How do you replace belt tensioner on 1998 Chevy cavalier?

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Try this...
You will need a 3/8 belt tensioner tool or a two foot piece of wood.
a 15mm open/box end wrench, stubby preferred.
a 15mm socket and ratchet
a small socket set
a jack, floor or stock
a lug wrench
a jack stand
a friend (for 5 minutes)
If you have the cash, this is a good time to replace the belt.
Open hood, apply emergency brake
If the belt isn't already off, push down on the tensioner with the stick or tensioner tool and slip the belt off of either the tensioner or the dummy wheel in the center of the engine
Raise vehicle from the front of the passenger door's jack slot until RF tire is almost off ground
Loosen lug nuts slightly raise tire off ground
Support frame up front with jack stand, do not block engine pully access
Remove tire and center access panel in wheel well (three small screws on the right and some larger ones supporting the brake line cable)
Wiggle the panel out of of the brake line and it should drop out only supported by the front valence fastener.
Lower your jack or use a 2nd one and jack up to the engine support bar running just in front of the flywheel pully on the front of the engine.
Up under the hood, remove the two motor mount bolts on the top front of the engine with a 15mm socket going back and forth alternately between the two (yes, the obvious easy to get to bolts).
Start lowering the engine with the jack until it bottoms out (note: make sure the alternator or anything else doesn't get hung up on the way down).
Now look in the wheel well and there is the tensioner. Unfortunately the bolt is still slightly obscured so use a 15mm box end to break it loose and the open end to remove it the rest of the way. Lots of threads so keep going.
Tensioner falls off.
Put bolt in new tensioner and install getting the guide pin lined up.
Raise the engine back up to within 1/2 inch of the mount plate taking care not to get hung up on the way up. (the engine is flopping loose and easily manipulated).
Line up the motor mount bolts and hand start them and tighten them up alternately.
Have a friend hold the tensioner down with a stick or tensioner tool while you reinstall the belt (route it and install it on the dummy wheel last). There is a diagram on the top front of the hood, I recommend drawing it on paper so it can be oriented during installation.
Install wheel well access panel and tire, lower car and tighten lug nuts.
If the car was overheated because the belt came loose during tensioner failure, replace lost coolant and change the oil (heat breakdown).
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