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Do you hear a squeal from the engine compartment when you start your Fiero? Yep. It's the alternator belt. If you've tried to tighten this belt you know it can be a chore. The gizmo below will remove the difficulty and make tightening the belt an easy one-person job.

The sketch below is self-explanatory. We can take no credit for the concept but this particular rendition may be unique. To make it work, shorten the tightener as much as possible, insert it between the pulleys on the alternator and water pump, then twist the turnbuckle until the alternator belt is tight. Then tighten the bolt on the alternator to hold it in postion. Finally, remove the tightener. That's it!

Our turnbuckle was purchased at Home Depot for less than $3. Make sure yours has an eye bolt on both ends, not one eye bolt and a hook. Make the end blocks from hardwood as shown in the sketch. The eye bolts are held in hollowed-out areas of the blocks with a 1/2" diameter dowel. This allows the block to pivot and self-align with the pulley when tightened.

We have used commercial versions of this device (from Harbor Freight) but this one works far better. The dimensions in the sketch are in millimeters unless noted as inches. Dimensions of the blocks are not critical.

A photo of the original Belt Tightener is shown below. You can see from the grease marks it has been well-used!

What if the belt continues to loosen and squeal even though you tighten it properly? Or what if the belt jumps off the pulleys frequently or becomes shredded every 1000 miles? Here are a few possible causes of these problems:

1. Glazed Belt: If the belt has slipped for a while, the belt surface next to the pulley will become polished or "glazed". The resulting lack of friction will cause the belt to slip and squeal even when properly tightened. While belt dressing will help the problem, we recommend a new belt.

2. Pulley Mis-alignment: If the pulleys are not aligned properly (in the same plane) the belt may jump off or shred. Put a steel straightedge across the face of the pulleys to check alignment.

3. Wrong Pulley: The number of grooves in the pulleys must match the number of grooves in the belt. It happens frequently that an alternator is changed and the replacement alternator has a pulley with a different number of grooves. This is easy to miss and will cause slippage and eventual destruction of the belt. You may need to transfer an old pulley to a new alternator to solve the problem.

4. Worn Threads in Alternator Housing: The steel hold-down bolt for the alternator inserts into a threaded hole in the aluminum body of the alternator. With age the threads in the aluminum can become worn and the bolt will slowly back out. If you have to frequently tighten your alternator hold-down bolt, this may be your problem. A few solutions to this are:

(a) Get a new or rebuilt alternator. Check the threaded hole since remanufacturers will probably not verify the threads are good.

(b) Use thread lock compound on the bolt every time it is tightened.

(c) Drill out the hole in the alternator so a longer bolt can pass completely through the mounting ear on the alternator. Use a lockwasher and nut to hold the bolt in place.

(d) Repair the worn threads in the alternator body with thread repair compound.