Noise while idling

I have a 1992 Ford Tempo GL 2.3L 4 cylinder. Just recently, my car started making a noise while idling. It is coming from the passenger side of the car. On closer inspection, it sounds as if it is coming from where the timing belts are located. When holding the break, it is a consistent sounds. If the car is in park and I do not have the break on, then the noise seems to be intermittent, happening for 10-15 seconds at a time, two or three seconds at a time.

The noise you hear might be from a worn out cam shaft gear which results in a loose timing chain. The teeth on the cam shaft gear are made from plastic. Over time these teeth become brittle where they start to break off the cam shaft gear hub and fall into the oil pan, and the chain starts to ride on the aluminum gear hub. The chain then gets enough slack in it where it comes in contact with the timing chain cover. And that’s the noise you hear.

There’s two ways to check for this. First is drain the oil and then check the drained oil for small bits of plastic. The other is to remove the distributor cap and while someone watches the rotor, turn the engine by the crank bolt in one direction and stop. Now turn the engine in the oposite direction and see how far the engine can be turned before the rotor starts to turn. If the engine can be turned five degrees or more before the rotor turns, there’s a problem with the timing chain.


Thanks so much. I will see what I can find out from your suggestions. If that is indeed the problem, what does it take to fix the problem? Does this mean the cam shaft gear needs to be replaced?

When this problem is encountered, you want to get a new timing chain set. This includes a new timing chain, a new cam shaft timing gear which does not have plastic teeth, and all the related seals and gaskets.

However, it’s suggested that the engine be removed when performing this repair. This is only because there’s no way to get at the crankshaft bolt to remove it with the engine in the vehicle. But here’s how to get around that. Take a 1" hole saw and cut through the bulkhead so that the hole is aligned with the crankshaft bolt. Now a socket and extension can pass thru the hole to remove the crankshaft bolt.


I took a look under the car to try to find out a little more about the problem. It seems that I do not have a timing chain, but rather a timing belt. I don’t know if that would change the situation. I wasn’t able to confirm your suspicions via either of the methods you recommended. It seemed that my car has stopped the intermittent sounds last night when I went to take a closer look.

I did find out that it seems like I only hear the problem if I am in Drive, Reverse, or Gears 1 and 2, but not when in neutral. It also sounds as if the RPM of the car idling is the same frequency as the rattling sound. It seems like that might place the problem area in a different spot, but again, I am not sure enough to say for sure.

The 2.3 liter engine uses a timing chain, not a timing belt. I checked on Mitchell on Demand to be sure before I answered your post.