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Install A Manual Cam Chain Tensioner

So the engine in my ’90 Connie started to sound like it had a marble in it bouncing around. As the noise was more pronounced on the left side I naturally figured it was time to play with the cam chain tensioner (CCT) again. I tried the Chalkdust method a few times (turning the jackscrew and letting it slam shut) and it would work for a few days, but the dreaded noise would come back. I took the CCT off, and held the jackscrew while I did to see how far it was pushing in to the guide. What I found was that the CCT had a good inch left to extend, but the spring didn’t have the muscle to send it out. After looking at the newer style ones and comparing them, I decided to go with a manual CCT adjuster. I like this solution because I am sure the adjuster will not back out and it is a very simple solution compared to the ratchet and jackscrew types. (Did I mention it’s a bit cheaper too?) After some searching I settled on the adjuster manufactured by American Performance Engineering.

John at APE was most helpful and even provided me with a Canadian supplier of the part as his company on ships via UPS to Canada and by the time I would have had to pay brokerage the part would have been very costly.

Anyway here is what I received.

It seems very well made and even has an O ring on the bolt so no washer is required.

It looks quite a bit different from the stock CCT but the proof will be in the install as to how it works. There are some simple instructions on the back which say to install the adjuster and then while rotating the engine forward, turn the screw until you feel it make contact with the guide, then back off a ¼ turn and tighten the locknut.

The new and the old.

[ The black, stock tensioner shown, is the old style which was replaced shortly after 1990. - Ed]

[ Just to confuse you, here's the new style tensioner. The bolt and long tensioning spring have been removed in this picture. - Ed.]
So to install it I first removed the lower left fairing inner, and moved it out of the way. Under the fairing the stock CCT is very easy to get to. Two 8mm bolts and out it comes. The jackscrew is located under the 10mm bolt. The bolt also has an O ring that in my case likes to stay in the housing then drop out with a nice blob of oil. 
Once you remove the two 8mm bolts you will find the hole pictured here. I gave this area a good clean and then gave the APE part a trial fit.
Before fitting make sure to back out the adjustment bolt a ways so that when you tighten the housing up you don’t push on the guide and chain. I used the stock bolts and wrenched them back to 87 inch/lbs as per the manual. I then decided to follow a little different method of adjustment that I found here. 

Basically I tightened the adjustment bolt until I felt it contact the guide. I then started up the bike and listened to the wonderful "diesel" racket. I slowly turned the bolt by hand until the noise went away. I then backed it out a ¼ turn and tightened the locknut. Just to be safe I ran the engine through some rev ranges and then repeated the adjustment. End result so far is a nice quiet engine. Total time was about 20 minutes and it was a very simple install. The part fits perfectly and is totally hidden under the inner fairing.

The stock versus manual tensioner debate:

Argument for stock: I asked the parts guy, who I really trust, and he gave me a bit of a warning about them. He said that if you're not really careful about adjusting the manual tensioners, you can bugger up the block that sits against the chain. Replacing that little gem means major surgery - removal of head and cylinders. He wasn't trying to scare me; he told me that after I ordered the OEM tensioner. David Morrow

Argument for aftermarket manual adjuster: Funny thing with dealers, the guy at my local dealer is the one that convinced me to go with the manual tensioner. He said he started recommending them after they found that the Kawi ones kept failing. They even put me on to APE and said to talk to John so they weren't even making any money from the deal. I agree you could bugger the guide if you tightened the manual tensioner too much or installed it with the screw out to far to start but the whine from the engine would be enough for you to know that you did something wrong. Also, any adjustment should be done by finger pressure. The guide can also be removed and replaced w/o removing the head but according to Cognosticator can be a bit of a bear. When I went to the dealer to buy an OEM tensioner he walked me out to his Connie and showed me the manual tensioner on his bike that he installed 40K ago. I guess everyone has their preferences. I was unsure at first but once I installed it all was well. One added benefit to the manual ones is that they have a longer travel as well. Scott

Article By: Scott X

Updated January 2005

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