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Thread: Van down, electrical

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    Van down, electrical

    So I took off today from home and shortly thereafter just about all my dash warning lights lights came on, except for check engine. Running fine otherwise. Went back home, checked oil level - ok, checked battery - 12.86 v, so I decided I had a loose connection. While driving, I notice that the lights would come off and on as I hit bumps and rough road, eventually staying on. I drove about 25 miles and had no problems restarting. Came back home, and when I went out to start it again, it cranked weak, and then the starter clicking sound. I just had a mechanic tell me recently he recommended a new battery. Does this sound like a battery problem or is something loose? I checked the posts on the battery and they're clean and tight, although only after I tightened the negative terminal after the fact.

    Any thoughts?

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    ...search 'christmas tree lights'...........hint=test the alternator

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Loose wiring harness connection would explain christmas lights on bumps/rough road. Have you confirmed all connections good other than the posts?

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Ok, thanks guys, that's plenty to go on. Sounds like the alternator, it has or does leak PS fluid. I check out Christmas tree light threads and it sounds familiar. Still, the battery isn't down that much, I'm getting 11.80 something volts. But the symptoms sounds like an alternator. I'll keep looking at the connections too.

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Alternator is out. Thank you for the tutorial llamavan, that helped a lot. I did it years ago but it was a lot harder with no knowledge. I'll be taking it to a rebuild shop for testing in a few days. Looks like it's been leaked on. Grubby.

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    I got my alternator rebuilt and back in. Charged the battery, started it up and went on some short errands, so far so good, got a clean dash. Will be watching things closely over the next few days.

    Is it normal for a new (rebuilt) alternator to make a whining sound?

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Whining is NOT normal.

    How old is your battery?
    Is the alternator warm or even hot after driving? (Uh, be careful when you test for that!!!)

    Gwen
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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Quote Originally Posted by surfah View Post
    I got my alternator rebuilt and back in. Charged the battery, started it up and went on some short errands, so far so good, got a clean dash. Will be watching things closely over the next few days.

    Is it normal for a new (rebuilt) alternator to make a whining sound?
    ..how about beltnoise........or feed th'gerbils

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Gwen - A mechanic told me recently that he thought my battery needs replacing. Thing is, it has a 1/11 sticker on it, so it's not that old, but it's a Walmart wonder. I may replace it today.

    Could I have my belt too tight? I'll check for heat today.

    Micah - Are you calling my gerbils whiny?

    Thanks, Chris

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    surfah,

    Alternators can whine for various reasons. The front bearing could be failing, but if that were the case the shop that repaired it should have noticed that. Belts that are too tight can lead to premature bearing failure, but probably wouldn't cause a whine right off. Rule of thumb, when tightening belt, only use your fingers to tighten the adjustment wing nut. If you have really strong fingers it's still possible to overtighten, but it would get uncomfortable. 1st make sure the adjuster screw can turn easily (with no tension) then snug it up in the "comfortable" range and call it good. If the belt squeals, then it's not tight enough......crank her down another couple of turns. If the adjuster screw is bent or otherwise hard to turn, then you'll need to clean/lubricate it or replace with an undamaged one.

    Another reason for whine could be the alternator is working hard. If your battery is low or has a shorted cell this could cause it. If it were just a low battery the whine would subside as the battery charged. It's not likely you have a shorted cell because the battery wouldn't hold a charge for more than a few hrs at a time. It's possible the internal regulator (inside the alternator) has failed (creating a "full field" condition). You could check for this using a volt meter. With the engine at around 2000 rpms check battery voltage (at the battery). If voltage is over 15vdc then this could be the issue. Another thing that can cause "full field" is the yellow "FL 0.5G fusible link" inside the battery compartment.

    One more thing to check is to make sure the whine isn't coming through your speakers. If it's an electronic noise suppression problem it should go away when the radio is turned off & should increase with the volume. This could be due to a change inside the alternator not being compatible with your radio/stereo equipment. There are ways to filter this out if that's to blame.

    Sorry it took so long to reply, but the info/advice the other members gave you was top notch.......so until now I had nothing to add . Tim

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Thanks Tim, I'll check for the full field condition soon.

    Yesterday, I didn't take the alternator to the shop myself. I had to work, so I put it in a back pack, gave it to my daughter and put her on a city bus to the shop, had her wait around till it was done, and she brought it back. I didn't look at the receipt till this morning and noticed it's stamped with "warranty void for oil saturated units". Their way of saying they won't guarantee it because it was soaked with ATF.

    So I'm wondering if the whine is due to fluid that is still in the alternator (?)

    Also, when I put it in, I had to move the coolant hose clamp and some fluid leaked onto the alternator.

    This afternoon I drove down to the battery shop to get a new (refurbed) battery. They tested my old battery and said it was good but I got the new one and put it in anyway. I also backed off on the belt tension. When I left, the whine decreased. Stopped for gas before hitting the highway, took a bit more tension off and the whine is about gone. So now because I did two things at once, battery and tension, I don't know which one helped. I checked for heat and the alternator is on the hot side, not untouchable, just hot.

    Just to clarify, the whine happens(ed) under load, not at idle.

    I'll be keeping all my radars up. Think I'll throw a fire extinguisher in my van just in case. That was norn when I was doing aircooled VW.
    Last edited by surfah; 03-23-2012 at 11:37 PM.

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Checked battery voltage @ 2000 rpms via tach. Never got above 13.70 V. I'm thinking the belt was too tight since loosening it seemed to be what quieted the whine. I'm going with it for now.

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    That's great, sounds like you got it . Tim

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    ...aaah,,the simple fix wins again!!

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Thanks for the help!

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    it's stamped with "warranty void for oil saturated units". Their way of saying they won't guarantee it because it was soaked with ATF.
    Did you fix your power steering leak? If not you could be back to square one.
    "You came in that thing?... You're braver than I thought!" - Princess Leia

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    I had some work done by a mechanic recently and I know he changed the hose but I'm not sure if he changed the seal. I see signs that the leak is drying up, but I'll keep an eye on it.

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Problem isn't completely solved yet. Came home after some evening driving and notice my lights were dim. Shut it down and tried to start again, no dice. No Christmas tree or charging light came on while driving. I'm checking for loose connections, haven't found any yet. Fusable link? How do you check that yellow one next to the positive terminal?

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    Uhm, yeah, that hot wire on top of the alt was more than a little loose, let's try that.

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    Re: Van down, electrical

    WOW. Lots of alt/christmas tree light threads out there so instead of starting another one I figured I'd put this here. Lots of knowledge on this sight so maybe someone can point me towards something I might be overlooking.

    OK heres the skinny. My van is having some charging issues. It's going through alternators like tic-tacs. I'm more than familiar with my van. It has a cole hersey switch installed to charge my marine battery. The solenoid is working fine. All grounds have been checked. All fuses and fusible links have been checked and replaced where needed. The wiring harness to the alt has been replaced. Continuity is there on all wires. It used to have a power steering pump leak that fried an alt a few years ago but since then I've let the pump die and have been driving it with manual steering.(yeah I know it's not the best fix but it works. lol) So fluid on the alt is no longer an issue. So that's where I'm at and here's the rest of the story.

    About nine months ago I bought a new starting battery. Within about a month my alternator fries. So I get a replacement and throw it in. Have the battery tested for good measure and it turn out it's got a bad cell. Get the battery warrantied and all is well in good in the toasters(my van is silver) life. A few months later I got some intermittent christmas tree light issues. Couldn't get them to go away no matter what I did but the van kept running so I kept driving. Three weeks ago alternator finally gives up the ghost so I have it warrantied and replace it. New alt was bench tested at the parts store. I also tested it after install and had 14.35v at the starting battery and just under that at the marine battery(marine has a longer run). All lights returned to normal and the toaster was happy again. One thing I didn't have time to do with this replacement was test the battery again. So the other day I get a quick flash of the xmas tree lights then they go out. The next day I go to crank over the van it it's hesitant. I wasn't going far so I drive it a few miles. No xmas tree lights come on. But like I said I know my van and I know the alt is taking a crap and I'm driving on the battery. I get it home and put a test on it. 8.5v and dropping at the starting battery. I still can't believe it was running with the volts that low. Just goes to show how amazing these vans really are. I get under the van and retrace EVERYTHING again. It's all good. All connections are solid and belt tension is good. So tomorrow I go off to the parts store to get yet another alternator and also have the starting battery and marine battery tested. My guess at this time would be somehow another cell in the starting battery went causing the alt to overwork and burn itself out. Second guess would be a bad voltage regulator. Am I really that unlucky or am I missing something here? On a plus side I can swap the alternator in under 15 minutes now. LOL Somebody throw something out there. I'll report back with the findings of the battery tests as well but any other ideas????

    Edited to add: I almost forgot to say Happy T-day
    Last edited by thetoaster; 11-22-2012 at 06:32 PM.

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