Harmonic balancer vs. crankshaft pulley



For my 1992 Toyota Camry XLE, one mechanic told me the squealing noise the belt makes is because the harmonic balancer is loose. My main mechanic tells me that’s the same as the crankshaft pulley. When I search online to buy the part, I get different prices depending on whether I search for the crankshaft pulley or the harmonic balancer. The balancer tends to be cheaper. Does it matter which one I order?


I just went to www.rockauto.com and they had pictures of the balancer. The pulley is part of the balancer. Just get the harmonic balancer and you’ll be fine.


It’s a harmonic balancer.

A harmonic balancer has a rubber isolator between the hub and the pulley. A crankshaft pulley doesn’t have this rubber isolator.


The first mechanic has probably found that this rubber isolator has become delaminated from the balancer causing the noise.



He said the pulley was loose and needed to be replaced.


On a 92 Camry? I agree.

The pulley on the balancer is loose because the rubber that’s used to bond it to the hub is shot.



The harmonic balancer is a device that mates the crankshaft pulley (also used as a “mass”) to the crankshaft with a rubber isolator in between. Rotational impulses, cause by the firing of the cylinders, are absorbed by the rubber and returned to the rotating crankshaft out of phase with the pulses, smoothing the rotational vibrations inherent in the system.

The constant action on the rubber eventually causes breakdown, and the rubber deteriorates, causing looseness of the pulley.

This absolutely should be replaced if it’s worn out. Failure to do so allows resonances in the crankshaft, vibrations, and can cause premature failure of the sleeve bearings that the crankshaft rotates in. It’ll also cause the crankshaft main seal to fail, causing leakage of oil from the crankshaft. Your engine uses a timing belt, and oil passage past the crank main seal will cause deterioration and premature failure of the timing belt.


The “crankshaft pulley” can be a separate part that bolts to the harmonic balancer or the pulley can be an integral part of the balancer… The term 'Balancer" is used rather loosely…It’s main purpose is to absorb torsional vibration in the crankshaft and keep them from reaching destructive levels. The longer the shaft, the worse the problem…Crankshafts tend to “wind up” like a spring as the result of power impulses delivered by the pistons and connecting rods. This winding and unwinding can lead to crankshaft failure. As Mountainbike said, the harmonic balancer absorbs this “whip” and returns it to the crankshaft out of phase with the original impulse canceling it out…The balancer consists of two parts laminated together with a rubber layer that absorbs and cancels out the “whip” in the crankshaft…


I think on my 92 Corolla the crankshaft pulley and the harmonic balancer are the same part. I had to remove the crank pulley to change the timing belt, and I don’t recall seeing anything else on the crankshaft other than the timing belt sprocket.

I’m not sure why your online search is bring up different parts depending on what you call it. There may be more than one engine for your make/model/year, and that’s causing the confusion. Online parts catalog problems are pretty common. And you can’t get away from them by getting parts at the local parts store, as those parts stores use the same online catalog. They try to condense as many parts as possible into the category, and they get some unintended overlap.

I recently purchased an ignition rotor for my Corolla at a local parts store. Seems a pretty simple thing, right? It’s like a $5 part. Well, when it came time to install it, I immediately notice it is not the same length as the old one. That’s no good. So back to the store. Turns out the parts catalog listed two parts with some cryptic annotations about which vehicle each one goes in, and while there is only one that is applicable for my make/model/year, they didn’t take time to read the annotations and gave me the wrong one.


There were only two engines used in the Camry of that year, the I-4 and the V6. And they’d probably have some variation to the dampers depending on the options. I believe here were still a lot of cars in '92 that did not come standard with A/C, and the automatic transmission for each engine may have required a different damper, making a potential total of eight different dampers if one considers all the options variation combinations.

I also suspect there are numerous aftermarket suppliers that have a basic line of harmonic dampers that they sell for more than one engine, perhaps even different makes of car.