What happens when harmonic balancer fails may seem complicated, but it is not. You can easily detect the problems and fix them before they escalate.
A harmonic balancer has several names: vibration damper, crankshaft balancer, crankshaft pulley dumper, and crankshaft harmonizer.
It has two essential components: the inertial mass and the energy-dissipating element. Its core duty is to contain engine vibrations.
The inertial mass has an inner hub connected to the crankshaft and an outer ring that contains the engine’s vibration forces.
The energy-dissipating element has a rubber compound that dampens vibrations from the two metal parts.
There is also another type of harmonic balancer with a fluid isolation system. It lacks a rubber ring but uses a thick silicon fluid.
In essence, the harmonic balancer ensures energy shifts between the pistons and crankshaft safely. Read on to acquaint yourself with what happens when a harmonic balance fails.
What Happens when Harmonic Balancer Fails
1. Engine vibration
Excessive vibrations within an engine speed up wear and chances of damage on the components. The rubber isolation ring deteriorates when the crankshaft pulley dislodges from the center hub.
You will often notice increased shaking from the engine compartments as you accelerate the car. More so, the engine may even explode if overlooked.
2. Irregular engine idle
A car’s RPM is hardly noticeable, and the harmonic balancer works under variant engine speeds.
When the harmonic balancer fails, the crankshaft puts pressure on the pulley. You will often notice the idling fluctuate as the dampening mass move.
3. Dead alternator
The crankshaft supplies power to the alternator, which charges the battery. In return, the battery powers other car components such as the radio, air conditioners, and headlights.
If the crankshaft pulley fails, the alternator no longer receives power. The battery alert light will often flick, and the car may also decline to start.
4. Misaligned timing marks
Misaligned timing marks occur if the harmonic balancer’s outer ring separates from the inner ring. Wear on the crankshaft or metal layers can also cause disruption.
The timing marks will shift, making it impossible or difficult to time the engine, even with a timing light. You can confirm the misalignment by comparing the valvetrain’s timing marks.
5. Illuminated engine light
Most modern cars have a powertrain control module (PCM), which relies on the crankshaft position signal to determine the crankshaft’s speed and position.
Unfortunately, the crankshaft position sensor may create false signals when the harmonic balancer fails. This prompts the powertrain control module to illuminate the engine light.
6. Transmission damage
Force can shift to the transmission system when the harmonic balancer fails to dampen crankshaft vibration.
This causes damage to the planetary gears, the input shaft, and other engine components. The gear system can also damage in a car with a manual transmission system,
7. Abnormal belt tensioner movement and noise
The harmonic balancer flexes to absorb vibrations and immense strain from the engine components. If it fails, the force pulses move to the tensioner.
Abnormal movement and wear occur on the belt. The outer ring can also move fast, misaligning the gloves with the rest of the pulleys and wearing the drive belt edges.
You will often hear squeaking or rattling sounds that you can mistake for internal engine problems when engaging a higher gear. It is advisable to stop the car if the noise becomes louder to avert further damages.
8. Failure of the power steering pump
A crankshaft pulley charges a car’s power steering pump to drive hydraulic fluid. This makes the steering wheel smooth to navigate.
The steering pump stops pumping the hydraulic fluid when the harmonic balancer fails. You will use more effort to control the wheel even when the fluid level is full.
9. Damaged internal engine parts
Long-term engine vibrations can overheat the crankshaft bearings and elastomeric components. This causes vents or deterioration in the harmonic balancer rubber.
Also, the engine sealant and crankshaft keyway may crack, leading to oil leakage. The oil then leaks from the cylinders, which can cause breakage of the pistons. The belts may also soak and slip on the oil, producing squealing noises.
10. Damaged damper bolt or threads
Engine vibrations and incorrect torque break or loosen the hold-down bolt. The harmonic balancer pulley wobbles, eating up the threads.
This can cause severe engine damage when it runs at high speed. It is recommended to use a torque wrench to avoid errors and get the correct bolt stretch when installing a harmonic balancer bolt.
Frequently Asked Questions about Harmonic Balancer Fails
How do you tell a faulty harmonic balancer in a car?
Start the engine and check if the harmonic balancer wobbles. You can also use a flashlight to confirm if it rotates in and out while the engine runs. If it wobbles or doesn’t rotate in and out, chances are that it is faulty.
Can you drive without a harmonic balancer?
A car without a harmonic balancer can damage the engine and crankshaft bearing. It is unwise to drive without the balancer since it helps the crankshaft power the battery and pump hydraulic fluid to the steering wheel.
How much does it cost to replace a harmonic balancer?
Depending on the garage you visit, you can part with anywhere from $350 to $400, inclusive of the replacement and labor charges.
What causes installation or removal errors on a harmonic balancer?
Using incorrect tools to install the harmonic balancer is the most common cause of installation errors. For example, hitting the dampener with a hammer could damage it or other engine internal components.
Can you drive with a faulty harmonic balancer?
A general rule is you don’t drive the car. Ignoring the signs of a faulty harmonic balancer will damage the engine.
More so, the best way to diagnose and fix a faulty harmonic balance is to consult a professional mechanic as soon as you notice unusual vibrations. This way, you prevent further damages to the engine components.