December 7, 2007, Newsletter Issue #92: Replacing an Alternator

Tip of the Week

The alternator is the charging system on a vehicle. Some alternators have more amps than others and some are more expensive than others, but all serve the same purpose. When replacing an alternator on any vehicle -- no matter if its a truck, car, SUV or van -- make sure you can access the bolts. Sometimes this is not as easy as it sounds, especially on front-wheel drive vehicles. It's not uncommon to find yourself removing other parts to be able to reach the bolts to remove the alternator. Another good idea is to make sure you find the belt configuration diagram, this is typically found under the hood of the vehicle or in your owner's manual. You will need this information when reinstalling the belt, whether it be a serpentine belt or just a single alternator belt. The next step is to have tools and a new alternator readily available. Pay close attention to how the alternator is connected to the engine and with a crayon or marker, mark the location of the alternator prior to removal, this will give you an idea of where to put the new alternator so the adjustments won't be a guess. There are usually two areas of concern: the adjustment area, which allows you to move or swivel the alternator into position when loosening and tightening. It also allows for the tension of the belt.

Most vehicles have tensioner pulleys and like any other alternator set, requires you make proper adjustments prior to tightening the alternator completely. The belt can be a bit difficult to remove on front-wheel drive vehicles because of the location of the belt or belts. Take your time and be patient. Look for the wires connected to the alternator, unplug them and  proceed to remove the bolts holding the alternator in place. Start with the bolt that allows for adjustment, this should keep you from getting your hands smashed by a moving alternator. Move to the second bolt and remove it. If there is a third bolt, proceed with it, even though its uncommon to find a third bolt holding an alternator in place.

Once all bolts and wires are removed, the alternator is free from the engine. Start the installation of the new alternator. Remember to start with the bolt that does not allow for adjustments. Do not tighten completely, hand tighten or tighten only so that the alternator can be moved for adjustments. Replace the belt, making sure it is going around the pulleys correctly. Once the belt is on, make the proper adjustments and tighten the alternator. Plug the wiring back into the alternator. Now you have replaced your alternator.

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