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Thread: Borked Alternator?

  1. #1
    Duffman's Avatar Poster
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    It was a nice week or so without any car problems but today when I drove over to wal mart with a buddy of mine I parked my car and turned it off. Realizing I could have easily parked 100 yards closer I went to turn the car back on and it just made a slow dyeing attempt to at starting. Now I get nothing. However, the battery is not dead, lights, radio, everything works fine, and even when I go to turn the key nothing dims to show a battery going out. So now i'm a little a confused, if the alternator was to die, then the car should continue to run until it depletes the battery, right? So what else could be behind all of this?
    ...

  2. Software & Hardware   -   #2
    Damnatory's Avatar OTL BT Rep: +6BT Rep +6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duffman View Post
    It was a nice week or so without any car problems but today when I drove over to wal mart with a buddy of mine I parked my car and turned it off. Realizing I could have easily parked 100 yards closer I went to turn the car back on and it just made a slow dyeing attempt to at starting. Now I get nothing. However, the battery is not dead, lights, radio, everything works fine, and even when I go to turn the key nothing dims to show a battery going out.
    More than likely it is the battery, whether the lights look like they are dimming or not... I've had dying batteries continue to power peripherals, without being able to start the car. The attempt at starting the car but decreasing in power with each turn over, is the battery losing power.

    It could be an alternator problem though, I would suggest taking to one of those rinky-dink car shops and asking if they can do a load test on your battery. Basically it drains the battery while the car is on but idleing. If the battery quickly regains charge, the alternator is fine. If the car dies, then the alternator is to blame.
    Last edited by Damnatory; 10-11-2006 at 02:58 AM.

  3. Software & Hardware   -   #3
    4play's Avatar knob jockey
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    Could be the starter motor.

    Does the car make any noise when you try to turn it over ?

  4. Software & Hardware   -   #4
    lynx's Avatar .
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    If the lights don't dim when you try to start the car then it is unlikely that the battery is at fault, and consequently there's no reason to suspect the alternator either.

    First thing to check is the connections between the battery and the starter motor - simply because tightening a loose connection costs you nothing.

    If there doesn't seem to be a bad connection then you should get the starter motor checked, and the solenoid too if your car has a separate one (unusual these days). Depending on the age of the car, it could simply be the carbon brushes in the motor, they should be fairly cheap to replace.
    .
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  5. Software & Hardware   -   #5
    How old is the battery...I think the average life span is about 5 yrs anything after that is gravy..I love Canadian tire you bring your alternator in they do a bench test on it at no charge...

  6. Software & Hardware   -   #6
    zapjb's Avatar Computer Abuser BT Rep: +3
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    A bad alternator can kill a good battery. And a bad battery can kill a good alternator. A lot of times that means they're both shot.

    And battery life depends course on quality. But also on geography. Place I lived average life of battery was 5yrs. Where I live now it's 1 1/2-2yrs.

  7. Software & Hardware   -   #7
    clocker's Avatar Shovel Ready
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynx View Post
    If the lights don't dim when you try to start the car then it is unlikely that the battery is at fault, and consequently there's no reason to suspect the alternator either.
    Bingo.

    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    First thing to check is the connections between the battery and the starter motor - simply because tightening a loose connection costs you nothing.
    I'd replace the cables altogether.
    Even if they weren't damaged in the fire incident they are getting old and new cables are a cheap and easy maintenance procedure.

    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    If there doesn't seem to be a bad connection then you should get the starter motor checked, and the solenoid too if your car has a separate one (unusual these days). Depending on the age of the car, it could simply be the carbon brushes in the motor, they should be fairly cheap to replace.
    A remanufactured starter motor is another option, the one I would take.
    If you consider the probability of having to replace it in the future (starter motor motors are considered "consumables", just like brake pads), then the extra initial expense is offset by the reduction of labor and (possible) aggravation.
    "I am the one who knocks."- Heisenberg

  8. Software & Hardware   -   #8
    harrycary's Avatar Poster
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    Remanufactured starters are all that are available anymore.

    New ones can only be had from the dealer depending on the year/make/model of your car. Even then, they will be outrageously expensive.

    btw, your starter draws more current than other necessary loads on the electrical system. Fortunately it's only used for a few seconds at a time.
    (except maybe lights and wipers on, at night, in the rain)

    Most parts stores will check your alternator for free but mainly they offer this "service" to help sell alternators(and starters). So, buyer beware.

    /sold car parts for 5 years.

  9. Software & Hardware   -   #9
    Chewie's Avatar Chew E. Bakke
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    Like others here my money's not on the battery.

    If the lights don't dim and the radio still works fine while you're operating the starter then your problem is likely the engine earth strap or the main feed cable connection on the starter. Unbolt the earth strap from the bodywork and clean up the terminal & bodywork area then do the same thing to the main feed cable.
    If your lights go out or dim when you operate the starter but stay on and the radio works after the starter's come to a halt then your battery is likely on its way out - probably a dead cell. Most automotive stores can perform a drop test on a battery that has been fully charged which will show up shortcomings when the battery is under load.
    You can check a lead-acid battery with a hydrometer... all the cells should carry very nearly the same charge so if any have none or are significantly lower then they're dead/dying and the battery has had it.

    When a starter motor is on its last legs it won't normally slow down while turning over the engine; usually it'll either turn the engine over really slowly or not at all. If you hear a click when you turn the key but the engine doesn't turn then the solenoid's stuck - they can be replaced if you're competent but usually its not worth the effort.
    If the starter is turning the engine slowly it could be due to badly worn brushes but although replacements are sometimes available you have to consider the possibility that if the brushes are worn down, a failing stator, rotor, bendix or bearing may not be far away.

    clocker pointed to the recent fire and I agree.
    Clean up or change your cables.

    /sold car parts for 12 years.
    /selling truck parts for the last 3 years.
    There isn't a bargepole long enough for me to work on [a Sony Viao] - clocker 2008

  10. Software & Hardware   -   #10
    Duffman's Avatar Poster
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    Well it ended up needing to be towed, and it looks like something relativley cheap, relays, most likely wiring based problem, i'll know more tomarrow.
    ...

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