Jump to content

Sign in to follow this  

3.5L timing belt and water pump replacement

Recommended Posts

I haven't seen much in the way of more involved repair walkthroughs on forums for Journeys, so after replacing the timing belt and water pump on the wife's car I figured I'd write one to benefit others in the future. 


It is a significant savings to do this job yourself, and not terribly difficult if you've ever changed an alternator or other minor mechanical work. 


Background: The wife messaged me at work that the Journey was making a funny sound. I drove it and heard nothing. It would seemingly come and go at will. It turned out to the timing belt tensioner had disintegrated. The internals were just floating around behind the timing cover. The front metal plate that at one time held the bearings was laying against the crank pulley when I opened it up, the rear plate was chewed up and mangled, and the bearings we're distributed at random throughout.


The job requires few specialty tools, which if you do not currently own, will potentially save you money down the road and, even if you must purchase them all at the time of the job, will still come out cheaper than paying a mechanic, or worse the dealership.


Job could take anywhere from a few hours for someone with experience to a full day, so set aside some time if this is your first time doing it. Apologies for the lengthy read, but I tried to be as descriptive as possible. Unfortunately I did not think to take photos while I was doing it.



What you need:

- Timing belt
- Tensioner Pulley
- Water Pump
- Hydraulic Tensioner


Required tools:

- Harmonic Balancer Puller ($30 or so on Amazon)
- E12 external torx socket (try to find as short of a socket as possible, there is not a lot of space to work)
- T40 torx socket (again, shortest possible is better. Walmart used to carry a set made by Great Neck which were much shorter than any others I own. They're not great tools, but the bolt it will be used on does not require a lot of torque)
- 10mm box wrench and socket
- 13mm box wrench and socket
- 15mm box wrench and socket
- 16mm box wrench and socket
- 18mm box wrench and socket
- 24mm socket
- 1/2" Impact wrench
- 3/8" ratchet
- Flathead screwdriver
- Hammer
- Pliers
- Jack
- Jackstands
- small piece of wood (6" 2x4, 6" 1x4, small cube of plywood etc.)
- shallow fluid catch pan

Optional tools ( but good to have):

- Slim head ratchet
- Paint pen, nail polish, white out or other marking device that works on rubber, steel and aluminum.
- Spring clamp


Start by parking on a flat level surface, with the vehicle in park, parking break set, and place wheel chocks in front and back of the rear wheels. 


Jack the vehicle up and place your jackstands. Check to make sure the jackstand feet are all touching the ground and that the vehicle is securely supported by them.


Remove the passenger wheel, and plastic belly pan if installed (Ours hasn't had the belly pan since we've owned it).


Lower your Jack and move it underneath the engine on the passenger side. Place your block of wood between the oil pan and the Jack and raise it until it is just touching the oil pan.


You can follow the recommended procedure for draining the coolant now, or... Just place your catch pan under the lower radiator hose and pull the lower hose off. 


While that is draining, remove the 2 13mm bolts holding the coolant reservoir in place, and the 1 13mm bolt holding the power steering reservoir. Lift the coolant reservoir and using your pliers, slide the clamps holding the lines back and remove the lines. Bend the lines out of the way and set the reservoir to the side. Thread the bolts back into their holes so they do not get misplaced.


Remove the 3 18mm bolts and 2 10mm bolts holding the upper right engine mount. Set it to the side and lay the bolts in the holes so they do not get misplaced.


Slide underneath the vehicle and remove the 2 long 18mm bolts holding the front lower center engine mount. Remove the rubber grommets, place them on the bolts and set the bolts in a location where they will not lost. You can remove the 4 or 5 bolts in the rear of the mount as well to allow more movement, but in my experience it wasn't necessary.


Using a 15mm box wrench lift the serpentine belt tensioner and remove the serpentine belt. Loosen the 15, or 16mm bolt that holds the tensioner arm in place. It only needs to come out enough to allow the alignment tab to be pulled out, and the tensioner arm pivoted up and down.


Remove the serpentine belt idler pulley.

Remove the 5 10mm bolts and 1 13mm bolt from the cast aluminum timing inspection cover. Place it to the side and lay the bolts in the holes so they do not get misplaced.


With your impact, remove the 18mm bolt securing the harmonic balancer to the crankshaft. Remove two of the small silver pivot bolts from your puller and attach the puller to the harmonic balancer. Slide the longer of the two rods into the puller bolt, grease the threads of the puller bolt, and thread it into the puller. Make sure the rod slides into the cavity on the crankshaft. Use a 24mm socket and your impact to remove the harmonic balancer. Set the harmonic balancer to the side and lubricate and thread the 18mm bolt back into the crankshaft. It only has to be flush with the crank gear and hand tight at this point, but you are going to be using it to turn the crank later.


From here in you will begin having to raise and lower the Jack supporting the engine periodically to create space to work.


Remove the 3 E12 external torx bolts from the power steering pump and slide it towards the front of the engine bay.

Remove the (I forget how many) 10mm bolts, use a deep 15mm socket or box wrench to remove the nut over the stud, and use your T40 socket to remove the one bolt that was behind the serpentine belt tensioner from the timing cover

Slide the timing cover over the stud and wiggle it out through the top. You may need to adjust the engine position to create space to get it out, be careful not to bend the cover.


With all of the timing belt components in place, rotate the crank shaft by hand until the arrow on the back of the crank pulley lines up with the arrow on the engine. Do not confuse the arrow on the back of the pulley with the notch on the face of the pulley. 


Check your cam gear to see if the lines on the cam gears line up with the marks on the bracket. If no lines are visible by the marks, look at the bottom of the pulleys, they are likely 180 degrees out. If that is the case, rotate the crank once more by hand until all marks line up.


At this point I like to use some brake cleaner and an air hose to clean everything up and blow any debris out. In my case the tensioner pulley had grenaded and the ball bearings as well as various other particles we're scattered throughout. Make sure you get everything cleaned out, so it doesn't end up damaging your new belt or components.


I also like to use a paint pen to clearly mark the timing marks so they are easy to identify.


Remove the 2 13mm bolts holding the tensioner in place and slide it towards the axleshaft and out of it's hole and discard. Remove the old timing belt and discard.


Place your new water pump face up  on a level surface. Remove (again, I forget how many) 10mm bolts securing the water pump. The bolts are two different lengths, so as you remove them from the old water pump, place them in the corresponding hole on the new water pump so you can keep track of where they go. 


Using a Flathead screwdriver and a hammer, gently tap the screwdriver under the face of the water pump and rotate it to pry the water pump free. Be careful not to mar the mounting surface on the engine. If you create a small bur, one the engine face you can use the hammer and screwdriver to tap it flat again, you just want the mounting surface to be clean, flat, and free from defects.


Place the old water pump next to the new one and transfer the bolts into their corresponding holes.


Check that the gasket for the new  water pump is firmly in place. Put the new water pump in place and finger tighten the bolts until they are snug. I could not find a specific order to tighten the bolts, but you want to jump around as you tighten them, criss crossing over the pump pulley. Do not start from one and go clockwise/counterclockwise. You want an even force to be applied so the gasket seals properly.


Remove the 15 or 16mm bolt holding the tensioner pulley to the tensioner arm. Install the new pulley.


Install the timing belt. Starting at the crank, I like to push a 1/4" ratchet handle to keep tension on the belt and pulley. Doesn't have to be wedged in hard, just enough to keep the teeth in place so they don't slip. 


Next slip the belt over the front pulley (right as you are facing it). You may have to rotate it clockwise slightly with an 18mm wrench when you slip the belt on and then push it counterclockwise to take up the slack. Just keep a controlled grip on the wrench and make slight adjustments. 


If you have some small spring clips you can use then here to keep the belt from sliding off of the cam gear or changing position, it doesn't have to be strong, in fact you want it to be a light grip to keep from damaging the cam gears which can be brittle, just enough to keep the teeth engaged.


When the belt is in place with slack taken up, slide it under the water pump pulley and over the rear (left as you are facing it) cam pulley. 


Slide the new hydraulic tensioner into place and lubricate and hand thread the bolts enough to get them started. You may need to adjust the grenade pin slightly, if it is pushed through and sticking out of the rear of the tensioner it will not be able to fit through the hole.

Slip the belt over the tensioner pulley and tighten the tensioner bolts just enough that you can still slide the belt off of the tensioner pulley.


Using a paint pen or other marking device, mark the cam pulleys and belt at a tooth location that will not be confused with the timing marks.


Tighten the tensioner bolts and check timing mark alignment. If anything has shifted, take note of how far off it is (1 tooth, 2teeth, etc)  slack the bolts and adjust belt position accordingly using the marks you made.


When the tensioner is firmly bolted in place and all marks line up correctly, remove the grenade pin. Check timing marks again. If they are not lined up, remove the tensioner and compress it using a vise or large c-clamp and reinstall the pin.


If all of your marks line up, place a 18mm wrench on the crank bolt and rotate the crank by hand for two full turns. Check your timing marks again. If they are off, remove the tensioner as described above and start over. If they line up correctly you are done.


Reassemble timing covers etc in reverse order. Refill coolant, purge air and the job is done.


I was unable to find torque specs specifically for the Journey, but did find some other vehicles that came with the 3.5L which had torque specs posted. 


I know there are some YouTube videos covering this procedure, but the videos tend to jump from step to step and I like having a written procedure to reference.


Edited by JDennis
Cleaning up and adding notes

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm on the fence about recommending OEM parts for the job. In all of my years working on cars I've never personally seen a tensioner pulley come apart like that... 


I would however recommend purchasing quality parts from a reputable manufacturer at your own discretion, and purchasing all of the parts listed, as it is a time consuming job, a bit of a PITA because there's not much room to work, and you only want to do it once rather than keep going back to replace those parts you opted not to change.


Optionally you may wish to add cam and crank seals to your list. My wife's Journey was bone dry behind the timing cover, and I've never seen those seals leak enough to be of consequence. In my own experience, by the time they need replacing the engine will likely be due for a rebuild or the scrapyard.

Edited by JDennis
Spelling/ Phone autocorrect

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm surprised the the camshaft didnt skip and ruin a few valves in the process....guess you were lucky

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Both cams were off one tooth. Timing belt had two small vertical cuts on opposing ends about 10mm from the edge but otherwise in good condition. Tensioner outter ring was still riding on the inner, so maybe 8mm shorter? But the tensioner was now fully extended so maybe slightly less difference under no load or light load. Was enough to keep it going after failure, but if it went on any longer it'd be toast.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

110k, it was due. Also swapped the fuel pump module out today to fix the fuel level sending unit.


Messed with the original unit once I had it out to see why it quit working. The ground wire had an open... Was just insulation holding it to the terminal. They also didn't bother to actually strip any wire when they crimped the connectors on. 


Doesn't much surprise me since one of the coolant fittings was only screwed in hand tight as well and backed out.


figure I'll rewire the old unit, solder the connections and keep it as a spare.


of note, the replacement module I got was molded differently. The alignment tab was slightly counterclockwise of where it should be, and the locking tabs for the plug we're not placed correctly.


being as I was already knee deep in it, I trimmed to fit and drove on.


car is check engine light free again for the time being.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this