How to Remove and Replace a Crankshaft Pulley
With the proper tools, removing and replacing a crankshaft pulley is a straightforward process that shouldn't take more than an hour or two if you've had some experience working on a car. While an auto repair shop may charge up to $500 depending on the type of car, if you already have the proper tools, you can save money by buying a new part for $50-200 and installing it yourself.
In this article, we'll cover what a crankshaft pulley is, common issues, how to remove a crankshaft pulley, and how to replace a crankshaft pulley.
What is a Crankshaft Pulley
A crankshaft pulley is a wheel-shaped part with ribbing that attaches to the end of a car's crankshaft and transfers energy to other systems in a car. As with all car parts, a crankshaft pulley can eventually start to break down, usually after 70,000 miles, and will need to be replaced.
The crankshaft pulley has a direct impact on various aspects of a car, including coolant pump running efficiently, engine battery charging, the air-conditioning pump, and the power steering pump. If the part starts to fail, it can cause larger long term issues in your car. It's easier to see signs of a failing crankshaft pulley when you bring your car to a halt: look for dimming headlights or a lower stereo volume while your car idles.
In most vehicles, the crankshaft pulley comes attached with a harmonic balancer, also known as a dampener. The harmonic balancer is an important attachment, as it reduces multiple vibrations from the crankshaft. By effectively absorbing these, the harmonic balancer ensures the crankshaft does not become dislodged from continuous vibrations.
The harmonic balancer is typically attached to the crankshaft pulley with adhesive. Over time this adhesive can lose strength and can come loose, fall off, or fail. A failed harmonic balancer shifts the vibration shock to the crankshaft, harming overall engine function. In this scenario, the harmonic balancer will need to be repaired separately or the car will need a new crankshaft pulley installed.
Proper Car Parts and Tools
While replacing the original pulley, you need to be very careful. If the replacement pulley is not properly manufactured or is the wrong type for your car, it could actually damage your vehicle. Always check your vehicle's part list to find compatible parts made for your engine's unique configuration.
There is also a special tool for removing a crankshaft pulley called an engine pulley remover, or sometimes simply called a crankshaft pulley remover, which is easily found online or in an auto repair shop. While it is possible to use other tools, it may take longer to complete this repair or you may damage your engine.
Step 1 - Disconnect the Battery
As with all car repairs, before beginning, you will need to fully stop power to the area to prevent new issues while you work and to keep you safe. Disconnect the car battery before starting this project.
Pull out the cable that is attached to the battery’s negative terminal. It is important to wait at least a minute and a half between disconnecting the cable and proceeding with the next step. If you don’t, you may activate the vehicle’s airbags. This wait is not essential in all cars, especially older models, but it's best to be cautious.
Step 2 - Locate the Defective Crankshaft Pulley
Open the hood of your car and locate the crankshaft pulley in your car's engine compartment. Typically, the pulley will be on the left side of the engine compartment (the driver's side), but occasionally it may be located in the front, near the bottom area. If you can see the car's timing belt, also known as a cambelt, either on the right or left side of the compartment, you'll find the pulley close by.
The crankshaft pulley is a grooved, round piece of metal that has a small arm at the top and a plastic roller at the bottom. This small plastic roller is fixed down on the drive belt which keeps the belt and the pulley intact.
Step 3 - Remove the Drive Belt
Fix a pair of locking pliers to the arm protruding from the top of the defective pulley. Pull the pliers to lift the roller off the defective pulley. This will release the drive belt. Remove the belt from the defective crankshaft pulley.
Step 4 - Remove the Car Wheel
With your lug wrench, loosen the lug nuts on your car's wheel in the area of the crankshaft pulley. You'll need to do this before you raise the wheel off the floor, otherwise, the wheel will likely turn when you put pressure on the wrench.
Apply your parking brake and make sure your car's gear shift is in the "park" position. Use a car jack to raise the car's wheel and place your jack stand under the car's frame near the wheel you'll be removing. Then, lower the car so it is resting solidly on the jack stand.
Finish removing the wheel's lug nuts, remove the wheel, and set it aside.
Step 5 - Remove the Splash Guard
Remove the splash guard, also known as a splash shield, that's attached to the wheel well. Place the tip of a large flathead screwdriver between the splash guard and its rivets, and gently apply pressure on the screwdriver handle to remove the rivets from the splash guard. You can now remove the splash guard.
Step 6 - Connect the Drill and Pulley Remover
Next, securely fix the power drill to the engine pulley remover. Make sure you tighten the tip of the power drill when you apply pressure to remove the crankshaft pulley.
Step 7 - Remove the Crankshaft Pulley
There will be a bolt at the center of the pulley. Make sure to align the bolt within the engine pulley remover's center socket when you place its teeth on the pulley.
To remove the crankshaft pulley, reverse the power drill when you pull the trigger. Undo the bolt on the pulley and remove the defective pulley from the engine.
Step 8 - Replace the Crankshaft Pulley
Take the new crankshaft pulley and place it on the engine. Screw the bolt at the center of the new pulley and reverse the previous removal steps to secure the old drive belt and car wheel.
Step 9 - Final Looks
Ensure all tools, such as the locking pliers, are removed from the car and shut the hood. You have successfully replaced the crankshaft pulley of your vehicle.
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