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For the past two winters my car has had this rattle on cold starts, only during the cold months--during spring and summer it's not there. I figured it was just the upper chain guide that's known to harden and make a rattle on startup so I had that replaced last week when my valve cover gasket was done. Looked at the old on and there were barely two grooves in it from the timing chain. They said there was no slack in the chain at all.

BUT, the noise is still there when the engine is cold. It has 166k mi on it but has been well maintained since I got it with 30k mi, so I find it hard to believe the chain needs to be replaced at this point. They did say the water pump had a leak which I plan to have them fix soon--though I had a new one put in 2 years ago...

Has anyone been through this before? Alternator and idler pulley were replaced. AC, power steering and pulley tensioner are all original--could it be any of those?
 

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Use a long 1/2" breaker bar in the tensioner slot to (carefully) release pressure on the serpentine belt and have a helper start the engine to determine if the rattle is from a belt-driven pulley. If you don't have a breaker bar or are uncomfortable doing it have your shop do it.

If the sound disappears then with the belt retensioned and the engine idling you can use a stethoscope or long screwdriver to determine which pulley it is.

Even a recently replaced pulley could be the source of the sound.
 

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Measure the TC tensioner extension ?

MTBoerner,

Does your shop see lots of SAAB's ? I ask because your comment "They said there was no slack in the chain at all" doesn't fit with what I expect from an experienced SAAB technician. The proper check is to remove and measure the timing chain tensioner to check for wear of timing chain, guides, and sprockets. You can search on how to do that.

The advice to remove tension on the serpentine belt before a cold start and see whether you still hear the noise would isolate the noises from the accessory pulleys - with great care not to run it too long. Tappet noise is possible, and so is balance chain noise.

I empathize with you - I've replaced the cam cover guide on all four 9-5's I've owned - and for three of them that was sufficient. I rolled in a new TC on a 1999 SE when the engine was at about 235K miles (the car had lower miles, but it received a donor engine before I bought it). It was running fine 55K miles later when we gave it away.
 

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The advice to remove tension on the serpentine belt before a cold start and see whether you still hear the noise would isolate the noises from the accessory pulleys .
That actually wasn't the recommendation, the suggestion is to start the car and then carefully loosen the tensioner to see if the sound changes.

I bet it's the tensioner or idler pulley bearing, if you arent comfortable releasing the tensioner you can always use a shortened broom handle and use it as a stethoscope and isolate the location of the noise.
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