~DIY~ What the Hell is That Noise? ~ Diagnose and Repair an Idler Pulley ~ Father & Son

in diy •  7 months ago 

Do you ever start your vehicle and hear a little chirp chirp like the sound of a little bird? What about a horrific Squeeling sound that sends shivers up your spine? Or possibly make your eardrums bleed? Okay it might not be that bad but it will definitely make you wonder...

What the hell is that awful noise!

Father and Son Replace idler pulley

Most of today’s vehicles are super quiet inside. Dang near sound proof. They are so quiet you can barely hear the engine running let alone a siren behind us. Most of us just jump in, start it up, and take off. Then wonder why you are getting funny looks from the car next to you or the 75 year old man speed walking, who came to a screeching halt to stare at your noisy car. Your car is chirpin’ like a bird or squeelin’ like a pig and you have your stereo cranked up and you can’t hear a thing. Everyone seems to be in such a hurry that they fail to do the simple things to keep their car running and avoid a breakdown in a bad part of the neighborhood or out in the middle of nowhere.

One simple thing you can do is, start your car, get out and listen to what the engine sounds like. Do that a few times and you will train your ear to know what you vehicle is suppose to sound like. Well unless your car is jacked up already then... ummm ya you got issues. But if it is a good running vehicle, you will know when something is going bad or something is wrong just by the sound it is making. They all have a nice rhythm when they are running. Some slight ticking noises, blowing sounds from a fan, you can pick all these sounds out if you just take a second and listen.

Parts wear out, bearings fail, and things just flat out break. So when Mama Splatts started up her Lincoln Navigator and @lil-splatts told me it was making some funny chirping noise I figure I had better go check it out. I tell you what, it sure is nice having a son on top of things like that. Just like the time when Mama Splatts put gasoline into our Diesel Ford Excursion. Right after she started it up she said,

“Oh Crap, I put gasoline in it!”
My son yelled from the back seat,
“Turn it off!! Turn it off!!”

That quick thinking by my son saved us from some very very expensive repairs let’s just say that. So whenever he raises an eyebrow to an odd sound I tend to listen up. Sure enough there was a little birdie chirping under the hood of Mama Splatts’ car. Typically this is from a pulley or even the serpentine belt. To find out if it is a pulley or if it is the belt is a whole different story. Shoot even being able to see the belt is a bit of a challenge on some of these newer vehicles. I mean this 2005 Lincoln Navigator wouldn’t be considered “Newer” by some standards but hey

To think, it has only gotten worse

Alright, now that we have located the belt and we can see most of the pulleys we need to determine which pulley it is. There is a A/C pulley, crank shaft pulley, idler pulleys, tensioner pulley, power steering pulley.... it could be any of those.

Now we don’t want to go and just start changing out parts hoping for the best, nor do we want to wait and let this high pitch chirp become something bigger. Like the near catastrophic incident we avoided when towing my camp trailer a couple years ago. This 3.5 inch metal pulley could have be launched into my engine compartment due to a failed bearing.

We don’t want that to happen again!

Could you imagine that bearing playing Plinko inside the engine compartment?? Total mayhem and distruction...

So we aren’t just going to “Guess and Check” our way to fixing this problem or just let it develop. That could take forever and cost a bit more money than we want to. Also a few more busted knuckles too considering these tight spaces we are working in.

Start the car and pop the hood. Take off any big plastic covers that could possibly deflect the sound you are looking for. With this one I can tell that it is coming from one of the pulleys on the driver side of the vehicle. There are a few different pulleys over there so this is how we are going to narrow it down and find out exactly which one it is.


Yep, good ol’ WD-40 is gonna do wonders for us on this one. Especially with that nice straw on the end. While @lil-splatts was in getting some warm clothes on, I began to work on finding the squeaky pulley.

Shut the engine off. Trust me, you don’t want to accidentally hit your hand on the fan or attempt to spray WD-40 with the engine running. It’s pretty windy under there and it will go everywhere. So spray the inner portion of one pulley then start the engine back up.


Simply listen to see if the squeak or squeal has stopped. If you still hear it, shut off the engine and spray another.


Keep doing this until the squeak or chirp stops. You just need a tiny bit and try not get it on the surface of any of the pullies. Lucky for us it is just an idler pulley and not the power steering pump pulley or A/C compressor pulley. The idler pulley is just there as a way to guide the belt in the right direction.

In order to get the idler pulley changed we need to gather up a couple tools and remove the belt.

  • 1/2 drive ratchet or breaker bar
  • 3/8 drive ratchet
  • 13mm socket

First off we need to remove the belt. Locate the tensioner pulley. The pulley will be mounted on some sort of spring loaded arm and not attached to any sort of pump. It should also have a square hole in the end close to the pulley.


Now this is where @lil-splatts comes into play. As I pull back on the tensioner pulley, creating slack in the belt. He sticks his little skinny hands in there and slides the belt off of the pulley. You can do this by yourself but why, when you have a helper. It is always a good idea to draw out the path of the belt in order to make sure you get it back on correctly on a piece of paper.

Now that the belt is off of the pulley, we can remove the pulley using the 13mm socket.

Remove the old pulley and install the new. It’s that easy... just look... it’s... that... easy...

It’s a tight fit in there but he was up for the challenge :wink:wink I couldn’t fit my arms in there without removing the whole intake and possibly some other stuff but the boy has this one in the bag

Look at that nice new shiny pulley

Now all that is left to do is get the belt back into place. I can’t stress enough to double and triple check that the belt is on correctly. Not just the path that the belt travels but also that the grooves are lined up on the grooved pullies. No I have never misaligned a belt and shredded it... nope never... not me... not I... never done that... not once... but maybe twice....


Once you are satisfied with the placement of the belt, start up the engine and enjoy not hearing any squeaks, squeals or chirps. Let the engine run for a bit with the hood popped up just to make sure you have solved the problem and your belt isn’t going to shred.

Another possible catastrophe avoided by doing some simple maintenance. A big thanks to my son @lil-splatts for helping me with this project. 1/2 of this post payout is going to his account. I believe in giving credit where it is due.

Great job Son


Until Next Time...

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Your son seems to be up for every challenge. You not being able to get your hands in such a tight spot and also not being able to get a good look at what needs to be worked on seems to be par for the course when working on automobiles. Besides not knowing what the heck I'm doing when it comes to automotive repairs, these two factors make it so I don't even want to try.

@farm-mom has an ear for the sounds coming from her car. A couple of weeks ago she mentioned that she was hearing a funny sound. Not driving her car with any regularity I was not sure what I was listening for. She insisted that the car was making a new sound, so we brought it into the shop. Sure enough there was a small leak in the flex tubes that come from the motor and lead to the exhaust system. As I paid the $475.00 I thought, man I wish I knew what the heck I'm doing and I could once again have saved a small fortune.

YouTube... YouTube. I am telling you, when I get in a bind and just can’t forgive something out. Generally I can search YouTube and find the answer.
She had as exhaust leak, lemme guess the flex pipes rusted out? They salt the road there pretty heavily don’t they? I know my truck was a California truck and had 0 rust. One winter here with them spraying that de-icer crap and it turned into what looks like a rust bucket. I was PISSED!!! My 1997 diesel now has.... wait I am gonna call it...patina There I feel better now.

The boy still whines and complains a bit but when I was that age I did the same thing. Probably worse. Lol. Wrenching definitely tests your patients and you realize there are some positions that your fingers just don’t work well in. 😉

Never hesitate to shoot me a message on discord if you have any questions about vehicle stuff or anything else. I still have those hats BTW my plan is to get them sent off this weekend.

Flex pipes, that's what you call them, not cheap to replace.
The road department here does a bang up job.
They have those huge double plows that can move mountains of snow in one pass.
They use no salt on the roads, just sand and that is a great thing. The dirt roads play enough havoc with farm-mom's car without salt being applied to the roads every other day.
Kids wouldn't be kids without a little whimpering now and then.
When my son @ryan313 was a kid, we nicknamed him Cryin Ryan, and we still tease him about that to this day.
Thanks for the offer to help, but with my total lack of knowledge and skills in this area it would be like instructing a fish to fly.

farm-mom did a fff post recently when we ate at Star Buffet after picking up some flooring from lumber Liquidators.

My entry for this week's #fff post will come from the same joint.
Not in as good of a mood this time around while eating at the place, and it had nothing to do with the food, farm-mom's car is at it again. 😢

Those snow plows are impressive!! Those run in the mountain passes around here. We have been getting quite a bit of rain down here in the valley. The fog has been thick so I haven’t been able to look up into the Blue Mountains to see if the white stuff had fallen.

Kids won’t be kids if they didn’t whine and complain. Yep... I was guilty of that!! My parents would bribe my with a $0.50 pack of baseball cards if I didn’t ask, “Are we there yet?” On a road trip.

I missed last week and honestly have no idea about this week. I have just been busy, and have had a lot of other “stuff” to think about. My Dad did his first round of Immuno-therapy the other day. It’s purpose is to kill white blood cells since that is all he has in his blood. He got diagnosed with some form of leukemia about 7 years ago and just of recent they determine it was time to get to work. He had been able to keep certain levels in his blood at bay by just using natural supplements and a slight change in diet. He is doing really well and said he will probably kick back for a day or so but he has Christmas lights to hang on the house. Hahahah Yep, I am his son for sure. Lol

Your ninja-pulley-squeak-stopping skills are strong. Lol.

Most people wouldn't be able to work on a car in this way. I guess through lack of skill or tools, or because they make them so damned complicated these days.

Good joint effort here. Nice work.

I have gained a bit of patients and a few... tools over the years. They cram so much stuff into these engine compartments it’s insane!! IIRC my dad was telling me on a certain year of ford truck it took approximately 2 hours just to get to the serpentine belt to remove it.

He has been doing a great job at giving me a hand with removing parts from our parts truck and repairing others. Soon I will have him doing oil changes 😉

It's so good that you're teaching him, plus doing this stuff together. I'm not a parent, but I think this stuff doesn't happen so much. Not like it used to when I was a kid anyway. Good work!

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