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Stock Cam Chain Tensioner ( late model)

On a recent trip, the top end started making noise like a valve adjuster was loose. It was more of a tap tap sound than the continuous sound that I associate with the cam chain tensioner. Earlier this year the tensioner took a while to kick into the next notch and before it did finally happen, it made noise at low rpm's and then went away as the rev's went up. This time, it was quiet at idle and made more noise as the rev's increased - just the opposite.

I pulled the cam chain tensioner out of my 2002 Conk and the rod is only out a few notches. It appears that there is another very small spring inside that keeps tension on the ratchet pawl and it has gotten a bit cockeyed in there. The pawl is necessary to allow the rod to move only in the direction of the cam chain.

The tensioning spring and its retaining bolt have been removed in this picture.

Here is a closer shot. You can see the spring appears to have gotten out of where it belongs.
Here's the fully disassembled tensioner. From left to right:
  • Spring retaining cap bolt.
  • Copper washer
  • Tensioning spring
  • Pin ( which I assumes is there to keep the spring straight in the large diameter hole where the rod sits.
  • Tensioner housing
To test if this was the problem, I fully retracted the rod inside the housing. I then held the housing in place, and then, with a long thin screwdriver, I pushed the rod in with about a 5 - 10 pound force pushing it part way out of the housing. I then removed the housing and straightened out the little pawl spring that was causing the problem. I reinstalled the housing with the mounting bolts and then installed the main spring and cap bolt. Then engine is peacefully quiet now. I guess I could do this each time the pawl spring gets out of alignment but I'd rather have a properly working tensioner as doing that requires a bunch of plastic removal which is the worst part of working on my bike.

If you are using a late model tensioner, remember to see Page 18-6 of the manual. It's in the supplement and is different than the instructions for the early model provided on Page 4-9
Never remove the tensioner part way and then reinstall it. If you do, the spring will push the rod to the end of its travel and put too much pressure on the chain when you tighten up the mounting bolts.

Remove as follows:

  • Remove cap bolt - do this slowly as the spring is under tension
  • Remove spring and pin
  • Remove the two mounting bolts

Install as follows:

  • Note the arrow cast into the center left side of the housing. This must point up.
  • Push the rod fully back into the housing. To do this, you must push slightly on the "stopper" that is part of the housing. There is a little spring inside there that only allows the rod to move in one direction when mounted.
  • Install the housing with the two mounting bolts
  • Install the spring, rod, washer, & cap bolt. 

If you have any doubts at all, and since it is so critical that it be done right, you should refer to the factory manual.

Article By: David J. Morrow

Updated January 2005

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