27-2014, 03:28 PM   #17
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Really bad idea. when you try removing/installing the came adjuster bolts the cams are going to move all over the place. The locks hold the cams in place when applying torque to undo/tighten bolts. The cam adjuster sprockets aren't indexed so they do not lock into any specific position on the cam. The $150 for the tool set is going to save you alot of time and headache in the end. Just resell them on ebay when you're done with them.
Ok thankyou I will take your advice and buy the tool. Also was wondering if the valve timing actuator could be the culprit, because the chain seems very tight on the tensioner but I had NO check engine light on. Oh and if I'm doing driver side bank only do I need to lock the cams on passinger side too? Because I have not taken valve cover off on passinger side.
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Old 05-27-2014, 03:50 PM   #18
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I have a set, brand new and unused, if you want to buy just the cam tools.

I bought these first, but then opted for a full kit.


You can have mine for $100.
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Old 05-27-2014, 04:53 PM   #19
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Ok thankyou I will take your advice and buy the tool. Also was wondering if the valve timing actuator could be the culprit, because the chain seems very tight on the tensioner but I had NO check engine light on. Oh and if I'm doing driver side bank only do I need to lock the cams on passinger side too? Because I have not taken valve cover off on passinger side.
If you're only doing the drivers side, you can lock only those cams. I didn't get a check engine light either on mine. I noticed that when I first opened it up and started figuring all of this out, my chain was also tight. But I'd run the engine for a few seconds to make sure and I could hear it was definitely the side I was working on. Then I'd check the chain and it would flop around. I'd run it again and it would be tight, it was kind of random. I think the hydraulic piston can holding enough pressure against the strength of your hand but it bleeds out when subjected to the force of the running engine. The easiest way is to just install the new tensioner and see if it fixes it, if not, return it. If your engine sounds like the one in the video, it's definitely either the drivers or passenger tensioner. The chain tensioner is purely hydraulic and separate from variable timing actuator.

Last edited by mkongsiri; 05-27-2014 at 04:56 PM.
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Old 05-27-2014, 04:57 PM   #20
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If you're only doing the drivers side, you can lock only those cams.
I'd lock both sides to keep the engine at tdc when you have one bank apart.
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Old 05-27-2014, 04:57 PM
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