Replacing the variable timing solenoid in a 2001 Audi A4 Quattro

I believe this part can also be referred to as the “Timing Chain Tensioner”, anyways it may seem daunting to replace this part but it actually wasn’t difficult providing you do a few things before loosening the camshaft tower bolts.


Our 2001 Audi V6 started throwing random misfire errors on the right side of the engine. Initially all we saw were the errors, but the car ran fine with the exception of a rough idle. After a few days of trying to debug the issue we started hearing the timing chain hit the valve cover. After pulling off the valve cover we immediately saw the problem.

The old variable timing solenoid is missing the plastic boots!

Evidence of where the timing chain has been hitting the valve cover.

This is what was left of the Timing Chain Guide. Broken pieces everywhere!

Replacement Kit

I got the replacement kit from Parts Geek, it included all the gaskets and a special tool to keep the timing solenoid compressed while removing and installing.

Variable Timing Solenoid kit from Parts Geek (Dorman 917-021). Includes all the necessary gaskets!


This was a very simple process, you just need to take your time and be patient. Removal and installation takes about an hour if you haven’t done it before.

  1. The very first thing I did, was mark the position of the camshafts to the bolt tower, and the timing chain with red Dykem. This is critical to make sure the timing chain goes right back where it was at when everything is tightened up. Mine jumped a tooth on installation but I was able to loosen it up and spin the camshaft back into position.
  2. Starting with the top camshaft, from the very back of the motor closest to the solenoid, I removed the camshaft towers all the way back.
  3. With the lower camshaft, that the timing belt is attached two, I repeated the process from back to front but left the last two towers in place but with screws loose. I didn’t want there to be a chance of the timing belt jumping a tooth. If that is a concern for you, you can always mark that with Dykem as well.
  4. I compressed the old timing solenoid with the special tool provided in the kit, and moved the camshafts towards each other. This creates enough slack in the chain where the timing solenoid can wiggle out. For whatever reason removing the old solenoid is more difficult than dropping the new one in.
  5. With the old solenoid out, replace the half-moon gasket and the solenoid flat gasket. Wrangle the new solenoid into place (after compressing it of course).

    New timing solenoid inserted. You can see my red Dykem marks line up.

  6. Bolt down the solenoid, use 7 ft. lbs. torque. Drop the camshaft towers back in place in reverse order of removing them. slowly tighten them, but not completely. As the camshaft goes back into position add more towers until all the towers are in and then bring the bolts to 7 ft. lbs. torque.
  7. Verify all your Dykem marks line up before placing the valve cover back. Valve cover nuts torque to 7.5 ft. lbs. Reconnect all hoses, wires, and be sure all bolts are tight.
  8. When you first start the engine, it will likely rattle the chain and run rough for a minute. You probably will get a new error that the timing is too far advanced or similar. Once things seem to be running smooth, clear the errors. You should be done.
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