One of the most common threads that you will find on S2000 forums/Facebook groups is owners asking for others to help them diagnose some strange engine noise. While there are many different things that can contribute to noises at idle the most likely culprit is the OEM timing chain tensioner.
The tensioner is basically a spring loaded pin that pushes on the timing chain giving it tension. When these start to wear out they sort of sound like a card in the spokes of a bicycle and the sound is usually worse when the engine is warm. The annoying part is that it’s not considered a normal wear item by Honda so there is no recommended interval in which they should be changed. Some people start to notice a faint noise and replace them at 60K only to have the rattling sound return 20K miles later. It’s one of the few flaws in the design of the F series engine.
A well-known member and S2000 mechanic from New York named Billman250 on S2KI came up with a solution to fix the problem once and for all. He’s gone through multiple revisions in the quest to make the part extremely reliable and currently offers the Generation X Modified TCT.
For not much more than a new one from Honda, Billman takes the core of a stock TCT and makes internal and external adjustments so that it will never fail again. The core charge is $125 and you get the full refund back after sending your stock TCT to him.
All Billman GenX tensioners come fully assembled with brand new Honda o-rings and special mounting bolts. The bolts are shorter because the bottom side of the tensioner is machined to be closer to the engine.
- Precision machined extended reach housing (restores factory preload to factory spring rate)
- Resets chain guide load to exact factory pressure – where the engine was new
- Restores TCT piston positioning in the TCT housing
- Restores worm gear positioning in the piston and preload
- Linear pressure (tightens as RPM increases)
- Anti-cavitation function (oil flowing into the TCT Is drawn off a machined ramp which eliminates air in the TCT and piston retraction when oil pressure is low at idle)
- Easy to install
- Lifetime guarantee which includes personal tech support if needed
Prior to sending the tensioner out he also asks if the car is boosted, has aftermarket cams, or has a modified head gasket. I believe he asks this so he can tailor the TCT to match each application as much as possible.
Since I currently run an AEM V2 Cold Air Intake the installation was very simple. The crank was turned slightly using a wrench on the front dampener. Then the maintenance plug directly to the right of the stock tensioner was removed.
After this plug was removed the stock tensioner could be seen pushing on the timing chain. Next the two 10mm bolts were removed and the tensioner was free. A paper towel was placed below the stock tensioner as Billman recommended to prevent an oil dripping onto the subframe or engine. He also clearly states in the instructions to be careful to not tilt the stock tensioner upside down or it would come apart.
Installing the new TCT was the reverse of removal but instead of the stock mounting bolts the smaller bolts Billman provided were used. After the tensioner was torqued to spec the last step was to remove the lock pin. A set of needle nose pliers was used to pull the pin out. Being careful not to drop this pin inside the timing chain cover! This was probably the most stressful part of the install.
Immediately after installing the new TCT and firing the engine up it was significantly quieter at idle. I was extremely happy to have this mod done and look forward to never hearing the annoying noise again!
Interested in upgrading or replacing your TCT? Read more about it and contact Billman here:
In the next update I’ll continue on my maintenance upgrades with the replacement of my factory clutch.