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Do You Carry a Spare Alternator?


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22 replies to this topic

#1 subiedoobiedoo

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Posted 03 September 2004 - 11:07 PM

Last Saturday, my girlfriend and I were headed to Poulsbo (WA) and drove my '92 Legacy wagon aboard the ferry bound for Bainbridge Island. Exiting the ferry @ Winslow, I proceeded through Bainbridge and suddenly the lights got dim and the radio cut out. CURSES! -- the alternator went Tango Uniform.

Through divine providence and the kindness of strangers, I was able to charge my battery enough to limp back to the NAPA store in downtown Winslow. There, in the parking lot, using a ratchet and some metric sockets on loan from NAPA, I replaced the little bugger for a mere $200 and change.

Undeterred, we soldiered on to Poulsbo, salvaged the afternoon and went back to Seattle after a nice dinner.

On Monday, I brought the car to Brian Page(my mechanic) and had him check out my handiwork. Everything seemed shipshape and we got to jawboning about alternators and how they just seem to go POOF! with no warning and it is not always a generally-available part. He then allowed how he always carries a spare(used) alternator as part of his on-board kit in his subies. When I said it was tough for me to consider carrying a $200 item like it was a spare hose, he claimed that you can buy a used one for around $75 from a wrecking yard and it's well worth the investment.

Does anybody else carry a spare alternator?

Mark

#2 sasquatch

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Posted 03 September 2004 - 11:42 PM

uh...no.

#3 simpreza2

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Posted 04 September 2004 - 06:46 AM

I dont even carry a spare tire. All I carry is some tools and a can of inflate-a-tire stuff.

#4 86subaru

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Posted 04 September 2004 - 07:43 AM

but it would not hurt to aleast have it sitting at home , and maybe a few other small parts ,

#5 cookie

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Posted 04 September 2004 - 01:58 PM

Volvo fitted with already mounted spare regulator that I just had to plug in to change, and a spare altenator in the tire compartment with a lot of other bits like hoses and belts, wire, etc. One spare tire on the roof and one below the floor of the wagon.
In New Zealand I had all sorts of spares in my 60 Anglia van with Escort engine.
In Mexico the tool kit came out once for a dimmer switch and in New Zealand I blew a radiator hose on the uphill climb to Queenstown.
Around here on short trips in CA I only carry oil, tool kit, flashlight and cell phone. All of which came in handy on the last trip to help another motorist who was stranded on the mountain above Calistoga.
If you are going far and don't have a lot of money or an auto club spares are nice. If Subarus are rare in your area spares might be nicer yet.
Electrics are far more reliable now than they were 20 or more years ago.

#6 The Dude

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Posted 04 September 2004 - 07:15 PM

[quote name='subiedoobiedoo']Last Saturday, my girlfriend and I were headed to Poulsbo (WA) and drove my '92 Legacy wagon aboard the ferry bound for Bainbridge Island. Exiting the ferry @ Winslow, I proceeded through Bainbridge and suddenly the lights got dim and the radio cut out. CURSES! -- the alternator went Tango Uniform.

I would say, yes, altenators tend to fail without warning. Frequently, one or more of the rectifying diodes goes out. But a fully charged battery should allow the engine to operate for a good distance. So why not just install an ampmeter so you can check on the alternator? You can't carry every part that can suddenly pack it in on a Subaru. And if you're in an area where it's difficult to locate a alternator, it isn't going to be piece of cake to find an axle, wheel bearing, coil pack, or anything else Subaru.
Keeping a good used altenator stored the garage may make more sense. Drive the car long enough, and you're almost sure to need it.

#7 subiemech85

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Posted 05 September 2004 - 12:29 AM

I carry spare filters, oil, gas, water, 3 alternators, 1 coil, 1 belt, bulbs, fuses, jumper cables, duck tape, tools, and a tire, and many other things as needed

for the midwest mud meet, I was loaded, and my tools saved more than one car

#8 75skunkaroo

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Posted 05 September 2004 - 01:26 AM

i used to carry a spare alternator, plugs, wires, cap/rotor, distributer, carb, tire, and i even had shocks for a while. now i just have some wire connectors, jumper cables, tire, and a tow strap(never know who's gonna need towed home)

-mike

#9 wrxsubaru

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Posted 05 September 2004 - 03:20 AM

[quote name='The Dude'][quote name='subiedoobiedoo']. But a fully charged battery should allow the engine to operate for a good distance. So why not just install an ampmeter so you can check on the alternator? You can't carry every part that can suddenly pack it in on a Subaru. And if you're in an area where it's difficult to locate a alternator, it isn't going to be piece of cake to find an axle, wheel bearing, coil pack, or anything else Subaru.
Keeping a good used altenator stored the garage may make more sense. Drive the car long enough, and you're almost sure to need it.[/QUOTE]


I was able to drive to drive my SVX about 100-150 miles before my battery started to give and needed a charge, with probley 15 start ups. That was with out the lights, but some radio time.

All i carry is some duct tape, some water, tools, and a fix a flat. I never have carried any extra parts in my car. Never have been stuck becasue a part broke with any subaru ive or my parants have owned, but have been stuck many times with Chrysler products.

#10 Ranger83

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Posted 05 September 2004 - 05:40 AM

The German auto club, ADAC, used to publish the distribution of problems resulting in breakdowns on the Autobahn. As I recall, the #1 problem was belts.

If your alternator goes you can usually limp along for quite some time, so that wouldn't be tops on my list. I carry a pretty complete set of tools including a 3 lb hand sledge hammer and a hacksaw; about 50' of rope; spare fuses; spare headlight bulb; several kinds of tape; and a rain suit. I also added one of the cross-type lug wrenches as many tire shops put the wheels on with an air wrench and you can't budge them with the standard wrench, and they're a lot faster.

Getting a full-size spare would seem to be the most logical choice for a Subaru. I've had four flats in the last 100K miles, three on the front wheels, and it would have been quite an inconvenience if we hadn't happened to have two 97 OBW's at the time. Now we only have one and I'm buying a used alloy wheel, they run around $40 at most wrecking yards. Of course, then I run out of space for many of the tools....

#11 SevenSisters

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Posted 05 September 2004 - 07:53 AM

What's the typical failure mode? Brushes, diodes, or bearings?
I'd be willing to carry some parts if I knew what was needed, but not the whole alternator.

#12 edrach

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Posted 05 September 2004 - 09:56 AM

What's the typical failure mode? Brushes, diodes, or bearings?
I'd be willing to carry some parts if I knew what was needed, but not the whole alternator.


Most common failure mode is the diode trio which causes all three of the idiot lights to glow dimly. This usually gives you some warning but the main diodes will fail one day to one week later.

#13 edrach

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Posted 05 September 2004 - 10:03 AM

Why yes, I do. However, let me qualify that. I have an '84 Brat which is not my daily driver. When I plan on a long trip with it, I drop my spare alternator in the car. I'm a firm believer in one of Murphy's laws...."it you're carrying a spare part, it will never fail." Besides that, I ALWAYS carry a spare alternator belt. On my daily driver ('91 Legacy) I have a spare alternator (from a junkyard at $20 and checked for proper operation in my car before I put it on the shelf again) sitting on a shelf in my garage. I don't put it in my car for even long trips but that's because it's my daily driver and I think I can anticipate when it might fail (bearings make noise, idiot lights glow). Another item that will cause your alternator to fail prematurely, is oil. Excessive oil in the engine compartment and coating the alternator will cause it to fail in short order.

#14 SevenSisters

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Posted 05 September 2004 - 01:14 PM

Are these (diodes & brushes) dealer only parts or an Advance/AutoZone/etc stock item?
At 130+K I figure I'm due. Probably on the coldest day this winter.

#15 tcspeer

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 10:10 AM

Ranger, why a three lbs. sledge hammer, hacksaw, and 50' feet of rope? just curious.

#16 frag

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 10:18 AM

Knowing alts can go without warning, knowing that if it happened at night it would not take long before the battery was dead, knowing that discharging a good battery harms it to the point that you have to buy a new one, and finally knowing that my car was 9years and more than 200,000 kilometers old, I carried a rebuilt alt (by Subaru) for at least 8 months. I replaced it lately even if the old one is still workind and started on rebuilding the old one myself to keep as a spare. I also carry spare crank and cam sensors (cheap for my model year) and a variety of bulbs (and of cours an almost complete set of tools in a cloth bag). A lot of other components give advance warning or the engine can still function on limp mode. The alternator and cam and crank sensors can leave you stranded.

#17 edrach

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 12:48 PM

Not sure if the diode trio and main diodes are aftermarket items. However, if you're getting that deep into the guts of the alternator, you might as well replace the bearings too. Parts should be available from a good alternator shop if you really want to do the work yourself. However, by the time you spend the money for the parts you might as well pay the extra labor and let an experienced person rebuild the alternator.

#18 frag

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 03:47 PM

Not sure if the diode trio and main diodes are aftermarket items. However, if you're getting that deep into the guts of the alternator, you might as well replace the bearings too. Parts should be available from a good alternator shop if you really want to do the work yourself. However, by the time you spend the money for the parts you might as well pay the extra labor and let an experienced person rebuild the alternator.

Hi Ed,
I'm not doing this to save money but for fun and to undersand a little more how things work and are made.
I already have the alt apart and will replace everything but the casing, the stator and the rotor. To be totally frank, I recently bought a 12 tons shop press at a discount sale and the alt rebuild project (waiting for wheel bearings to go bad...or suspension arms bushings to wear) is the only one that will allow me to play with the press in the near future. I've already had to use it to get the alt shaft out of the front bearing and the bearing out of the front cover. I will also use it to put the new bearing back into the front cover. The rear bearing is a finger push fit.
I know a good alt and starter rebuilder from wich I already got starter's solenoid contacts and plunger for almost nothing. They will probably accept to sell me the parts at a decent cost.
Take care.

#19 cookie

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 05:52 PM

and starters as a regular thing. alternators were pretty easy compared to generators I thought. They are far more reliable too.
When I ran Greyhounds coast to coast if we lost a generator or alternator we pulled them and kept running.
Since they were gear driven off the timing gears it was a good idea to pull the 50 pound or so units out and blank it off with a plate we carried.
You could run all day with little drain and charge the battery a few times a night.This is one of the reasons I fit the largest battery I can in my cars. On the average car you can get at least three hours runniing at night by cutting off all unnessary electrical drain and keeping the car running.This is not the best for your battery unless it is deep cycle, but it will often get you home. The last time I lost an alternator I made it to within a block from my house and was pushing it the last bit when a couple of Mexican guys pulled up and helped me. Needless to say I bought them a beer.
The other reason I use a big battery is that if your engine is failing and requires a lot of cranking you might still get it started.

#20 frag

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 07:16 PM

and starters as a regular thing. alternators were pretty easy compared to generators I thought. They are far more reliable too.
When I ran Greyhounds coast to coast if we lost a generator or alternator we pulled them and kept running.
Since they were gear driven off the timing gears it was a good idea to pull the 50 pound or so units out and blank it off with a plate we carried.
You could run all day with little drain and charge the battery a few times a night.This is one of the reasons I fit the largest battery I can in my cars. On the average car you can get at least three hours runniing at night by cutting off all unnessary electrical drain and keeping the car running.This is not the best for your battery unless it is deep cycle, but it will often get you home. The last time I lost an alternator I made it to within a block from my house and was pushing it the last bit when a couple of Mexican guys pulled up and helped me. Needless to say I bought them a beer.
The other reason I use a big battery is that if your engine is failing and requires a lot of cranking you might still get it started.


Interesting experience Cookie. Are there parts of an automobile alternator that can be reused confidently beside the casing, the rotor and the stator?
It seems evident that you have to replace the brushes, the bearings, and the diodes. I also intend to replace the voltage regulator but it looks like a bullet proof part looking from the outside. Is it as long lasting as it looks?

#21 cookie

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Posted 07 September 2004 - 12:06 AM

and the brushes if I recall. If it had an integral regulator we replaced that. We had the commutator turned if we were where we could have that done and checked everything for damage and continuity.
If you had to clean the brush surfaces by hand I believe we used emory paper only by using a five inch long strip and pulling it back and forth in a rotating fashion around the shaft. Then you cleaned the seperators with a blade.
If it had not lost a bearing you often found a shot regulator or a bad field. If it had lost a bearing you had major damage and might have to replace more than you saved.

#22 cookie

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Posted 07 September 2004 - 12:14 AM

I was just thiking about this and I recall that when alternators just came in we replaced many diodes. People did not have a clue at that time about jumping your car backwards as it often did not bother the old generator systems.
The other thing was we killed some diodes in the test shop until we learned how to test them in the right manner.
If a kit is available in your area for an alternator rebuild get that. We used kits that often had items you might not think of to change like brush holders, etc.

#23 Nug

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Posted 07 September 2004 - 06:18 PM

I had two alternators on my Jaguar. The stock one died, and it was too much of a pain to replace, so i took the smog pump off and put a delco in it's place.




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