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Old 02-10-2011, 11:59 AM   #1
scs_jm
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charging system issue 2000 Focus SE

Good Afternoon,
Last winter, i noticed when I had my defrosters on high the car would idle high, then low. This indicated 'to me anyway' a voltage regulator going bad. Other than that, battery would charge. late this fall, the battery light started coming on (and stays on) when the car is started. I figured its time to replace alternator (best i can tell it was the original alternator) before winter hits. First alternator i got (local generator shop) didn't work. Wouldnt charge. Went to return, guy was a jerk so got refund. Went to Federated Auto parts (think its an ohio chain) and got one. Installed and not charging. Checked connector that plugs into alternator. Wires look good. Noticed the charge back wire was starting to fray/break on the battery terminal. Fixed. Still not charging at idle. Notice that if i rev engine about 3 times, the alternator kicks in and charges (if i turn on headlights i can see the dash lights get brighter when alternator kicks in). Battery light still stays on. When alternator kicks in, pumps out steady 12 volts even when i have heater, radion, rear defrost on.

My first question is has anyone had this issue where you have to rev engine to get alternator to kick in?

Next, since its been cold i have a new issue. First start in the morning i rev engine and alternator kicks in and charges and runs fine. If i stop and shut down engine (getting gas or whatever) then start, rev till alternator kicks in, then car runs horrible. Have to keep revving as it wants to stall. Can see lights on dash dim as alternator not charging unless i keep revving it. Once i get to work, leave car sit for a few hours and start and rev to get alternator to kick in the car idles and runs fine. Is there a sensor or something that would cause this on cold days?

Finally (not sure if this is even part of my charging issue), sometimes the car doesn't want to shift into 4th. When this happens, if i bump shifter to N then back to D it will shift. Other times it will shift into 4th fine. Is this a possible VSS issue?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated. I can do brakes, oil, and minor things but this has me stumped and money is tight so i'm trying to avoid a garage if possible. Thank you!


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Old 02-10-2011, 01:03 PM   #2
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I bet you wish you hadn't messed with that alternator in the first place. I'm sorry you had a bad experience with a local shop. I do recommend local rebuilders over chain stores because they tend to use better parts to avoid returns.

Anyway, there are a few things to check. There is a battery sensing wire fuse which you can locate using the owner's manual. You should pull it and check it to be sure it's good. Then I would use a multi-meter to be sure that you have voltage- key off, on that terminal.

Check your chassis ground wires (small ones) connected to the neg terminal. That's like step 2 for all electrical problems, step one is the terminals themselves. Also make sure that the main ground is connected to the engine block when you're under there next time. To check that ground, use the engine block as ground on your tester, and go to the positive battery terminal. If you see a large difference in voltage, then that would be a sign of the neg terminal being bad- frayed end, loose bolt, etc. You should also keep an eye out for the ground strap- which is a shoelace grounding to the back of the cylinder head from the firewall. Make sure that's not broken or damaged.

Finally go back to that alternator pig-tail, and visually inspect those wires as far back as you can. Several FF's have had problems with these wires further back in the harness.

Make sure that positive is making a good connection. I clean my corrosion off with Windex and rubbing with a rag. It leaves the good oxidation in place, but takes care of the green salts. I think baking soda and water does also.

If you're still not finding voltage higher than battery voltage at idle, but it goes up to over 13 while driving- it might simply be how your VR is working. You can also test electrical voltage while driving using the electronic odometer trick. This gives a readout from the battery sensing wire on the odometer. Key off, hold the reset button down, turn key to ON still holding reset, wait until the odometer readout changes to [test] then release. The first test is the gauges, and needles will go crazy. Then start press/release on the reset button to scroll through the selections. There are about 30, look for one where the readout is [bat 12.3v] or whatever your battery voltage is. When you start the car it will remain in this mode, and allow you to see alternator voltage while you're driving until you turn the key off. That might help you diagnose if it's a loose wire or simply a sluggish VR.
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Old 02-10-2011, 01:15 PM   #3
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I will work through that list of suggestions. I didn't know about the odometer trick. Very cool. Thank you! Yes, i wish i never messed with the alternator. First time i've ever heard of having to rev engine to get alternator to kick on. I was worried I may have a bad ECU. Thank you again!!
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Old 02-11-2011, 09:32 AM   #4
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voltage at 13.4 at idle

I did the odometer trick. Man that is a nice feature. Anyway, once the alternator kicked on, voltage was 13.4 at idle. Held at 13.4 even when i was on the highway. turned heater, defrost, radio, and headlights on and dropped to 13.3. Once it warms up here I'll look over the alternator pigtail again and check the wires per your suggestions. Thanks!
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Old 02-11-2011, 11:37 AM   #5
scs_jm
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P1246 Code

I had the codes pulled from the computer. One code was P1246. Here's a description:
P1246 - Generator Load Input Failed (All Others) The PCM monitors generator load from the generator/regulator in the form of frequency. The frequency range is determined by the temperature of the voltage regulator where 97% represents full load, below 6% means no load. Generator circuit short to GND
Generator circuit short to PWR
Generator circuit open
Generator drive mechanism
Damaged generator/regulator assembly
Damaged PCM
Verify battery voltage is 14.5V.
Verify generator/regulator has the correct part number.

I'm wondering if the PCM is Damaged. Anyone ever change a PCM? Thanks.
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