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Well last Wednesday disaster struck and Remelo’s 164 jumped time. Luckily he was quick on the key and appears to have avoided major damage though the full extent will not be known until we can get a compression tester on it. Upon getting it home and torn apart we found the belt noticeably loose between the cam gears with the tensioner base still where it was put after the rebuild. I decided to poke at the pointer with a pair of pliers while it was still on the car and found it easily moved and staying where I moved it to. Out of the car the pointer moves but springs back to its original position. I did notice the first coil on the big spring seems to stick out away from the housing as well. The question is this: has this tensioner failed?




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1991 164L
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Well last Wednesday disaster struck and Remelo’s 164 jumped time. Luckily he was quick on the key and appears to have avoided major damage though the full extent will not be known until we can get a compression tester on it. Upon getting it home and torn apart we found the belt noticeably loose between the cam gears with the tensioner base still where it was put after the rebuild. I decided to poke at the pointer with a pair of pliers while it was still on the car and found it easily moved and staying where I moved it to. Out of the car the pointer moves but springs back to its original position. I did notice the first coil on the big spring seems to stick out away from the housing as well. The question is this: has this tensioner failed?




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Looking at the frontal view picture, it looks like that flat thermal clutch spring has become disconnected from that outer spring. Did end break off there? Usually the outer spring breaks off from pulley eccentric on the back side of pulley but your outer spring looks still attached on the backside. Does inner spring still have strong tension and the pulley pivot freely when you rotate eccentric pointer down with needle nose pliers and release tension? If pointer rotates WAY WAY below pointer reference mark out spring broken or disconnected from thermal flat spring.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Spring is still connected and the eccentric moves freely but it doesn’t feel like it’s under very much tension compared to other cars I’ve worked on. Pointer will rotate about its own width below the mark but on the car would rotate a good 1/2 in under it. If the tensioner is indeed good then where could it have picked up enough slack to jump. It concerns me that the engine has been fine for 6k since the rebuild and just now jumped.



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1991 164L
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I guess then, you need to reset cams and crank to TDC, reinstall belt, remove plugs and do a compression test. Here is hoping your valves were spared.
 

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Well last Wednesday disaster struck and Remelo’s 164 jumped time. Luckily he was quick on the key and appears to have avoided major damage though the full extent will not be known until we can get a compression tester on it. Upon getting it home and torn apart we found the belt noticeably loose between the cam gears with the tensioner base still where it was put after the rebuild. I decided to poke at the pointer with a pair of pliers while it was still on the car and found it easily moved and staying where I moved it to. Out of the car the pointer moves but springs back to its original position. I did notice the first coil on the big spring seems to stick out away from the housing as well. The question is this: has this tensioner failed?




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Which model-year is Remelo
Well last Wednesday disaster struck and Remelo’s 164 jumped time. Luckily he was quick on the key and appears to have avoided major damage though the full extent will not be known until we can get a compression tester on it. Upon getting it home and torn apart we found the belt noticeably loose between the cam gears with the tensioner base still where it was put after the rebuild. I decided to poke at the pointer with a pair of pliers while it was still on the car and found it easily moved and staying where I moved it to. Out of the car the pointer moves but springs back to its original position. I did notice the first coil on the big spring seems to stick out away from the housing as well. The question is this: has this tensioner failed?




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Which model-year 164 is Remelo's car?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
1992 164s. I was worried about putting everything back together if the the tensioner was boned and having it jump while cranking causing more problems. It still doesn’t make sense that the belt slacked off so much as to jump while the tensioner was still set properly


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1992 164s. I was worried about putting everything back together if the the tensioner was boned and having it jump while cranking causing more problems. It still doesn’t make sense that the belt slacked off so much as to jump while the tensioner was still set properly


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OK, install another tensioner with cams and crank set at top dead center #1. Now install belt and set tension so you can turn engine over manually and then do compression test to see if valves OK.
 

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1991 Alfa Romeo 164L 5 speed 3.0 12v
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Man seeing this happen to well maintained well kept cars really scares me, I really like this car, but it scares me. I daily drive a 37 year old car so driving something old doesn’t scare me at all, but it seems like these cars break down a lot, I’m almost afraid to drive it
 

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No, they don't break down a lot. What they require, though, is to be mostly maintained correctly by someone who is properly trained in them. Much maintenance can be done by owners who can wield a wrench, and has the manual, plus visiting the BB of course. A few maintenance areas should be done by those skilled and familiar/trained with the proper procedures.

They also require some sane driving and reasonable environmental protection, not beating them up with careless practices. Very few cars like that. The clutches in our Alfas have each lasted for at least 150k miles before requiring changing. Fast driving, yes, but not beating them. Having said that, though, yes, there are component failures, such as weak door handles, window mechansms, early hvac plastic control gears, Bosch relays, low quality fuel lines including in the fuel pump itself, poor seals in the steering rack, short-lived serp belt OEM idler pulleys.

Example, I've used my 91S (195k miles so far), as well as our previous Alfas, for many thousands of DD miles without major trauma, except for just 4 or 5 disabling occurrences since 1967 in several of them (164 fuel pump internal hose, Sprint GT front suspension bushing tearout, Bosch double relay in the Milano, for a couple), several others which were just my fault, being a little lazy sometimes on easy but needed service. This otherwise very good reliability existed I feel mainly because these cars were maintained and serviced by a verified professional Alfa technician for the major work, and myself for the easy stuff, when I got to it, lol. I have always had the service manuals for each of the cars, and have read through them every few years, just staying familiar with what is in them.

Don't be afraid if them, but pay attention to the required services, the car needs to be put right to start with, and what the car can tell you when being proactive in checking around the car now and then. For instance, every year I go through and lube every joint and hinge in and around the car, just to avoid future problems.
 
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If the engine is rotated backward, slack can be introduced to the timing belt with this tensioner. So the rumor has always been that if the car is left in gear (manual trans) and the car is pushed or rolls, then the engine might turn backwards. Supposedly an auto trans 164 wouldn't have this issue, but a manual trans does. Since the car I owned was a manual trans, I used a Zat fixed tensioner and never worried about it again. An original hydraulic tensioner was immune to this issue as well. I did, put many many miles on the car using the thermo mechanical detensioner, I just never left the car in any forward or reverse gears when I parked. People have strong opinions regarding what tensioner one should use. Personally, my choice in the end, was for a fixed type and never looked back.
Charles
 

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My 91S has used the very same OEM tension since I bought the car w/40k miles on it I suspect. Never been a problem in the following decades. However, I wouldn't be against using a fixed version as some have, such as like you.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
We will be reassembling the car this weekend with the original tensioner to 1. See if it will tension properly and 2. Check the compression. It concerns me that this happened after about 5 miles of city driving when pulling into a parking lot over some speed bumps. Something had to have failed to introduce that slack and so far we’ve come up empty. Most likely it will be getting a new tensioner for peace of mind and will continue down the road no problems. Fickle things cars are


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1991 Alfa Romeo 164L 5 speed 3.0 12v
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Thanks a ton for all the Info! I never thought I’d take on a car more difficult than a Chevy Cotarion in 2021 due to the.fact that those cars have a very small forgotten following, I am a mechanic for a living , I’m going to fix a lot of the smaller issues on this Alfa 164, but I’ve decided I’m going to pay Pino from Mondo Cars about 50 miles from where I live to do the timing belt and water pump. He says he has plenty of rebuilt original style tensioners and he guarantees that if I don’t abuse the car I can get 4 years or 40000 miles out of the belt. He also told me to never drive the car until the engine is somewhat warmed up, Italian engines have small oil ports, I heard Jay Leno say something like that too
 

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I'd just like to chip in on Del's point that these are actually very reliable cars. They are not ordinary cars though so some elements do need specialist knowledge and care - which many garages simply do not posess; such as setting the timing tension and rear tracking. As drivers we need to respect the engines when cold and any warning signs, including temperature and oil pressure. Parts availability can be an issue and worth pre-ordering parts before starting specific jobs as can take a while to obtain them. I spend hours researching/cross-referencing alternative items to find ones that are compatible from other vehicles - most recently the fuel pressure regulator on the 3.0 24v engines; ironically don't have the numbers to hand.
Also need to bear in mind the age of the vehicles and things that might fail due to it - rubber hoses, fuel and water, being an example. No car 20+ years old will be exempt from these things so ignore them at your peril. Other than that, brilliant cars. Don't know about numbers in the US but in the UK there are less than 400 on the road now, which shows how rare they are and explains why even Alfa garages can be unfamiliar with them. My 164 is the the only car I own and even if I win the lottery and become a millionnaire, I'll never sell it.
 

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Day by day, they are disappearing from US roads as well. Every day, there is another 164 being parted out, some totaled, but some others just neglected to the point of basically no return except for the most enthusiastic of 164 fans. Part of the problem is that the large majority of Alfa owners are just not into the 164, preferring what they consider to be older classics. Too bad, as they simply don't know what they are missing with one that runs well and has been taken care of properly.

Since the mid 60's, I've owned and/or driven most of the models which have been available in the US, including several not allowed in, since a 1959 Giulietta Veloce which was raced by a good friend, my introduction to Alfas. I think that the 164, overall, is one of the best all around models that Alfa brought in.
 

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We will be reassembling the car this weekend with the original tensioner to 1. See if it will tension properly and 2. Check the compression. It concerns me that this happened after about 5 miles of city driving when pulling into a parking lot over some speed bumps. Something had to have failed to introduce that slack and so far we’ve come up empty. Most likely it will be getting a new tensioner for peace of mind and will continue down the road no problems. Fickle things cars are


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DROVE over some speed bumps huh? Wonder if engine somehow had a hic up when driving over multiples ones in short order and that is what caused slack in timing belt between the cams. What gear were you in while doing that?
I have been driving 164s since Jan 1991 along with GTV6 and Milano models all with same Busso engine and with mechanical tensioner since 93. Only close call I ever had with time belt was when I had my GTV6 (with mechanical tensioner) on incline in our driveway and in gear and parking brake not set tight enough and it rolled back a few feet. Lucky it only jumped time a few teeth and was able to reset cam timing.

Setting up cam timing using the cam timing template from the pdf link on my maintenance thread is not very hard to do. That template has been a great tool that fellow BB'er Rick designed and shared with us years ago. If using it you do not have to remove valve covers to see timing marks instead you use scribed timing marks on cam hubs once you pop off two round cups on timing belt covers.
 

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1991 164L
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Thanks a ton for all the Info! I never thought I’d take on a car more difficult than a Chevy Citation in 2021 due to the fact that those cars have a very small forgotten following, I am a mechanic for a living , I’m going to fix a lot of the smaller issues on this Alfa 164, but I’ve decided I’m going to pay Pino from Mondo Cars about 50 miles from where I live to do the timing belt and water pump. He says he has plenty of rebuilt original style tensioners and he guarantees that if I don’t abuse the car I can get 4 years or 40000 miles out of the belt. He also told me to never drive the car until the engine is somewhat warmed up, Italian engines have small oil ports, I heard Jay Leno say something like that too
Please Chris, I sent you a PM (now called a Conversation) about how to start your own storyboard thread on your 164L. Having your own thread on your 164L project is far better than various posts mixed in other folks. JUST Click on this link 164 & 168 (1991-1995) | Alfa Romeo Forums (alfabb.com) and go to "start discussion" button upper right hand corner and start your own story board thread on your 164L. It makes is easier to track your progress and assist you with questions about your 164L.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Speedbumps claim to have been taken at less than 10 mph in second gear but clutch was in. Happened after a string of 3 bumps about 150ft apart. Remelo doesn’t drive it hard and is religious on the maintenance so this came as a bit of a surprise. We have the valve covers off since we were looking for jumped rocker arms so timing will be set off the internal marks that were proven accurate during the rebuild. I will update again once we get it back together enough to check compression, home improvement stuff has gotten in the way but hopefully in the next couple days we will know.


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Discussion Starter #19
Good news! Compression all checks out at 150psi +-5. Crisis averted and I think a new tensioner will be ordered this evening.


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Good news! Compression all checks out at 150psi +-5. Crisis averted and I think a new tensioner will be ordered this evening.


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That's good news.
 
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