Balance belt - Alfa Romeo Forum
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Balance belt

Hello

A couple of weeks ago I proceeded to change my 156 2.0 2002 twin spark engine belts (cam and poli V), but i decided to leave it w/o the balance belt. Some people claim that is a good option at the expense of a little increase in vibration. The thing is that the engine now vibrates in kind of an unpleasant way. The car has lost some finesse IMO. I can sometimes even feel a small vibration on the throttle pedal.
Other than that the car performs normaly, and the engine, even if more rough, has very good power.

I was wondering about the experience of other members on this matter. I am considering to refit the belt (obviously with a new one)

BTW, any one aware if this belt and the tensor are available in europe? I am heading to Spain in october. Maybe going also to Germany. German site Autodoc does not have it.

Thanks in advance
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AutoDoc should have it. I got mine from them, though as part of a Gates timing belt kit.
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Originally Posted by Hernando View Post
I was wondering about the experience of other members on this matter.
My experience is that removing the belt does result in some slight increase in vibration, but not to an objectionable degree (at least not to me, but others may be more sensitive...). Deleting the balance belt results in the engine vibrating similarly to other two litre in line four cylinder engines that are not fitted with a balance belt, and there are very many such engines.

This is one of the reasons why, pre the invention of balance shafts, that four cylinder (in line) engines were almost never larger than two litres capacity, i.e. larger than two litres and the vibration started to become unpleasantly noticable. With the introduction of balance shafts it became possible to produce smoother four cylinder engines with capacities larger than two litres.

It is my understanding that Mitsubishi owns the IP related to counter rotating balance shafts, and that all other manufacturers using them pay a royalty to Mitsubushi.

Regards,
John.
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Dayco do a kit - KTB610. Both Autodoc and Mister-auto do it amongst others.
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I've seen the balance belt and also its tensioner sold separately by specialists.
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Thanks guys for your replies. Yes, i cheked autodoc and yes, they have it. I still have to decide if refit or not. I am having trouble also with the TPS sensor. Autodoc sent me the wrong part. Is it still available in europe?
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If the balance belt breaks, which it can as it has teeth on both sides. It will 'take out' the normal timing belt.
Hence the low 36,000 mile belt change recommended by Alfa.
Hence, without the balance belt there isn't as much chance I think of having cam belt failure, at low mileage.
That is only my opinion.
The 2.0TS engine is 'super' smooth with the balance belts. So, I would rather have the belt and change it every 36,000 miles.
It is as smooth as any six with the balance belt. Makes driving the spider a pleasure. It is a great car to drive.
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Originally Posted by r1200rt View Post
If the balance belt breaks, which it can as it has teeth on both sides. It will 'take out' the normal timing belt.
Hence the low 36,000 mile belt change recommended by Alfa.
Hence, without the balance belt there isn't as much chance I think of having cam belt failure, at low mileage.
That is only my opinion.
The 2.0TS engine is 'super' smooth with the balance belts. So, I would rather have the belt and change it every 36,000 miles.
It is as smooth as any six with the balance belt. Makes driving the spider a pleasure. It is a great car to drive.
I am just in the process of replacing the engine on my 2.0 TS following big end failure at high revs. I had only just completed 300 miles after full belt service. During the disassembly of the damaged engine I noticed that the upper balance shaft was very stiff and I am wondering whether it was a contributory factor towards the engine failure? My replacement engine has only 50k miles but I have decided that the balance shafts to be removed.
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The balance shafts cannot be safely removed, AFAIK as there are oil feeds to the balance shaft roller bearings.

When I deleted the balance shaft function in the TS, I used washers and refitted the bolts. I think this was to ensure the shafts stayed in the correct position so oil flow and pressure to other engine bearings would not be lost. That way I simply fitted new seals and plugs for the balance shafts but they do not rotate and no longer have pulleys.

I had the crankshaft and flywheel balanced (flywheel lightened first) to help minimise vibration. There is a difference between primary and secondary vibration (which the balance shafts reduce). Some people have opined that balancing the crank assembly does nothing to reduce vibrations but my 2.0 TS now has similar/slightly less vibration to a 1.8. It may not be quite as silky as a 2.0 with balance shafts but quite frankly I no longer notice much difference in vibration in my JTS using balance shafts and TS without.
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Thanks Fruity. The balance shaft removal is a standard modification for the race cars in the twin spark cup. Does anyone know how they achieve this safely?

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The balance shafts cannot be safely removed, AFAIK as there are oil feeds to the balance shaft roller bearings.

When I deleted the balance shaft function in the TS, I used washers and refitted the bolts. I think this was to ensure the shafts stayed in the correct position so oil flow and pressure to other engine bearings would not be lost. That way I simply fitted new seals and plugs for the balance shafts but they do not rotate and no longer have pulleys.

I had the crankshaft and flywheel balanced (flywheel lightened first) to help minimise vibration. There is a difference between primary and secondary vibration (which the balance shafts reduce). Some people have opined that balancing the crank assembly does nothing to reduce vibrations but my 2.0 TS now has similar/slightly less vibration to a 1.8. It may not be quite as silky as a 2.0 with balance shafts but quite frankly I no longer notice much difference in vibration in my JTS using balance shafts and TS without.
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Oil flowing to the balance shaft bearings is some small degree of oil flow / pressure not available to feed the other engine bearings, so if the balance shafts are no longer used it makes some sense to remove them and block the oil feeds. This also lightens the engine slightly.

Not necessarily with Alfa engines, bit I've heard of this being done with blanking sleeves, i.e. metal plugs machined to be a tight fit into the balance shaft bearings, so the plug prevents oil from exiting the bearing feed hole. I've also heard of people threading the feed holes and inserting small bolts / threaded plugs into them (sealed and secured with a high strength thread locking compound). I haven't ever done this, and expect it would awkward considering access to the feed holes would be tight. I expect there would be traps for the unwary, so due diligence required (for both methods above).

On the other hand, leaving the disabled non rotating shafts in place would mean that the other engine bearings still get the same oil supply as a standard engine will, so I doubt there is any imperative to delete the balance shafts and blank the oil feeds.

It occurs to me that it ought to be possible to machine two grooves into and near the edges of each bearing journal, into which O-rings could be fitted. Oil would still flow into and fill the space between the bearing shell and the shaft journal, but couldn't escape the bearing because the edges are sealed with the O-rings (so no pressure / flow is lost).

Machining such grooves should be relatively easy to do (just turn the shafts in a lathe), probably easier than making blanking plugs or trying to thread the oil feed holes, but you'd miss out on the weight saving of removing the shafts (a rather minor weight saving, is it worth it for this reason...?).

Regards,
John.
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Thank you John. It will be much easier then to just run the engine without the shaft belt but I did read I think on the 145 Forum that the shafts would need to be somehow fixed into a position to stop them from rotating randomly and thereby causing dangerous vibrations? Also, thinking ahead.....I do have a spare 1.8 T.S engine for the 'future'. Could it be re-bored to fit 2.0 TS or larger racing pistons? Another option I have been offered is an early 155 8v block to use with a spare 2.0 TS 16v head but I understand from Fruity that configuration would not work. I am curious why I have been offered it!
Regards,
Dino

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Originally Posted by johnlear View Post
Oil flowing to the balance shaft bearings is some small degree of oil flow / pressure not available to feed the other engine bearings, so if the balance shafts are no longer used it makes some sense to remove them and block the oil feeds. This also lightens the engine slightly.

Not necessarily with Alfa engines, bit I've heard of this being done with blanking sleeves, i.e. metal plugs machined to be a tight fit into the balance shaft bearings, so the plug prevents oil from exiting the bearing feed hole. I've also heard of people threading the feed holes and inserting small bolts / threaded plugs into them (sealed and secured with a high strength thread locking compound). I haven't ever done this, and expect it would awkward considering access to the feed holes would be tight. I expect there would be traps for the unwary, so due diligence required (for both methods above).

On the other hand, leaving the disabled non rotating shafts in place would mean that the other engine bearings still get the same oil supply as a standard engine will, so I doubt there is any imperative to delete the balance shafts and blank the oil feeds.

It occurs to me that it ought to be possible to machine two grooves into and near the edges of each bearing journal, into which O-rings could be fitted. Oil would still flow into and fill the space between the bearing shell and the shaft journal, but couldn't escape the bearing because the edges are sealed with the O-rings (so no pressure / flow is lost).

Machining such grooves should be relatively easy to do (just turn the shafts in a lathe), probably easier than making blanking plugs or trying to thread the oil feed holes, but you'd miss out on the weight saving of removing the shafts (a rather minor weight saving, is it worth it for this reason...?).

Regards,
John.
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Originally Posted by Dino164 View Post
Thank you John. It will be much easier then to just run the engine without the shaft belt but I did read I think on the 145 Forum that the shafts would need to be somehow fixed into a position to stop them from rotating randomly and thereby causing dangerous vibrations? Also, thinking ahead.....I do have a spare 1.8 T.S engine for the 'future'. Could it be re-bored to fit 2.0 TS or larger racing pistons? Another option I have been offered is an early 155 8v block to use with a spare 2.0 TS 16v head but I understand from Fruity that configuration would not work. I am curious why I have been offered it!
Regards,
Dino
Going for an 83mm piston in a 1.8 block, you will get a true 1.8 - not a 1.75 as it is from the factory. It will also give you a slight over-square cylinder (it has 82mm travel), which is ideal.
AFAIK the 2.0 pistons are taller, so I believe you will need to have something custom made. You can get forged pistons from Wössner, however they are HIGH compression, which I think would compromise reliability for a daily driver. The also offer a low compression option, for turbo charging.
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Thank you John. It will be much easier then to just run the engine without the shaft belt but I did read I think on the 145 Forum that the shafts would need to be somehow fixed into a position to stop them from rotating randomly and thereby causing dangerous vibrations?
Dino,
The balance shafts work by creating their own vibrations which are in opposing phase to the 'natural' vibrations created by the reciprocation and rotation of the pistons, rods and crankshaft (i.e. the relationship between crank rotation, piston reciprocation, and the combined rotation and reciprocation of the rods, the geometric relationship of which isn't as straightforward as one might think). For each vibration originating from the crank / rods / pistons there is a counter vibration originating from the two balance shafts (rotating at twice crank speed), the net result being that there is less apparent vibration of the engine as a whole, so less vibration to be passed into the chassis.

The 'balance' shafts do this because they are carefully designed to be inherently 'out of balance' themselves (to a very specific degree, achieved with weights / masses that are offset from the axis of the shafts). If the belt is removed (and thus not being driven by the crank), then due to gravity each balance shaft will slowly rotate until the heavier 'side' of the shaft (created by the offset weights / masses) is sitting at the lowest point of rotation, and if you were to turn the shaft to any other position it would again rotate back to the position where the heaviest side of the shaft is closest to the centre of the Earth.

In use, with other inherent engine vibrations occurring ('exciting' the balance shafts), the beltless balance shafts (rotationally unconstained) may 'swing' around the shaft axis to some degree, somewhat like a pendulum being shaken. But they won't ever rotate fast enough to cause the vibration they are designed to create. They might 'swing' but relatively slowly, and probably wouldn't even swing a whole single rotation (but even if they did, it would be too slow to matter).

Note that the 'unbalanced' forces which create the inherent 'secondary' vibrations do not disappear, they are merely 'masked' by the counter vibrations created by the balance shafts. Also note that 'balancing' the engine by balancing the rotating assembly (crank / flywheel / clutch etc), matching the rods (so that all the little ends weigh the same and all the big ends weight the same), and weight matching the pistons, does not reduce the inherent 'secondary' vibrations that exist in a recipocating piston engine. No amount of 'balancing' affects these secondary vibrations (or the forces that create them), they are inherent in how a piston engine works.

However, 'balancing' an engine will reduce 'primary' vibration, assuming that primary vibration was a bit off to start with. Modern engines (out of the box) are generally much better in this respect than in the bad old days, i.e., with a modern engine (made with modern technologies) primary balance is unlikely to be significantly 'off' compared to years ago, so typically there is a lot less improvement to be made than there once was.

Regards,
John.
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Thank you that is very helpful. Do you know if there is a matching head gasket for this modification?

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Going for an 83mm piston in a 1.8 block, you will get a true 1.8 - not a 1.75 as it is from the factory. It will also give you a slight over-square cylinder (it has 82mm travel), which is ideal.
AFAIK the 2.0 pistons are taller, so I believe you will need to have something custom made. You can get forged pistons from Wössner, however they are HIGH compression, which I think would compromise reliability for a daily driver. The also offer a low compression option, for turbo charging.
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Thank you John for making your reply very clear to understand!

I have less doubts now about keeping the shafts in and running without the belt but I am concerned that the upper shaft in the original engine proved very stiff to turn and am wondering if this somehow could have contributed to the big end failure on number 3 piston?

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnlear View Post
Dino,
The balance shafts work by creating their own vibrations which are in opposing phase to the 'natural' vibrations created by the reciprocation and rotation of the pistons, rods and crankshaft (i.e. the relationship between crank rotation, piston reciprocation, and the combined rotation and reciprocation of the rods, the geometric relationship of which isn't as straightforward as one might think). For each vibration originating from the crank / rods / pistons there is a counter vibration originating from the two balance shafts (rotating at twice crank speed), the net result being that there is less apparent vibration of the engine as a whole, so less vibration to be passed into the chassis.

The 'balance' shafts do this because they are carefully designed to be inherently 'out of balance' themselves (to a very specific degree, achieved with weights / masses that are offset from the axis of the shafts). If the belt is removed (and thus not being driven by the crank), then due to gravity each balance shaft will slowly rotate until the heavier 'side' of the shaft (created by the offset weights / masses) is sitting at the lowest point of rotation, and if you were to turn the shaft to any other position it would again rotate back to the position where the heaviest side of the shaft is closest to the centre of the Earth.

In use, with other inherent engine vibrations occurring ('exciting' the balance shafts), the beltless balance shafts (rotationally unconstained) may 'swing' around the shaft axis to some degree, somewhat like a pendulum being shaken. But they won't ever rotate fast enough to cause the vibration they are designed to create. They might 'swing' but relatively slowly, and probably wouldn't even swing a whole single rotation (but even if they did, it would be too slow to matter).

Note that the 'unbalanced' forces which create the inherent 'secondary' vibrations do not disappear, they are merely 'masked' by the counter vibrations created by the balance shafts. Also note that 'balancing' the engine by balancing the rotating assembly (crank / flywheel / clutch etc), matching the rods (so that all the little ends weigh the same and all the big ends weight the same), and weight matching the pistons, does not reduce the inherent 'secondary' vibrations that exist in a recipocating piston engine. No amount of 'balancing' affects these secondary vibrations (or the forces that create them), they are inherent in how a piston engine works.

However, 'balancing' an engine will reduce 'primary' vibration, assuming that primary vibration was a bit off to start with. Modern engines (out of the box) are generally much better in this respect than in the bad old days, i.e., with a modern engine (made with modern technologies) primary balance is unlikely to be significantly 'off' compared to years ago, so typically there is a lot less improvement to be made than there once was.

Regards,
John.
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There is no matching head gasket to allow that type of pick and mix. The piston deck height is different by about 5mm so there is no cheap way to make it work. The only way is bespoke pistons and/or rods but even then you risk excessive rod angularity and that is for a track car. It would be a good way to quickly wear the thrust side of the cylinder bore. How many thousand pounds do you want to throw at it?

Disabling the balance shafts is a tried and tested way of not using balance shafts. I think the modification I did was a couple of bolts and repair washers which cost about £2. 50k after rebuild it still works perfectly.

I appreciate you want to know but the guidance given really is good and the alternatives are just really complex headaches which will only be good for emptying your bank account.
I'm not trying to dampen enthusiasm either.
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When the engine is separated from the gearbox, both balance shafts can be removed. As you stated the upper one is stiff to turn there may be some sort of issue. The balance shafts run in ball race bearings and the only drag on them should be the bearings and the timing belt oil seal.

It may be worth removing the affected balance shaft and ensuring it is all ok. The bearings should not be wear prone but wear is possible which is why some high mileage cars have them disconnected. That said, I see no reason why the shaft bearings cannot be changed.

If the shaft and bearings are damaged, only then would I consider having an engineering fabricator make up a blank to plug the oil feeds and locate properly into the oil seal and not have end float or it foul its fitting plug at the flywheel end.

You would either have to take very careful measurements yourself and specify exact dimensions for it to work or take block, shaft, seal and plug to a fabricator.

Hopefully the shaft and bearings are ok though for my £2 modification to work.
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Thank you John for making your reply very clear to understand!

I have less doubts now about keeping the shafts in and running without the belt but I am concerned that the upper shaft in the original engine proved very stiff to turn and am wondering if this somehow could have contributed to the big end failure on number 3 piston?
Dino,
A 'stiff' balance shaft is (I think) most likely to snap the balance belt than anything else. The big end bearing failure isn't all that likely to be related, but I suppose it might be possible if a balance shaft bearing were 'stiff' due to debris having been pumped into it, which would imply a 'source' of debris some of which might have also found its' way to the big end bearing. Just speculating...

Regards,
John.
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There is no matching head gasket to allow that type of pick and mix. The piston deck height is different by about 5mm so there is no cheap way to make it work.
If the pistons protruded from the deck by that 5mm (I don't know which way this would go, pistons too high or too low), then I think it should be (might be) possible to insert a spacer plate. Of course this may then require two head gaskets, one above and one below the plate.

Having said that, many years ago I had a custom HG made (for an A series BMC engine), because the machine shop had skimmed the top of the block way more than I had requested. This resulted in the pistons protruding by about 0.5mm from the deck, which was an issue, of course. The custom gasket was thicker than the stock gasket so the pistons wouldn't whack into the head. It worked well for a long time, but one day the engine suddenly lost compression on two cylinders and I heard a wierd 'tinkling' noise passing down the exhaust pipe. A small section of the gasket (where two cylinders are very close to each other and the gasket lacks width), had broken free and been passed out of the engine through an exhaust valve. I think the extra thickness of the gasket had made it weaker at this point, and it also probably ran a bit hotter than ideal (locally at this point).

Problem was solved with a home made solid copper plate cut to the same shape as a head gasket, but thicker. This plate was then fitted using 'silver frost' paint as a sealant, with no gaskets (but ensuring that the plate was fully softened by annealing prior to fitment). Never had a problem with this 'gasket', but it was a lot of work to make.

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The only way is bespoke pistons and/or rods but even then you risk excessive rod angularity and that is for a track car. It would be a good way to quickly wear the thrust side of the cylinder bore. How many thousand pounds do you want to throw at it?
It's my understanding that if a shorter conrod is used then the secondary imbalance will also tend to get worse. I don't know how significantly...

Regards,
John.
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The balance shafts run in ball race bearings
Didn't know that, I was assuming plain bearings.

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When I deleted the balance shaft function in the TS, I used washers and refitted the bolts. I think this was to ensure the shafts stayed in the correct position so oil flow and pressure to other engine bearings would not be lost. That way I simply fitted new seals and plugs for the balance shafts but they do not rotate and no longer have pulleys.
Do you have any photos of this mod? As I understand it, you removed the pulleys, and fitted washers over top, before simply refitting the bolt that used to hold the pulley - is this correct?
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[QUOTE=johnlear;17498847]Didn't know that, I was assuming plain bearings.

I rebuilt a 2.0 TS engine, and I removed the balance shafts and replaced the bearings. It was very easy and the bearings were very easy to get hold of and they were not dear either.
I don't think you need to remove the shafts if you are not going to use them. All you need to do is remove the belt.
You can remove the pulleys as they will not be doing anything, as well as the tensioner.
Thats as far as you need to go with balance shaft disabling
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Do you have any photos of this mod? As I understand it, you removed the pulleys, and fitted washers over top, before simply refitting the bolt that used to hold the pulley - is this correct?
I'm afraid I don't have photos at present but will try to get some.
Obviously r1200rt stated the pulley delete is not strictly necessary but I did it simply to maximise space inside the belt cover.
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All you need to do is remove the belt.
You can remove the pulleys as they will not be doing anything, as well as the tensioner.
Thats as far as you need to go with balance shaft disabling
There are three valid reasons to delete the BS belt.

To avoid the possibility of a broken BS belt getting caught up in the timing belt, causing expensive and inconvenient carnage.

To avoid paying for a new belt.

Because you can't be bothered to fit a new one.

All three played some part in my choice to not refit the BS belt. Some might think that the balance shafts parasitically sap power, and they would be correct, but the loss is so small you won't feel any difference after the belt is deleted (placebo effect notwithstanding...).

Regards,
John.
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