By on June 30, 2015

v6 engine. Shutterstock user Rost9

Dennis writes:

You kindly responded last year to me in regards to an inquiry I made about my 2006 Sonata with the V6. I am still in love with my old beastie. She is approaching 93,000 miles and I just had new plugs and upper front control arms put into the ol’ gal.

I read some forums that go on and on about this model year’s engine having problems with the Timing Chain Tensioner. I took her to the dealer to have it checked….they did not hear any odd noises to warrant my concerns. However, in my extreme car paranoia, I swear on cold mornings I hear a rattle coming from the engine. My question?

Since I plan on driving this car another 4-5 years, do I do a pre-emptive strike and get the tensioner replaced now? I guess it was made of a plastic that tends to self destruct causing all kinds of horror to occur with the Timing chain?

Your advice is always appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

Are you telling me you didn’t even consider my LS4-FTW swap advice? Come on, Son!

Now, according to the Interwebs (and my gut feeling), timing chain rattle upon start up isn’t the end of the world. Hell, my Lincoln Mark VIII’s chain rattles for 1-2 seconds almost every time the 180,000+ mile V8 fires up. I stopped worrying when I met local Lincoln nuts that are seriously competitive bracket racers. One had 300,000+ miles on his rattling timing chain.

If the chain rattles for longer on start up, say, maybe 5 seconds or more, then yes, by all means replace it as preventative maintenance.

I rarely believe in pre-emptive strikes, unless it saves you time, stress and money in the future. Case in point? Since I mentioned my car…

Some great fanboi he is…

My dumb ass wrecked my beloved Mark VIII back in February. A normal person (if normal people own 20-year-old cars) woulda scrapped it, but not this Lincoln-Mercury Fanboi. Since the rest of the body was looking pretty tired, I went for a full respray. The pre-emptive strike part comes via saving time and money on all the labor involved in stripping a body in order to paint it right. I installed most of these for essentially zero dollars:

  • New HID bulbs and (sorely needed) headlight relays to ease the burden on the inadequate Ford wiring harness.
  • New delayed entry switches in the door latches and a new passenger side window lift motor.
  • A new grille, as the flexible indium plating was looking a bit cruddy.
  • Fix that stupid, enlarged roof hole under the passenger side visor: a gift from the hamfisted jerk that installed the Webasto moonroof back in ’95.
  • Scrape overspray off the weatherstrip from a previous partial body respray.
  • New quarter windows to replace the rubber trim destroyed by an orbital buffer(?).
  • Install a new HVAC head unit since mine quit illuminating a few buttons.
  • New emblems as the chrome was getting pitted.
  • Numerous minor upgrades, which discussing would go even more off-topic.

I’m not suggesting the dichotomy between your Sonata and my Mark VIII means only one of us is justified in their pre-emptive strike. Just that yours can wait until the rattle gets worse.

Wait for more timing chain rattle, enjoy the time before it becomes a bigger problem. I sure as hell did.

[Images: Shutterstock user Rost9, Sajeev Mehta/TTAC]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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53 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Lambda V6 Half Life? (Part II)...”


  • avatar
    danio3834

    “Hell, my Lincoln Mark VIII’s chain rattles for 1-2 seconds almost every time the 180,000+ mile V8 fires up. I stopped worrying when I met local Lincoln nuts that are seriously competitive bracket racers. One had 300,000+ miles on his rattling timing chain.”

    Borrowed time. This usually happens when one or both of the hydraulic tensioner gaskets blows out causing it to bleed down when the engine is shut off. Then it takes longer than it should to pump back up on startup. Those extra few seconds of slack will wear the guides faster and will eventually contribute to a failure. I’ve seen the fixed guides crack at the mounting point because of this. You don’t want to bend any of those pretty 32 valves.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    Even if the timing chain tensioner isn’t designed to be a maintenance item (maybe it is), I’d replace the darn thing. While you’re there, you can do the alternator, water pump and all the belts and hoses. Now you can drive it for another 90,000+ miles and not have to worry about any of the major items. Maybe it costs you $2,000, but that’s relatively cheap for four or five years of relative safety (you’ll certainly have some other items pop up).

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I dunno Sajeev. The timing chain on my ecotech was doing that (Saturn Vue) for a spell while I ignored it. It was ugly.

    My 4Runner has a much better prognosis as it is a non-interference engine.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    I’d try synthetic oil and a K&N filter to boost oil pressure before doing anything to the motor.

  • avatar
    Firehawk0036

    I love reading about your Mark VIII Sajeev. I’m on my second Mark VIII, third Mark in total. Started in a white 1992 Mark VII LSC back in 1999, then I got a black 97 LSC which I drove until 2008, now I have a black on black 1998 LSC. I’ve got 142k miles on this one and I too have a poorly installed Webasto sunroof. I’ll probably keep driving it till Lincoln makes a decent replacement for it! oh and for my LS1-FTW I direct you to my avatar. My 1 of 10 like it, 2000 Firehawk.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The dirtyness of that Sonata’s engine bay disgusts me. I also dislike the engine cover design.

    Can’t comment on keeping a Sonata with a timing rattle, because I’d have got rid of it for something I’d actually want to drive. But that’s just personal prejudice against Korean vehicles.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Also, Sajeev what was the wreck situation – what did you do?

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    The timeless elegance of the Mark VIII… a great looking car.

    • 0 avatar

      It sure does have a lot of front overhang for a RWD car. But I’m starting to really like the Mark VIII.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I think about the Mark for a short while, but I always then consider the realities of owning one, and realize I’d be better off with something FWD PLC from GM, with a 3800.

        Or like a huge 95 Park Avenue. This one very tempting.
        http://louisville.craigslist.org/cto/5097051172.html

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I often think about owning a Mark VIII. Then I realize I’d be better off if stupid FoMoCo would make a Mark IX or X.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            notgonnahappen.com
            whereslincolnxj.org

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            You know you’d rather buy my Mark X when I finish leasing it than worry about a 20+ year old Lincoln.

            I promise to order it with the V8, in a deep red, and with the best looking wood trim.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thank you, that sounds desirable as a used item. Dark wood please. Don’t need none of this light pine bullsh*t they’re doing sometimes. The MKS looks gross with light wood.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I agree. I need this interior package from the MKZ in a Mark X:

            https://media.lincoln.com/content/dam/lincolnmedia/lna/us/2014/11/17/black-label/fact-sheets/Lincoln_Black_Label_Fact_Sheet_MKZ_Indulgence.pdf

            Yes I say. I want that.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I got REALLY excited for a second, when I saw the “Confidential” color choice and thought it was an interior option.

            Heck yes, navy blue leather with dark wood! The 1990 TC Cartier has returned!

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Oh I wish they had a navy leather option. Gimme a pearl white exterior with the Navy interior with dark wood.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Goodness sakes Bill Blass, you’re gonna get Mr. Principal Dan all worked up.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          That may be the cleanest H-body I’ve seen in the last five years.

          Sometimes I think an H-body would be a fun park-on-the-street-and-abuse-it car. But then I realize that the one I’d want is a supercharged (not V8!) Bonneville, and the only ones still in decent shape are Park Avenues owned by old people.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Technically it was GM C-platform until switching to G-body for MY98.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_C_platform_(1985)

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            28, what do you think of that PA? I bet I could has it for $2500, and it’s 1.5hr from me.

            I always liked that PA with the wrap-around glass. You never see them that nice, and I don’t particularly want an Ultra. That being said, I have zero reason to buy one other than to park it in the driveway and please the old people driving by to their condos.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Do you really need to ask the Pope of the Church of 3800 what I think of the C-body Buick Park Avenue?

            I would proudly roll that Park Ave up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            LOL

            Maybe I’ll go check it out at the end of this week, if the weather isn’t too terrible (is currently). It’s got a little bumper rippling at the front from age looks like, and the rear bumper needs popped into the bracket at the back passenger side.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Huh. Learn something new everyday. I thought the C platform was Cadillac-only and the Park/98 were fat H-bodies.

        • 0 avatar

          Well, you know I’m a fan of the ’95-’99 Buick Riviera.

  • avatar
    mikey

    My friend ,has very well ,maintained 2000, bought new, Silverado short box. Somewhere around 2006 with 70 K miles, on the clock. Guess what “Piston Slap” reared its noisy, annoying head.
    The so called “experts” told him, “might as well do an engine swap” he went as far as pricing a crate engine.
    A experienced old mechanic, said “if it throws a rod, or spins a bearing, deal with it then.
    Today that old truck has nearly 200 K on the clock. On a cold morning start. You would swear it had a Diesel under the hood. Give it 5 minutes at idle….noise gone.

    Sajeev…love the Mark 111, and the whole resto mod concept. Good call , doing the fix.

  • avatar
    Mieden

    That Mark VIII is a beaut. I always loved them in black, but that purple-ish/Tungsten is quite nice also. Do you still have the airbags or have you done like 90% of the rest of owners and sacrificed ride for reliability?
    As for the chain tensioner? That was awful advice. If you plan to keep the car, fix it! Pinching those pennies will end up costing you dollars, I see it all too often. And like Waterview pointed out, replace any incidentals that will have to be touched by the tech while hes in there to save on labor costs. Since you’re being proactive, you can shop around online for less expensive, quality parts before hand.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I liked the dark green, or the “Commemorative” or whatever limited edition special pearl red. But the red was only available on the bulbous one after they ruined the styling.

      I also hate all the factory wheels for those with a passion. So dated, so quickly. Especially the tornado ones.

  • avatar
    Mike

    Just jumping in on the Mark VIII love-fest.

    I’m at about 230k on my ’97, and have yet to have the need to replace the tensioners. Luck, I suppose. Mine don’t rattle yet. I can probably be considered one of those “bracket racers” too, as I’ve driven it from Minnesota to Georgia the last three years for the Super Heavyweight shootout.

    Mine’s still got the air ride, as many do. It’s great.

    I’m glad to see the ongoing enthusiasm for these cars. Keep up the good work, fellow Mark owners. Sajeev, get that car back on the road, asap. :D

    • 0 avatar

      Will do, sir. I haven’t done the SSHS since 2004(?) but maybe I need to make another trip in the Mark for this event.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike

        You definitely need to hit up SSHS again. The Lincoln crowd is underrepresented, but the Impala crew is as good as they come. We usually hang with them. That, and it’d be great to meet you in person someday. I owe you a firm handshake.

  • avatar
    ajla

    If you’re like me, once you do a DOHC timing chain, you will gain a large appreciation for pushrod engines.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Well that scared the %#@* out of me. Don’t wrench anything myself anymore and a timing belt replacement would now be out of the question.

    So taking my Korean vehicle with an interference engine in to the shop to make sure that he tensioner on the chain if fine.

    Checked the ‘net and there don’t appear to be any related problems with my model but at 135,000kms better safe than sorry. But hope that the bill isn’t too big.

    All things considered I am now costing the dollars per mile and averaging 25,000kms per year and contracting out all the mechanical work, it now appears cheaper to lease for 3 or 4 years, perform oil changes and then walk away without having to worry about new rubber, annual rustproofing, brake job, coolant and tranny fluid replacement that is required just past that lease period.

  • avatar
    brett

    Since the timing chain has scheduled replacement at 105k miles, I would probably just do the tensioner at that time. I had a 2006 v6 sonata that I traded off a few months ago with 120k miles on it. It was a former rental car and I continued to drive it like a rental car… The car held up really well. I wouldn’t worry about it and just stick to the scheduled maintenance.

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