Take Steve's advice. get it repaired or replaced. That little gas shock provides some of the force for the belt tensioner. It also damps out oscillations in the tensioner system. If it's not there, you can throw your serpentine belt. Things will go sour pretty quickly if that happens. If the bracket on the tensioner hub is broken, you will have to replace that part. If the retainer bolt is missing, then the fix is easy. Get it done pronto. They put it there for a reason.
You will have to remove the fan shroud and fan blades. The radiator doesn't have to come out. The front bracket on the tensioner can be a bit of a pain. The innermost retainer bolt is behind the fan pulley. It can be loosened sufficiently to remove the tensioner hub w/o removing the fan pully.
1987 BMW 325
[This message has been edited by jeffsr (edited 04-09-2000).]
[This message has been edited by jeffsr (edited 04-10-2000).]