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I need help! Alternator died on me. (story inside

2002 subaru outback alternator

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26 replies to this topic

#1 ibroad

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 08:25 AM

Last year I posted on here about my brake and battery light flashing on my dash on my '02 Outback. Everyone said it was my alternator.

 

I took it to a shop and they confirmed and said my battery was bad too.

 

So, they installed a new battery and alternator for about $600.

 

 

 

Fast-forward to a couple weeks ago, my brake and battery light come on again, but don't flash. They just stay on.

 

I decided it might be a fluke and just continue driving it. Nothing seemed wrong.

 

Now, fast-forward to yesterday. I was driving from an appointment that was in a town about an hour away.

 

I noticed something was wrong when I put the car in first gear and the radio shut off.

 

I continued driving and notice my spedometer stopped working, basically everything stopped working.

 

I was still able to drive about 15 miles close to home until my powersteering went out and I lucky pulled into an offroad.

 

 

 

I looked under the hood to see what was wrong and found this:

 

ruxnxd.jpg

 

Any idea what could cause this to happen? This is the positive wire that connects to the back of the alternator.

 

It appears to come from under the fuse relay box near the battery.

 

It completely got fried off!

 

 

 

So my questions are:

 

1) What could cause this to happen?

 

2) Does anyone have walk-through on how to install a new alternator.

 

3) What brand of alternator is the best? Should I get a re-manufactured or new one?


Edited by ibroad, 10 August 2013 - 09:28 AM.


#2 987687

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 10:17 AM

Your alternator is probably fine, you need a new terminal on that wire, though! Probably wasn't torqued down and the nut came loose, causing arcing at that connection. You really have to start with replacing that before anything else, because even at this point a new alternator would be useless without the wire connected to it.

 

Take this as a lesson to stop the car and figure out what's wrong before you set something on fire, melting wires is bad.



#3 mikaleda

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 10:20 AM

First thing I would do is check for a short in that wire between the alt and the fusible link box. Alternator instal on these are really simple and doesn't take much for tools just take a look at it and you'll figure it out. Reman alts should be fine just make sure they have a good warranty on them.
Also check with the shop that installed the alt, they might be able to get you another alt installed I the fault wasn't external from the alt.

The first step should be to determine why that wire melted in the first place, and weather it was the alt or something else causing a high drain. You don't want to put more money into a new alt and have it happen again because something else is wrong.


Also looks like the where the wire connects Is fine the plastic peice that is shown in the pic connected to the wire is part of the alt

Edited by mikaleda, 10 August 2013 - 10:23 AM.


#4 Cougar

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 10:40 AM

The wire in the picture is the main output lead of the alternator that ties to the battery. The trouble was most likely caused by a bad electrical connection and that creates a lot of heat due to the high current that flows through that lead to keep the battery charged. That wire is hot to the battery so disconnect the negative battery lead when you work on it to prevent a short condition.

 

You are most likely going to have to splice in a new piece to fix the problem. You could get a replacement from a salvage yard possibly. If you splice in a new piece you are going to have to do a good splice job.

 

Replacing the alternator itself is pretty easy to do. If you get a remanufactured one get one with a lifetime warranty.



#5 ibroad

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 11:23 AM

Your alternator is probably fine, you need a new terminal on that wire, though! Probably wasn't torqued down and the nut came loose, causing arcing at that connection. You really have to start with replacing that before anything else, because even at this point a new alternator would be useless without the wire connected to it.

 

Take this as a lesson to stop the car and figure out what's wrong before you set something on fire, melting wires is bad.

 

The wire in the picture is the main output lead of the alternator that ties to the battery. The trouble was most likely caused by a bad electrical connection and that creates a lot of heat due to the high current that flows through that lead to keep the battery charged. That wire is hot to the battery so disconnect the negative battery lead when you work on it to prevent a short condition.

 

You are most likely going to have to splice in a new piece to fix the problem. You could get a replacement from a salvage yard possibly. If you splice in a new piece you are going to have to do a good splice job.

 

Replacing the alternator itself is pretty easy to do. If you get a remanufactured one get one with a lifetime warranty.

 

I'm a little confused now.

 

Do you think the alternator is bad if this happened?

 

What would you replace first in this situation?

 

Here are some more pictures:

 

21oq1d1.jpg

 

nqekg8.jpg

 

2b2xi1.jpg

 

195wsg.jpg


Edited by ibroad, 10 August 2013 - 11:44 AM.


#6 Fairtax4me

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 12:21 PM

I don't see anything wrong with the cable. I was going to ask for pics of the alternator since it looked to me like the terminal on the alternator melted off. Certainly looks that way from the pics you posted.

Time for a new alternator. Did the shop that did the work put a warranty on it? Alternator only takes 20 minutes to change on these. You could replace it with a used one yourself and save some $$. I avoid parts store rebuilds like the plague because of experiences with repeat failures and damaged parts right out of the box.

#7 ibroad

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 12:27 PM

I don't see anything wrong with the cable. I was going to ask for pics of the alternator since it looked to me like the terminal on the alternator melted off. Certainly looks that way from the pics you posted.

Time for a new alternator. Did the shop that did the work put a warranty on it? Alternator only takes 20 minutes to change on these. You could replace it with a used one yourself and save some $$. I avoid parts store rebuilds like the plague because of experiences with repeat failures and damaged parts right out of the box.

 

Yeah the cable looks fine to me.

 

I guess my main concern is whether this was caused by the alternator itself or something else?

 

I called the place I had it fixed and they said the warranty was over. It's pretty crappy place I'll never go back to again.

 

I'm going to go over to Advance Auto and buy this alternator:

 

http://shop.advancea...14999|L3*15587#

 

It's the cheapest one around and they have it in stock and it has a lifetime warranty.

 

 

Do you have any idea what could have caused this? Is it just the alternator itself?

 

Thanks.



#8 Fairtax4me

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 01:01 PM

My best guess would be physical damage or corrosion damage to the output post that was not repaired when the alternator was rebuilt. One of the reasons I avoid parts store rebuilds like the one you posted the link to.
It's cheap for a reason. The places the rebuild them replace only what is absolutely necessary, and often don't even do that. They clean the unit, test it, and if it meets their lackluster standards for operation, spray a coat of silver paint on and call it "remanufactured". They often fail in less than a year, I've had some rebuilt parts that lasted only a few days.

A Subaru remanufactured alternator can be had from a dealer for around $225. Maybe it's more than you want to spend right now, but do you really want to be stranded on the side of the road again to save a few $$?

#9 ibroad

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 01:12 PM

My best guess would be physical damage or corrosion damage to the output post that was not repaired when the alternator was rebuilt. One of the reasons I avoid parts store rebuilds like the one you posted the link to.
It's cheap for a reason. The places the rebuild them replace only what is absolutely necessary, and often don't even do that. They clean the unit, test it, and if it meets their lackluster standards for operation, spray a coat of silver paint on and call it "remanufactured". They often fail in less than a year, I've had some rebuilt parts that lasted only a few days.

A Subaru remanufactured alternator can be had from a dealer for around $225. Maybe it's more than you want to spend right now, but do you really want to be stranded on the side of the road again to save a few $$?

 

I just called my local Subaru dealership and they said the alternator would be $299.

 

Any idea where I can get one for a price closer to what you listed?

 

 

Also, what makes the battery go bad? If my battery got drained from the bad alternator does that ruin the battery?


Edited by ibroad, 10 August 2013 - 01:21 PM.


#10 Gloyale

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 02:08 PM

That looks like whoever installed the alternator over tightened the nut onto the post.  This probably cracked the plastic insulation that is around the post allowing it to arc to ground and melt.

 

The onl;y other way can see it melting like that would be if you were running a super high power Amplifier, or some other high Amperage load.



#11 ibroad

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 02:21 PM

That looks like whoever installed the alternator over tightened the nut onto the post.  This probably cracked the plastic insulation that is around the post allowing it to arc to ground and melt.

 

The onl;y other way can see it melting like that would be if you were running a super high power Amplifier, or some other high Amperage load.

 

Thanks, that's actually what a mechanic I talked to told me as well.

 

 

Anyone know of a walk through for replacing the alternator? I know you all say it's easy, but I'm new to all this.



#12 Fairtax4me

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 02:22 PM

Sorry I was looking at online pricing of the alternator at 1stsubaruparts.com. Retail list price is $299, but you can often get dealers to match online pricing just by asking.

A low state of barge will kill a lead acid battery if left that way for a prolonged period of time or if it is repeatedly discharged to a very low state.
Right now the battery is discharged because it was being used as the source of power to run all of the electrical parts of the car. Normally this is the alternators job. The battery is only used for starting the engine. Once the engine is running the alternator provides power to run anything electrical, and it replenishes the charge of the battery. Most of the time the battery is sitting fully charged in an "idle" state, meaning it is neither being charged or discharged. When the alternator stops producing electricity the battery light turns on, and the battery becomes the supplier of power to the electrical system. The electrical draw from the various lights and electronics on the car discharge the battery.
As soon as possible you should put the battery on a battery charger at a low charge rate for approximately 12 hours to fully recharge the battery.
Using a fast charger (like what auto parts stores use) produces a surface charge of the battery where the voltage may be correct, but it will discharge much faster when put under load (starting the engine) because the battery has not had sufficient time to accept a full charge.
Using the new alternator to recharge a heavily discharged battery may cause damage to the alternator and shorten is service life.

#13 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 02:28 PM

batteries are odd, generally speaking;, extreme heat, extreme cold, complete discharges, bad charging circuits, are among the enemies a battery contends with. Add corrosion, vibration and age to the formula, and its amazing they last as long as they do.

 

If your battery is several years old and has been discharged a coupla times or more - it's on its last legs.

 

However, it's unlikely to have been directly responsible for the problem you have now. But it IS in the charging circuit and should be checked out along with the cables and ground connections.



#14 heartless

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 02:31 PM

i am with fairtax on this one - spend the extra and get a real Subaru alternator.

 

I have gone thru several of the "Tough One", lifetime warranty alternators over the last few years on my 1990 Legacy - they only last a year, maybe a little longer and then they start to fail - and of course they like to fail in ways that wont "test" bad when you go back to get a replacement (been there, dont that!)

 

I finally took an old stock unit to a local starter/alternator rebuilder and had it completely gone thru - cost me a few dollars more than the AA reman unit does, but so far it has been well worth the money.



#15 ibroad

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 02:42 PM

Thanks for the help so far. 

 

I went and bought the ToughOne alternator from Advance because it was the only place that had one in stock and I have to get this done by Monday.

 

My plan is, if it fails sometime, to use the warranty to get a new and just sell it. Then buy an OEM one.

 

 

 

So I took the melted parts off the cable and here is what it looks like:

 

2hx3xc2.jpg

 

2802rv4.jpg

 

Notice where the wires are showing? Is this okay?

 

Can I just wrap that area with electric tape?



#16 ibroad

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 02:53 PM

Double post


Edited by ibroad, 10 August 2013 - 03:49 PM.


#17 ibroad

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 03:50 PM

Okay! So I just replaced the alternator! You guys are right, that was easy.

 

 

I ended up wrapping the cable in the picture above with electrical tape to cover the wires that show.

 

Is this okay to do?

 

Does that cable look okay?


Edited by ibroad, 10 August 2013 - 03:50 PM.


#18 Fairtax4me

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 04:03 PM

Wrapped with electrical tape is fine. That's a common issue with the insulation right on the end of the charge lead. As long as its wrapped with a few layers of good electrical tape it's good to go.

#19 ibroad

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 04:58 PM

So I accidentally ripped the red rubber cover on the cable.

 

Anyone know what that thing is called?



#20 Fairtax4me

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 05:20 PM

A "boot". If you ripped it down the skinny part that goes around the wire just wrap tape around it to hold it in place. If its the bubble part don't worry about it as long as it covers the terminal on the alternator.

#21 ibroad

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 06:24 PM

A "boot". If you ripped it down the skinny part that goes around the wire just wrap tape around it to hold it in place. If its the bubble part don't worry about it as long as it covers the terminal on the alternator.

 

You're awesome, did you know that? Thanks for all your help today.



#22 later_Peter

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 12:58 AM

I replaced 3 alternators... (besides the original) first two were defective (still under warranty... one was over charging the system)... finally listened to this forums advice & got a Subaru remanufactured ($78 from the dealer)... no problems since.



#23 heartless

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 08:08 AM

As long as the wire looks clean & it is not corroded, wrapping it up good is fine. from your pic it looks pretty good, nice clean shiny copper.

 

The boot can be taped back in place as well - it doesnt need to fit tightly over the mounting stud, just needs to cover it to prevent arcing.

 

 

Now, do yourself a favor and at least pick up a junkyard alternator to have on hand as a backup, because that Tough One will NOT last.

 

I have had them start overcharging, and burn out the diodes, and start failing under heat - the last one was failing under heat and it was almost impossible to get it test bad for replacement purposes - the minute you open the hood, most of the heat escapes, and the alt would test ok. Close the hood, drive away, and within 10 minutes my dash would light up like a christmas tree. I finally get fed up with the nonsense of trying to get it replaced under warranty and had on old stock one rebuilt locally - best money I have ever spent on an alternator.

 

I did finally get the tough one alt replaced - only because I griped enough about it (and I have made friends with a couple of the AA employees) the replacment unit sits in its box on a shelf as a backup, but I will probably never have to use it.


Edited by heartless, 11 August 2013 - 08:13 AM.


#24 bratman18

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 08:09 AM

The charged you $600 to replace a battery and alternator?!



#25 mikaleda

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 10:00 AM

The charged you $600 to replace a battery and alternator?!


No kidding, reman alt $100 new battery $120 labor $280? What did they do take three hours to get the job done.





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