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Changing the Harmonic Balancer for the Holden VE II Commodore

  • Introduction If you have a V8 VE or VF model Commodore / Pontiac / Chevrolet / Vauxhall, then chances are your harmonic balancer is wobbly, or on its way out.

    Unfortunately a common problem with these V8 models is these balancers develop a wobble at some point in their lives, which lends itself to the following problems,
    1) Air Conditioning belt being thrown off when engine is revved beyond 3000RPM
    2) Serpentine belt squeal / noise
    3) Minor engine vibration at low / idle RPM

    This guide outlines some tips and information regarding how to change the harmonic balancer.
    It is not an exhaustive guide, nor is it written by someone with much mechanical expertise.

  • 1 x 24mm Deep Socket (For the factory harmonic balancer bolt)
    1 x 15mm socket (For the belt tensioner)
    1 x Breaker bar
    1 x Long nose pliers (For the upper radiator hose clip)
    If fitting the Arp Bolt, you will also need a 1-1/16" Socket (Which you can get from Bunnings or Repco for around $15)
    75mm Gear Puller, or G&G Technics GGT-180 GM LS2 Harmonic Balancer puller.
  • 1 x Quality after market harmonic balancer (Such as a Power Bond Model) - Mace Engineering
    1 x Harmonic Balancer Bolt (Arp Bolt# is HIGHLY HIGHLY recommended) - GM Motorsport
    1 x Serpentine belt to suit (If fitting an Under drive pulley/balancer)
  • Factory Harmonic Balancer
    I recommend not using the stock/factory/GM Harmonic Balancer.
    These things appear to be designed by accountants, not engineers and if you search VE Harmonic Balancer on Google, you will find hundreds of threads detailing many owners concerns about these balancers.

    Your best bet is to get a good quality after market balancer (Power Bond) for example, as the extra cost of a good quality balancer will far outweigh the amount of labour involved in replacing the factory balancer early on down the track.

    Under-driven Balancers
    Be aware when fitting an under-driven balancer that if your car sees a lot of stop start driving, your water pump and alternator will be under-driven.
    (Essentially you are robbing power to these, so as you can redirect power to the rear wheels).

    This will mean higher engine temps, which in turn means the thermo fans will be used to replace the work that was originally done by the water pump to cool the engine.

    With the alternator being under-driven, this in will also in turn will charge the battery less.
    The combined effect will put a fair bit of extra strain on your battery provide the energy to cool the engine and power the vehicles accessories, that is being robbed from fitting the under drive balancer.

    If you vehicle sees infrequent stop start traffic, and its fair share of high speed runs, then an under driven balancer may be an option worth looking at.

    Harmonic Balancer Removal Tools
    I recommend the G&G Technics Balancer Removal Tool (GGT-180)
    You can pick these up used for around $250 used or new for around $350.

    In a pinch, you can use a 70mm Gear puller, which you can get from Super cheap for around $50, however there will be a fair bit of messing around with the bolt, and the puller.

    My suggestion is to get buy dedicated puller LS2, LS3, L98, L77, L76 (used on fleabay or something like this), use it, then on sell it. (As you will be able to use a standard balancer puller kit with the new balancer).

    This way you will only be paying for postage, as well as suffering a bit of a loss when you on-sell the puller.

    Arp Harmonic Balancer Bolt
    When changing the harmonic balancer, I STRONGLY recommend getting an Arp Harmonic Balancer Bolt.
    (Not because of the oooh ahhh factor, or that you really need a super high tensile bolt), but because the Arp bolt is much longer than the factory bolt.
    (This is because the Arp bolt has a huge ass washer that goes between the bolt head, and the balancer).

    When fitting up the balancer, using this bolt means that you can put the balancer on by hand, wind the Arp bolt (minus the washer) in a fair bit, then use the Arp bolt to push the balancer in place.
    (Instead of trying to bash the balancer on with a hammer, and potentially damaging stuff).

    If using the stock balancer bolt, you will find it will JUST grab when the harmonic balancer is just hand fitted, and it is very possible that you will strip the thread on the shaft if you try and wind the balancer back on using this bolt.

  • If you have a manual gearbox, then things are relatively easy.
    (Simply place the car in to high gear with the handbrake on, and you should be able to crack the harmonic balancer bolt without any extra methods to stop the engine from turning).

    If you have an Automatic Transmission, then things become a little harder.
    With Automatic Transmissions, you have 3 methods that you can use to stop the engine from turning over when attempting to loosen or tighten the harmonic balancer bolt,

    a) Remove the starter and use a screwdriver in the flex plate to stop the engine from turning over.
    (This is the most recommended option by seasoned mechanics).

    b) Use the starter motor and a breaker bar to crack the balancer bolt.
    (NOTE : DO NOT USE the ignition key to crank the motor as the ECU/Smart Start will continuously crank the motor until the engine starts, or for 5 seconds).
    Instead remove the Fuel Pump relay, and starter relay, and connect the starter terminal directly to the battery.

    c) Remove a spark plug and insert 1m of Nylon (clothes hanger) rope down in to the cylinder from the spark plug hole.
    (This is the method that I used for this exercise).
    Please Note : this worked for me, however use your own discretion here. I am not responsible if you bend a valve or a piston if you choose to use this method.

  • 1) Remove intake plumbing (MAF, etc)

    2) Disconnect the upper radiator hose from the radiator, and rotate hose anti clockwise 90*
    Note : I have been told this step is not necessary if using the G&G Technics Balancer Removal Tool, as there is sufficient room between the balancer, and the Thermo Fans to remove the existing balancer.

    (If you choose to rotate the upper radiator hose, you will lose around 1 Litre of coolant).

    3) Remove the Thermo Fans Note : Again, this step may not be necessary if using the G&G Technics Balancer Removal Tool.

    4) Remove the serpentine belts (Engine then AC)
    5) Lock the engine from turning (See Above) above for different methods to do this.

    6) Crack the Harmonic Balancer bolt.
    The term cracking refers to cracking the thread lock used to hold the factory balancer bolt in place.
    Cracking the thread lock takes a substantial amount of effort, so it is recommended that a very long breaker bar is used for this step.
    (I used a breaker bar, with some square bar placed over it for leverage).

    7) Remove the bolt
    Once you have cracked the thread lock on the factory harmonic balancer bolt, you should be able to wind the original bolt out, using a standard sized ratchet wrench.

    8) Pull the balancer off using your selected balancer puller.
    (In this example, I have used the G&G Technics LS2 Harmonic Balancer Puller).

    9) You should now have your old Harmonic Balancer and Bolt removed from the engine, and your new harmonic balancer and bolt ready to fit.
    http://www.carmodder.com/gallery/image.php?mode=thumbnail&album_id=1122&image_id=16804 If you are using a Power Bond Harmonic Balancer, you may need to use some silicon sealant over the key slot, to prevent moisture from on to the balancer shaft when the balancer has been fitted.
  • 1) Hand fit the new balancer to the shaft.
    Some mechanics suggest not to use a hammer to bash the new balancer on to the shaft, as this may damage the shaft, and other engine components.

    2) Using an Arp bolt, (without washer) wind the new balancer back on to the shaft (Do not torque up yet). You should find the ARP bolt to be long enough to grab comfortably on to the crank shaft, requiring a number of turns before the bolt begins to make contact with the harmonic balancer.
    Once the ARP bolt makes contact with the balancer, wind the bolt in to the crank shaft until the harmonic balancer is roughly in the correct position.
    (Visually align the balancer belt positions with the various pullies on the engine to ensure that the balancer is roughly in place).
    Do not use excessive force when fitting the bolt for the first time !

    3) Remove the Arp bolt, and fit the washer and grease the bolt with the supplied torque grease.
    The grease should be liberally applied to the bolt thread, and bolt shaft.

    4) Fit the bolt and torque to the correct factory specifications (As Follows).
    Tighten the crankshaft balancer bolt to 150 N?m (110 lb ft).
    Loosen the crankshaft balancer bolt 360 degrees.
    Tighten the crankshaft balancer bolt to 80 N?m (59 lb ft).
    Tighten the crankshaft balancer bolt a final pass.

    4) Unlock the engine.
    In the example above, remove the 1m of Nylon Rope from the spark plug hole, and refit the spark plug and lead.

    5) Fit the airconditioning Belt, and the main serpentine belt.

    6) Refit the thermo fans, (If previously removed).

    7) Refit upper radiator hose (If previously removed).

    8) Refit Intake plumbing and MAF (Mass Air Flow) Sensor.

    9) add coolant to replace any coolant that was lost when the radiator hose was rotated.

    10) Test Start engine and observe the harmonic balancer for any wobble, or belt noise.
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