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Sound travels seven time faster through metal than air, won't even begin to guess, but with problems like this, get out my stethoscope.

By any chance, and just a wild guess, is your tensioner pulley jumping around when that noise is present?
 

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Check engine light off? At idle, tach running smooth? Being there makes a huge difference. was riding in the back seat of my kids car, started making weird noises, said you have water in your gas. Run smooth for awhile, then misfire. An example of an erratic problem. Stop at a gas station and put a can of Seafoam in the tank, helped a little, but cleared up.

Can be some weird stuff, loose piece of sheet metal someplace, recall a loose bell housing bolt, also quite erratic, can vary also with temperature. Is the fan coming on?
 

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New tension pulley runs around 33 bucks, can be tested with a torque wrench, should work smooth with around 100 ft lbs of torque.



But can be either the culprit or the victim, harmonic balance, AC compressor, alternator, and the water pump that is all that is driven. Can say goodbye to the power steering pump on the Cruze, all electric.

Radiators have been a problem since day one, going back more than a hundred years on this, they are bug collectors. Compounded by adding a condenser in front of it with a side effect of an overheating engine. Cussing out my Cruze in this respect, worse vehicle I have ever owned to access the condenser, have to clean it from underneath.

With restricted airflow, compressor pressures skyrocket on the high side putting a lot more strain on the drive belt that can be reflected in the tensioner pulley. Can also be a poor bearing the compressor idler pulley or any other pulley in these crazy single belt drive systems. Most important is keeping the water pump running. A ton of engine heads have cracked ever since they came out with this BS. But hey, you only have one belt to change. Only AH's make this statement.

Then making limited lubricated ball bearing in China, but feel over the years, doing a bit better. Nobody made better ball bearing than the US and going back over 75 years on this subject. One pulley goes bad and you are stranded, not a good idea, never was, and never will be.

Insect buildup problems on the condenser were never solved. On other vehicles installed a fiberglass screen angled downward, easy to brush off where the larger bugs fall off. Also prevents a stone from knocking a hole in your condenser, $$$$ when this happens, in particular with R-134a. Entire system has to be flushed to do it right. And doing it right is rare nowadays.

Ha, you got me started.
 

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Would also Look some R-134a gauges to the AC ports and take a look at those pressures.

What does your condenser look like, can you see light through it. Just in case you don't know what it is, is that thingy in front front of the radiator. Can view it through the front grille with a trouble light.
 

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NickD,

That's something additional to lookout for, right? Not related to the tensioner? Why do you think the tension pulley only makes the noise sometimes?
Not thinking, but knowing, single drive belt systems have been around for about 30 years now. Like a rope in series with a spring tied between two tree. Hang an excessive load on that rope can exceed the force on that spring, it will stretch as will the tensioner spring. Compressor loads are not constant, more like pulse loads, but not put stress on the tensioner, but any other sheave in the system as well.

Excessive loads caused by either the compressor or the alternator can also damage the water pump bearings causing leaks. So with water pump problems, may not be the water pump, but its the victim of other devices in the system causing excessive loads on the series system. And replacing the water pump is not the solution, the new water pump will see the same stresses.

Very common knowledge in the engineering field dating back more than a couple of hundred years. This is why all vehicles were using multiple drive belts. Heck my 1973 Fleetwood had five belts, P-30 has three and so does my 88 Supra, to isolate these loads, but all common to the harmonic balancer drive source.

So why did they develop the single drive belt system? Only one reason, its cheaper. But if that one belt breaks, kills the entire system. Did have a bearing seize up on my idler driving the compressor that only broke its own belt. Still had the alternator, fan, and water pump working just fine. Just lost AC, but still could keep on driving.

But if that belt breaks in a single drive system, you are screwed to the wall, very stupid idea. You can be stranded in ice cold conditions and die because of this. And some have.

The tensioner can be tested for smooth operation with a torque wrench in two seconds, yet another problem is it pulley with a limited lubricated ball bearing that can seize. This can be replaced separately for ten bucks.

Do you want to learn more stupid changes? Going to hear them anyway, the switch from R-12 to R-134a that was never proven to deplete the ozone layer. Automotive use of R-12 was less than 2% of the entire CFC production, rest was used for worthless stuff. The difference? R-12 pressures increase at a linear rate with temperature whereas R-134a increases at an exponential pressure rate with temperature. A plugged condenser causes extremely high pressures that put severe loads on this single drive belt system. And really augmented by ambient temperatures as well.

Can be a key reason why your tensioner is jumping. Another stupid change is on the harmonic balancer the drive pulley. Some instead of using a solid pulley elected to split that pulley separated by a piece of rubber. Their reason, to cut engine noise by one db or so. But that rubber hardens, breaks, so while the inner section is spinning, the outer remains stationary.

All the ball bearings in the driven components can be replaced, GM made this extra difficult by using an interference fit on the compressor idler pulley to save a 2 cent retainer ring. So far, four different special tools are needed over the years, can't even use the same tool. Then that pulley can shift causing gap changes of either the clutch is burning up by rubbing or has excessive gap so it won't even energize. Stupid, shims were used for years.

Water pump always has been a throwaway item, can't lubricate it, just a bronze bearing with an inner seal on it. Could have made this part separate so that is all that had to be replaced.

So if you are wondering why we are having problems, this is some of the reason, always a reason. And if the idiot cannot determine the cause of the problem, just throwing parts at it costing you a small fortune.

Ha, you got me started again.
 

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How is this for a belt routing diagram?


5 is the tensioner, 8 an idler, 2 the water pump on a 98 Ford ZX2, a FWD 4 cylinder jammed to the sidewall with only about an inch of clearance to work on.

This one used the clock spring type tension, no under engine cover where road salt could splash causing causing severe corrosion so the tensioner was partially seized. That snapping action took out the water pump bearing so that had to be replaced, two studs broke off holding the pump. Started this job at 8:00AM on a Saturday morning, was done at midnight.

A main attraction for me buying the Cruze, did have a under engine cover, then they wanted to butcher it. That linear spring on the Cruze is new to me so really don't have an experience with it. But does seem it needs some form of lubrication. at least to retard corrosion.

At our airport on an aircraft engine, doesn't have all this extra crap like the AC compressor, power steering pump, and water pump, air cooled. So the alternator was gear driven from the engine. A two buck bearing in the alternator seized that caused his crankcase to crack. Maybe not a good idea either to get rid of that belt, his repair bill was $40,000.00.
 
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