I just wanted to post my experiences of fitting the variator repair kit on a 1.6TS engine, in case it was of any use to people. I've linked to quite a few different sites for this.
I've read a lot of the different threads that have been posted regarding using this kit vs replacing the variator entirely. I know people have different opinions, but if like me you're pig-headed (and poor) enough to decide against the common wisdom and use this kit, I hope this helps.
1. Finding a repair kit.
Firstly, the part number for this repair kit is: 071715450. The kit consists of a spring and plastic washer. That's it!
I couldn't find one online at the usual (UK based) parts suppliers, so I needed to go further afield. I know a guy on eBay has been selling them, but for quite a cost so I'm not sure everybody wants this.
I bought mine from here:
Alfa Romeo Ersatzteile - italia Ricambi - Reparaturkit für Phasenversteller Alfa Romeo 145,147,156,166 71715450
They were good to deal with and delivery was not as expensive as listed on the site, since I was only buying 1 very light part. Contact them for a better deal.
I also found two other sites selling these at:
Ajoituksenmuuntimen korjaussarja  - 9,00€ : Ricambi Heikka, Varaosat ja tarvikkeet italialaisiin
genuine parts GmbH | Suche - 0071715450 | online kaufen
I was replacing the timing belt kit, so it was a logical decision to sooth the diesel rattle from my lovely engine at the same time.
After stripping the usual gear to replace the belt (belt covers, plastic coil pack cover, rocker cover), I got to look at the variator. From this site: Linky (in German)
you can get a good idea of the internals of the device, and what will be replaced.
From this site: Linky (in Swedish and actually for a Barchetta)
I figured that I could remove the variator without having to take the inlet cam off. My decision in this was based on my fear of screwing up the timing when replacing the cam. Also I work on the basis that the least bits removed from an engine, the better.
To open the variator, there is a circlip at the inner end that must be removed. This will allow the body of the variator to slide out, while the inner shaft stays attached to the cam.
You may need to turn the engine over a few times (by HAND!!) while moving the circlip around so that you can access it when Cyl.1 is at TDC.
When you have the circlip at the top, and Cyl1 is at TDC, put on the cam-locks. You will be safer as you may move the cam around a bit while removing/replacing the variator body.
Now open the circlip. It is worthwhile to have a second pair of hands available at this point, as the body can fly out when the circlip is released.
With the circlip released, draw out the body of the variator. You can keep the inlet pulley attached if you want (I did).
You may or may not decide to replace the oil seals. If you do, you will need to replace both seals so buy both in advance (that's one mistake I made).
When drawing the body out, be careful of the two small spring washers at the inside end. They have a tendency to stick to the end of the shaft and fall on the ground under your car (like mine did)
Bring the body over to a clean workbench. This site: Linky (in Finnish)
gives good info on the process of disassembling the variator.
Pull the inner pistons out. There is an oil scraper ring that may get caught on the groove for the circlip. Just pull with a bit of force and it will come out.
When you have the parts disassembled, you will see the plastic washer. This has probably worn slightly. Mine was worn very marginally, but this was enough to cause the rattle.
Give all the parts a good clean. You may want to use solvent to clean them, I just gave them a wipe with a clean rag and a rub with a bit of clean oil.
Obviously at this point inspect the parts for damage. If any of the splines are worn/chipped, throw it out and buy a new variator.
Be careful when reassembling the pistons inside the casing. There is only 1 position they can go in, where both the inner (straight) and outer (helical) splines match up. There are most likely three drill marks that you can use to visually align these.
NOTE: There is a gap between the two inner pistons when the unit is assembled. This isn't obvious, and caused me great confusion. The inner and outer splines will appear to be slightly misaligned when they are together. The diagrams in the Finnish site mentioned above will show the gap.
Drop the plastic washer in to the case. It will be obvious from the shape which way it goes in. Next drop the two spring washers into the bottom of the case. I used a small pliers to place them in. Note that they need to be placed in the right way, that is like this: )( so that they touch in the centre, and the rim of one contacts the case. The rim of the other will contact the shaft. A drop of oil on these will help them stick together.
Now for the tricky bit, actually reassembling the unit. This site: Link (in Romanian)
gave me a good tip, that is to compress the spring before assembling the unit. I used some strong nylon string to do this.
The reason for precompressing the spring is because of the small gap between the two pistons. This gap means that when the two parts are pushed together (as happens if the spring is uncompressed), it becomes very difficult to engage both pistons on the shaft.
To assemble, I firstly formed the gap between the two pistons by moving the larger one out until the inner (straight) splines lined up. The gap will be about 2 mm, but you can do this visually.
Next, gently slide the case with the rotors onto the shaft. Try to avoid moving the larger piston. When the case is almost fully engaged, you will feel the shaft touch the smaller piston. If it does not engage immediately, try 'wiggling' the case and turning it slightly. You will feel it engage and it will slide fully home. I'd recommend trying this without the spring, to get the 'feel' for this.
When the unit is reassembled, you will need to replace the circlip. Make sure that it is sitting fully into the groove all the way around, otherwise you could have some serious failures!
Finally reassemble the timing belt following the normal instructions (I used the instructions given here: Link
Now for the test. Has it made any difference?!
When I started mine, my heart dropped. The car sounded even worse than before, with quite a pronounced rattle. However once I was sure it wasn't going to blow up, a blip of the throttle brought oil into both sides of the variator, and it suddenly was as smooth as it should be.
I hope this info is of some use to you? Obviously it's just my experiences, I'm an amateur and don't advise anybody to tinker with their car if they don't know what they're doing, etc.
But if you do start the job, and get stuck, feel free to give me a shout by pm to ask my opinion.