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Introduction to alternators, part eleven, replacing an alternator

Replacing an alternator can be a very simple or very difficult process depending on the vehicle. For every different make, model and year of vehicle in service so is the procedure different for replacing the alternator. The recommended proper procedure for replacing an alternator on any vehicle would be to refer to the manufacturer’s shop repair manual or any other reputable repair manual such as Mitchell’s, Motors, or Chilton’s. Since there are so many different procedures for replacing an alternator on any vehicle, this article will cover general procedures to replace an alternator. Refer to the manufacturer’s shop manual for replacing water cooled alternators. Replacing a water cooled alternator is very different from replacing a conventional alternator.

Removing the negative battery cable before replacing an alternator.
Removing the negative battery cable before replacing an alternator.
Removing serpentine belt before accessing alternator for removal

Alternators are secured to the front of the engine where the pulleys and drive belts are located. They can be located on the top center, top right, top left, bottom right or bottom left of the engine. They are held in place with as few as two bolts and as many as four bolts. Alternators, in terms of how they are secured to engine, can be placed in two groups – adjustable and stationary, in relation to how the correct alternator drive belt tension is kept.

The adjustable alternator has an anchor or pivot bolt at the bottom of the alternator that, when loosened, allows the alternator to pivot away from or towards the engine to gain proper drive belt tension. A second bolt is used to lock the alternator in place once the proper belt tension is achieved. The alternator may have an adjusting bolt on a bracket which is attached to the alternator with a locking bolt. The adjusting bolt is used to set the proper drive belt tension for the alternator. Another bolt may be used on the back side to the alternator to further secure the alternator to the engine. Adjustable alternators can be driven by either a “V” belt or multi-grooved serpentine belt.

The stationary or non-adjustable alternator can be mounted top center, top left or top right of the front of the engine. They, too, are usually held in place by as few as two bolts or as many as four bolts. Maintaining the proper drive belt tension is accomplished by a separate spring loaded tensioner arm and pulley. The stationary alternator is driven by a multi-grooved serpentine belt.

Before replacing and alternator, be sure to wear safety glasses and protective clothing such as gloves and long sleeve shirts to protect oneself from possible injury. Remember, keep the work area safe and follow safety precautions.

When beginning to replace the alternator, first locate the alternator in order to determine whether the vehicle needs to be raised above ground. Place the vehicle in an accessible work position, i.e., on jack stands, on a car lift or left on the ground. Remove the negative or black battery cable from the battery. Remove any component, accessory or part that restricts the replacement of the alternator. Once access to the alternator is gained, remove the drive belt from the alternator pulley. Determine whether removing the electrical connections are easier before or after loosening and removing the alternator from the engine. Remove the large battery cable connection and the smaller electrical connection from the alternator. Remove the alternator retaining bolts. Remove the alternator from the engine. Install the replacement alternator using the reverse procedure.

If any of these procedures appear to be beyond the capabilities of the vehicle owner or driver, then alternator replacement should be performed by a professional or ASE Master Certified mechanic. The vehicle would have to be taken to a repair shop that employs these types of mechanics such as A & M Alternator Services located at 2419 E. Jackson St. in Phoenix, Auto Electric Specialists located at 5216 W. Lamar Rd. in Glendale, Village Auto Electric Service located at 19 N. Miller St. in Mesa, All Start Electric located at 13501 E. Chandler Blvd. in Chandler, Tom’s Auto Care located at 63 E. McKellips Rd. in Mesa, Jordan’s Automotive Specialists located at 8718 E. McDowell Rd. #3 in Scottsdale, Rob’s Quality Automotive located at 11801 N. Cave Creek Rd. in Phoenix, Scottsdale Pro Tech located at 8245 E. Butheruand Dr. #111 in Scottsdale, and Art’s Family Auto Repair located at 915 W. Hatcher Rd. in Phoenix. Repair shops that specialize in repairing or rebuilding alternators are Gen-Star Electric located at 6832 N. 63rd Ave. in Glendale, AZ. or C & C Electrical Services located at 3046 E. Southern Ave. in Phoenix, AZ

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