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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm dealing with the belt tensioner in my 94 GL with a 3.8L engine. I've never worked on this part before, so I'm unfamiliar with what I'm supposed to be seeing. I'm replacing the belt, which snapped (luckily after my brother drove the car away from home only a few hundred feet--he did a U-turn and came right back), either because the tensioner is seized up, or because the AC compressor pulley isn't rotating, causing friction and wear on the belt for some time (I'll be dealing with the stuck compressor too, so it doesn't continue to stick).

I want to test if the tensioner is working. I don't have a tensioner tool or a breaker bar (though if necessary I'll borrow the proper tool from Autozone), so I can't make use of the square hole on the far side of the end of the tensioner arm, so I'm using hand tools at the moment. So far, I've tried one of the recommended methods, which is to rotate a box wrench clockwise on the bolt head on the pulley, until the tensioner arm moves towards the front of the car. I've tried this, but the tensioner arm doesn't budge, and the bolt head continues to rotate slightly, in a way that makes me think if I try harder, it will snap off. Next I inserted a long wooden pole under the tensioner pulley, and rested the other end of the pole against the car's frame above the headlight, and pushed down on that end of the pole, but the tensioner arm still didn't budge, but I don't know if it's supposed to budge when pushed on at that angle, from below. Next, I inserted the handle of a socket wrench between the tensioner mount and the piece that extends out the back of the pulley mount (where the square hole is located), and pushed down on the wrench handle, and the tensioner rotated very slightly (maybe a sixteenth of an inch or less), so it's not completely seized, but I don't know how difficult it's supposed to be to rotate a tensioner this way.

Does anyone know? If it should be easier to rotate the tensioner using these methods, then should I assume it's seized?

Anticipating that the tensioner might be seized and need to be replaced, I've tried removing the whole assembly, but the bolt in the center of the mount point won't budge either (though so far, I've only used a socket wrench, not a breaker bar or impact wrench). I've sprayed bolt-loosening liquid behind the bolt head, and let it sit for 24 hours, but that hasn't helped.

My Taurus's belt tensioner is different from those on 3.0, etc. engines--for one thing, its mounting bolt (there's only one) has a regular head, instead of a Torx T50 head, so maybe at least on that score, I'm lucky. It's also mounted horizontally on the left side of the front of the engine, not vertically in the middle of the engine as in later models/other engines.

Here's a picture of my car's tensioner (the pulley is covered with a thick layer of rubber, burned off of the belt, probably due to the stuck AC compressor pulley--at the very least, I'll be replacing the tensioner pulley and the compressor or/and its clutch):
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sounds like the tensioner is seized. be careful tho that could be big trouble if u break that off
Yes, I was pretty concerned about that, though if I'd broken off the tensioner pulley bolt head, it might have been somewhat easy to remove the threaded portion of the bolt that would remain, using a screw extractor.

But it turns out I didn't have to do that. About an hour ago, I decided to remove the tensioner pulley alone, in case the tensioner is working (I decided to be optimistic instead of pessimistic). Its bolt came out, and the pulley came off easily. Then I decided to try making use of that square hole on the far side of the end of the tensioner arm, inserting a socket wrench without a socket (just its half-inch socket mounting stub) into the hole, and pulling the wrench clockwise towards the front of the car. That worked--I was able to turn the tensioner about a quarter-inch. I wanted to see if I could turn it further, but to do that I needed more leverage than the socket wrench gave me--I needed a metal pipe to fit over the socket wrench's handle to make a cheater bar. I glanced into the garage, and saw a floor jack whose handle is divided in two, with the upper half being a pipe removable by undoing a bolt. I fit the jack handle over the wrench handle, and it allowed me to rotate the tensioner about three-quarters of an inch. I'll accept that as proof that the tensioner is probably OK (unless someone tells me differently).

Next steps: removing and replacing the pulleys on the alternator and the power steering fluid pump, since they also have a thick buildup of burned belt rubber--not as bad as the tensioner pulley (whose ribs are also partially melted, since the part is plastic), but still not something I want to leave as-is. Removing these isn't a simple matter of just removing a bolt, but I'm hopeful that just carefully wrestling with them will get them off.

Then I've got to figure out why the compressor pulley is frozen. I'm thinking of removing just the compressor clutch first (supposedly easier to remove than the entire compressor) and replacing it and seeing if that's all that's wrong with the compressor, but from what I understand, if the clutch goes bad, it's often likely the compressor has too.
 
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