Time to take the grandchildren home, and load up their seats, them and the rest of their effects into my SUV, and of course the wind chill is below zero. Turned the key and the engine would not start with the odometer at 99,050 miles. Time to call my daughter's boyfriend to pick up the kids, as this vehicle isn't going anywhere. I grab my jump box and phillip's screwdriver to access and jump this thing. After several tries, it starts. Since I just replaced the battery a month ago, and the connections are clean and tight some more checking was needed.
The night before, the clock and CD player reset after driving to fix a car seat issue (long story) with my wife. With these in mind, and I couldn't find my voltmeter to test the charging system, it was time to pull the alternator and have this tested.
As always, car repairs involve risk. Injury, death and property damage can result from improperly installed parts. You can also break some pretty expensive parts trying to get this replaced, and this madman has seen plenty of under hood fires on various cars over the years. It's a safe bet that some of these are electrical. Even though the voltage is fairly low, you can still weld rings, watches, and other metal bits to metal bits on the car with the electricity present. You MUST disconnect the negative battery cable on this beast before you dig in; do this and any other repair at your own risk.
To remove the alternator, you need a phillip's head screwdriver, a 5/16 socket, a 15mm socket, a 10mm socket, as well as socket wrenches and and a straight blade screwdriver. There are two alternator manufacturers that supplied parts for this vehicle. Valeo was the more common one, and Denso the less common one. The Valeo part has two bolt holes that are accessible from the passenger side of the vehicle. The Denso has three bolt holes, one accessible from the passenger side and two are vertically installed between the alternator body and the firewall. A battery charger is also a good thing to have along with some charging posts. You can get a decent charger cheap. Mine cost about
$35 and can fit in a glove compartment. Get one with a minimum of 4 amps, but 6 amps is best. It
there is any doubt as to the condition of the battery, either have it tested or replace it outright, especially if it's more than 4 or 5 years old. I would replace it with a good quality conventional lead acid battery. Unless your name is Richie Rich, or you're a serious audiophile, I would not bother with Optimas. The reason is that these are over $200 for a red top battery. What's more it will not last you that much longer to justify the exorbitant price, but I digress.
In addition, the Denso alternator is going to be harder to find. I had three parts suppliers in the area tell me they had to order the part, and the final one, Advance Auto Parts, had the part for $185 plus tax and a $60 core charge. I spent about $200 with tax, but those are the breaks.
To remove the old part, you will need to remove the negative battery cable first. The battery lives
under the ignition computer and a plastic cover that's held on with several phillip's head screws. The
battery is a pretty ordinary 75 group underneath though. Remove the engine undercover, which is held on with the oil cap and some snaps to access the alternator. You will also need to unplug the EGR connector on the front passenger side of the engine before you can remove the cover. Gently pry up on the plastic tab inside the connector where it mates with the valve to remove it. The connector should come off easily. Now you can remove that cover and set it aside. Honestly, the covers are to make the engine compartment look prettier and cut down on noise and that's about it. This one also affords some protection to a very fragile canister purge solenoid, which is on top of the intake manifold and held with a 10mm bolt. Unplug and remove this from the manifold. You can leave the line attached and move it carefully out of the way, but that's your call. The part is about $35 if you break it.
Next thing is to remove the 1 and 4 ignition wires from the coil at the back of the engine. Then the
connector from the throttle body by unclipping the retainer and sliding the lock up. You could remove
the throttle body to afford more room, but this isn't necessary and you may need a gasket for this. Do
be careful as this is plastic. You'll need to remove the air cleaner assembly leaving the wiring
The lower should be removed as well, but not completely necessary as long as you can access the belt tensioner to remove the belt from the alternator. If the belt is worn, you will need to remove the engine mount to access it and before you complain, this is pretty common on many front wheel drive car
Remove the plastic exciter harness (excited yet?) and the battery terminal from the alternator with a 10mm socket. Remove the bolts from the alternator and in the case of the Denso, these need to go back into their original locations and two of them will be easy to mix up. One is a hair longer than the other, so keep them in order. I loosened them all first and then removed one by one with the exception of the back bolt on the passenger side of the vehicle. There isn't a lot of room back there to work, but it isn't too hard to get these out. that passenger side bolt will need to come out with and go in with the alternator.
Wiggling this out is going to be a P.I.T.A., but it will come out without damaging anything else. Install the new one, and put that passenger side bolt in the back before setting it back in its new home. Tighten all the bolts (the Valeo version should be easier in this regard) then hook up the electrical connectors, the belt, the solenoid, throttle body, air cleaner, ignition wires, battery cables and that cover and EGR harness. The battery should be fully charged as a dead battery will not start the engine. Even if you manage to get it fired up, you'll punish the new alternator. Unlike a generator, an alternator needs a fully charged battery to energize the alternator field; hence the exciter circuit. The days of pushing a car down a hill to get it started are long gone. Maranatha!