Catastrophic engine failure is the outcome of a timing chain tensioner failure in any vehicle. However, it has become an increasingly common issue amongst the owners of an Audi or a Volkswagen, specifically with a 2.0TSI engine. This is due to a design flaw, and the manufacturer should notify you of a recall when the design flaw is as severe as a timing chain tensioner failure.

Usually, the timing chain tensioner in any vehicle will not require any maintenance, but the timing belt often needs to be replaced after about 100,000 miles. If you experience a timing chain tensioner failure, it will likely require a minimum of an expensive fix, but depending on the severity, it may require an engine replacement.


The timing chain tensioner is located under the timing chain cover on the front of the engine. The timing chain connects the crankshaft to the camshaft, and the tensioner is used to keep the appropriate amount of tension on the chain. Over time, the timing chain will stretch but the tensioner is in place to ensure that the chain stays in the correct spot under the correct amount of tension. If the tensioner were to fail, there is nothing keeping the chain in place.

If the timing chain isn’t in place and breaks while the vehicle is running, the valves will be open, and the piston will hit the valves, causing the vehicle to stop running almost immediately. It does often take some time for the timing chain to completely break, and when the tensioner fails, it is more likely the chain will be off just slightly. If you are able to recognize the signs before the chain breaks, you are less likely to need an engine replacement.


If you think you may have an Audi that has a 2.0TSI engine, it is best to take a look before you even begin to experience issues with the timing chain tensioner. The Audis that usually fall into that category are Audi A3/A4 models produced between 2008 and 2013. If you are unsure, contact a trusted Audi mechanic to see if they know or you can look under the hood at then engine cover. If the engine cover has the letters “TSI” then your Audi more than likely will have issues with the timing chain tensioner, and it should be inspected and replaced as soon as possible.

However, if your Audi doesn’t fall into that category, you will still want to be aware of the possible signs in case you begin to experience a timing chain tensioner failure. The most common way to tell if the timing chain tensioner is beginning to fail is if you hear a rattling or something under the hood is making a sound that sounds like metal on metal. This rattling is coming from the chain specifically, and over time, continuous rattling can wear a hole in the timing chain cover, causing an oil leak. If you experience not only a metal on metal rattling noise, but also an oil leak, it is best to take your Audi to a mechanic as soon as possible to have the timing chain tensioner inspected for possible failure.


Knowing the signs is good, but often times complete tensioner failure is avoidable through routine vehicle maintenance. Be sure to maintain your engine properly and have the oil changed at the recommended intervals to ensure everything runs smoothly. Having the proper type of oil and the appropriate oil levels will ensure that the timing chain is well lubricated for efficient functioning.

If you own an Audi that falls under the stipulations listed in an earlier section, you are at a higher risk of failure due to a design flaw. If this is the case, visit a trusted specialist immediately to have the vehicle inspected and/or have the timing chain tensioner replaced.


If you suspect or are unsure if your Audi has a design flaw associated with the timing chain tensioner, it is better to be safe than sorry, because if the tensioner does fail you will not only need to replace the timing chain tensioner, but the entire engine. If you live in or around the Longhorn or San Antonio, Texas area the professionals at Autobahn Automotive are the best Audi specialists around and will be able to answer any and all questions regarding your timing chain tensioner.

* Audi A3 image credit goes to:y_carfan.

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