How to Remove a Vehicle's Idler Pulley

A vehicle’s idler pulley is the one responsible for the routing of the drive-belt along the different engine accessories, such as the air conditioner, alternator and power steering. If this pulley is damaged, it may cause the belt riding on it to get damaged and also affect other engine accessory functions. It should be replaced quickly in order for your car to run at its optimum level. Removing an idler pulley requires some simple tools and a lot of patience, since the degree of difficulty in removing it depends on each car model.

Tools and Materials

  • Car Manual
  • Socket Set
  • Open-End Combination Wrench Set
  • Car Jack
  • Screwdriver Set

Step 1: Locate the Idler Pulley

Open your car’s hood and look for the idler pulley. It is usually found on the side of the engine and is at the bottom of the drive-belt system which includes the alternator, air conditioning compressor, etc. If you can find these engine components, you will most likely see a belt running on them. If you’ve seen the belt, you will see the idler at the bottom.

Step 2: Remove Tire and Fender Lining

In order to access the idler pulley, some cars require that one of the front tires and the fender lining on that side be removed. If so, use the jack to lift the car and remove the tire. Remove the clips holding the fender lining to the chassis using a flat-head screwdriver. Remove the fender lining and you should now be able to access the idler pulley and tensioner pulley. You will have to access it from underneath so be careful while operating in this position. Make sure that the jack is firmly in place.

Step 3: Remove Drive Belt

If there is a belt tensioner pulley, you will need to access it first before you can remove the belt. The belt tensioner pulley is responsible for keeping the drive belt tight and with the right tension. An open end or square-end wrench set will usually be able to turn the square drive at the bottom of the tensioner, which will allow enough movement for the belt. This will loosen the belt a bit and you will be able to take it off the most accessible pulley, usually the alternator. However, if there is no tensioner pulley, you will be able to loosen the belt by simply loosening the alternator and moving it down a bit to release the tension on the belt. Once you’ve loosened the belt, don’t remove it all the way unless absolutely necessary. If you can access the idler pulley without having to remove it, just let it dangle in the engine. This will make it easier for you to return it later.

Step 4: Remove the Idler Pulley

Once you’ve located the idler pulley, get your wrench set and remove the bolt in the middle of the pulley. Once the pulley is free from the bolt, carefully pull it off and remove it from the engine. Be careful not to drag the drive belt along with the idler pulley when you remove it.