• Change your alternator ILLUSTRATED!

    Change your alternator

    All vans, 2WD and 4WD

    Tools needed:

    14mm combination wrench
    socket wrench
    14mm socket
    12mm socket
    10mm socket

    optional tools (may be necessary on some vans):
    14mm racheting combination wrench
    6” socket extension
    3” socket extension

    Parts needed:
    A reliably rebuilt alternator (the “lifetime warranty” alternators are a joke — don’t waste your time on them)

    Why you would need to do this:

    When the four lights indicated by the arrows come on while driving, or when they stay on after starting the engine, it’s your van’s ample warning to you — and best known as “Christmas Dash — that the alternator is no longer functioning and you’re driving on battery power only.

    There are other ways that alternators show failure without “Christmas Dash”. For instance, if the
    CHARGE light does NOT come on when the ignition is turned to “ON”, the alternator’s internal regulator has probably failed (a fault in the alternator’s internal circuits can also cause this without consequence). Other signs that the battery is being drained because the alternator isn’t functioning include:
    • wipers working slowly or out of rhythm
    • headlights are dim
    • other electrically-powered functions (ie, the CD player) are erratic

    Our wonderful vans have some shortcomings. All Toyotas have just as much alternator as they need under normal circumstances. Vanwagon power steering pumps are located right above the alternator, and power steering fluid leaks onto the alternator definitely constitute abnormal circumstances that no alternator can cope with. This is the most common cause of Vanwagon alternator death.

    Older wiring harnesses and corroding wires can also insult the alternator … or just cause it to claim insult when it’s actually the wiring causing the Christmas display.

    Expecting the alternator to charge up a dead or compromised battery will also strain the alternator to the point of failure. If you have to jump your van, don’t run it to charge up the battery. Put the battery on a charger, figure out why it was low, and fix the problem!

    Once the van has so pointedly and colorfully told you that the alternator is deceased, continue driving at your own risk. You can in fact drive quite an impressive distance in daylight hours as long as the van remains running (minimal restarts), but the battery will need to be recharged after the alternator is replaced and before driving again (or the new alternator will croak). If it’s night and headlights are required, you can only travel a minimal distance before the battery is so low that there’s no fuel injection. In either case, if you’re on the road and away from home or a reliable mechanic, the best course of action is to pull over at the next safe location and change the alternator before the battery is significantly discharged.

    Our vans’ alternators aren’t so common any more and, depending on what part of the country you’re in, they may not be readily available on the road, necessitating a day’s wait or longer. Many van drivers carry a spare alternator on long trips.

    → Words to the wise — Don’t just replace the alternator, fix the cause! A properly protected alternator will serve for many years, YES, even in our vans!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~


    For 2WD vans only, set the parking brake, block the rear wheels, and jack up the front. If you are caught on the road, put the driver’s side front wheel up on a curb for additional working clearance, set the parking brake and block the rear wheels.

    For 4WD vans only, park in the location of your choice and set the parking brake.

    For ALL vans: disconnect the battery and lift the seat

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    Detatch the coolant level warning connector (1) and ONLY THEN pull the coolant tank (2) straight up.

    Place coolant tank out of the way. Don’t let the sensor (on the bottom) or its wires sit on a hot engine, or you’ll have yourself another problem.

    Loosen the upper 12mm bolt first (or you won’t be able to do the next bolt), then loosen the alternator/belt adjusting bolt nearly all the way (because it’s easier if the van is still hanging on to things for you), THEN remove the 12mm bolt completely.

    Remove the lower 14mm mounting bolt. This requires some pretzelation on your part. Prepare your socket wrench with a 14mm socket and keep it where you can reach it. Grab your 14mm combo wrench in your left hand and reach around to the aft side of the alternator; put the box end over the nut (yeah, blind … and yeah, now yer in the van up to yer shoulder!). Holding the combo wrench in place, put the 14mm socket on the bolt head (the one you can actually almost see. Remove the nut, but leave the bolt in place for now.

    Now that the alternator pivots, remove the belt. It’s still a pretty tight fit.

    If you have 2WD and will be working under the van, remove the 10mm nut holding the positive wire's ring terminal to the alternator (pictured) and the harness plug (not visible) now. I find this to be a royal pain in the space (not) provided, and now do my 2WD alternators like my 4WD.

    On both 2WD and 4WD vans, I hook a bungee to the upper alternator mount and attach the other end of the bungee to something secure, usually the engine cover. This makes it easier to retrieve the alternator when it dives for the nether regions (4WD) and (VERY IMPORTANT!) prevents it from plopping on the ground and stressing the alternator harness prior to disconnecting (2WD).

    NOW remove the long bolt that goes through the bottom mount of the alternator.

    4WD (and 2WD continuing from the top) — Loosen the 14mm bolt holding the alternator bracket. Don’t remove it.

    Pivot the alternator bracket down.

    Squirm the alternator up past the bracket. Now, for 4WD (and if you chose not to do it earlier on 2WD) remove positive wire (10mm nut) and plug; also the strain relief if present. Lotsa working room now!

    If you have a 2WD van, you can just drop the alternator on the ground (assuming it hasn’t already jumped out on its own).

    For 4WD vans (or if you can’t get under your 2WD for this job), orient the alternator as shown. Carefully rotating it back and forth on the axis formed by the mounting holes, the alternator will just squiggle out (with significant pressure on the fan shroud). Once you get it right, you’ll be amazed at how easy that was … with absolutely no understanding of exactly what you did.

    An alternative orientation for removal on 4WD is shown in this article.

    *** If your alternator harness looks cheesy, replace it NOW as shown in the article Replace your van’s alternator harness***

    To reinstall the alternator, it’s mostly doing it all backwards … but if you forget the exact steps, you’ll be cussin’, ‘cuz they can’t be done in just any ol’ order. So here they are.

    For 4WD, carefully squirrel the alternator back down into the van the way you got it out. Once it’s positioned right, it will drop right back in like a rock and amaze you. Then attach the alternator to the harness:

    This is the strain relief attachment on a new alternator wiring harness. The arrow points to the plastic snap that pushes into the hole in the alternator (see above). It’s a major pain to get out of the alternator later (it’s faster to cut the tape holding it to the harness) … but it really saves stress on the connectors on the alternator harness.

    A “new” (rebuilt) alternator with strain relief, plug, and positive installed. The new wiring harness has a rubber cap over the postive.

    • squirm the alternator bracket back above the alternator (after attaching the harness)
    • position the alternator in the lower mount and put the bolt through to hold it there.
    • start the upper 12mm bolt through the bracket and into the alternator’s top mounting hole
    • NOW tighten down the 14mm bolt mounting the other end of the bracket to the engine !!!

    For 2WD, the under-the-van approach
    • From under the van, attach the strain relief and the plug
    • position the alternator in the lower mount and slide the bolt through to hold it there
    • go back “upstairs” and attach the positive
    • start the upper 12mm bolt through the bracket and into the alternator’s top mounting hole
    This can all be done from above as for 4WD, but the alternator REALLY likes to keep right on going through the van onto the ground … pick your poison … )

    For 2WD, the above-the-van approach
    • Hook the bungee on something sturdy but lower and dangle the other end through where the alternator will go and under the van.
    •. From underneath the van, hook the dangling bungee end to the upper (thin) mount on the alternator
    • Go back "up top", fish the alternator up into the van, and secure the free end of the bungee back to the engine cover (or whatever worked for you)
    • Attach the strain relief and the plug
    • Position the alternator in the lower mount and slide the bolt through to hold it there
    • Attach the positive
    • Start the upper 12mm bolt through the bracket and into the alternator’s top mounting hole
    • NOW tighten down the 14mm bolt mounting the other end of the bracket to the engine !!!

    The remainder is the same for all vans
    • put the belt back in place, making absolutely certain that the belt is correctly seated on all three pulleys
    • screw the 12mm bolt in until there’s little or no slack
    • use the adjusting screw to tighten the belt properly
    • finish tightening the 12mm bolt
    • put the nut on the 14mm lower mounting bolt and tighten
    • replace coolant overflow tank
    • re-attach coolant level sensor connector

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~

    A real van guru can do all this in less time than it took you to read it. Someday you’ll have it memorized too!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Change your alternator ILLUSTRATED! started by llamavan View original post
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