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Old 11-19-2012, 05:38 PM   #1
matmatician
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Alternator or Belt or Pulley or Other?

Hey guys,

My car makes a really loud and obnoxious squealing on startup and has done this since I got my new engine put in. It does quiet down after a minute or two, but never really goes away. I can hear it at idle at stop lights too. Its just finally getting to the point were I can't deal with it much longer. I also just started intermittently seeing the battery idiot light on the dash, so I thought maybe it had something to do with the alternator too? Its still the battery that came with the car when I bought it in 09, not sure when it was replaced before that. Disclaimer: I know nothing about car electronics, so keep that in mind lol.

What do you guys think? I searched and found similar problems, but nothing that had all the same symptoms.

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Old 11-19-2012, 07:09 PM   #2
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Well, it could be the belt, the tensioner or the alternator. You'll have to find that out for yourself. I really liked RockAuto's prices on belts, so that's where I'd suggest ordering one from. I'd also suggest ordering plugs- whether you need them or not- because they are so cheap. Shipping won't be much unless your plugs are in a different warehouse. Wiper blades are another one you can save loads on.

That being said, pull the passenger side wheel off, and test the tensioner. You'll need a long 13mm wrench IIRC. Put the wrench on the bolt in the center of the tensioner pulley, and pull like you wanted to tighten that nut. The wrench is basically a handle to help you pull the tensioner back. If it's really easy to do- then you have a bad tensioner. If it's really difficult and you're afraid that the tensioner will spring back and break something- it's good.

Belts are a bit tricky these days. Back in the old days you could look for cracked ribs to tell if the belt is bad, nowadays you need a tool to see if the belt is worn. It's just a simple plastic gauge that sits in the ribs to tell you if the back of the belt is worn. I think if you search for Gates company website online- they give these away free. I'd replace the belt if it is over 120k miles, and still the factory belt. These newer belts should last more than 100k miles, and mine lasted 140k before I replaced it. It is not a bad idea to put up the money to replace the tensioner- or you can be lazy like me and replace it when it's bad. If you do, we might end up with a belt that doesn't last 100k miles due to a bad tensioner.

Now for the alternator. Mine went out about 140k. It's always suspect at any mileage over 80k. Our alternators are expensive for a reason, and $85 of that reason is the pulley. It has damping and a mechanism in it that only allows it to turn in one direction. This increases life, but is expensive. That's one reason why I suggest DIYers find a local rebuilder who will replace bad parts, but not things that aren't needed. I had mine rebuilt (sans pulley) for $80, but it took a day off work. All in all, it was about the same as the cost of a store bought pulley- which brings me to the reason why I chose a local rebuilder in the first place: they use better VRs and internal parts because warranty returns hurt cash flow. Big chain stores sell so many that a percentage of returns is factored in the cost of the program- you get low quality parts with a lifetime warranty.

To test the alternator: use the electronic odometer trick, it's not perfect, but it might tell you if something is going on. Key off, press the odo reset button, and hold it. Turn the key on, continue to hold the odo reset button. Wait until the odometer reads [test]. Now each time you press the odo reset button you'll scroll through one of 30 test functions. Look for the one that reads [bat 12.3]. Now start the engine without turning the key off, and drive. The display should now show the alternator voltage. It should stay fairly steady somewhere 13.8-14.9v. If it jumps around, then your squeaking sound could very well be the alternator. Mine made no sound before it died, but many have had sounds.
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Old 11-19-2012, 07:11 PM   #3
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OH, if you change your belt, be sure to spin the tensioner pulley by hand. If it seems gravelly or uneven when it rotates, or it's hard to rotate- then it's bad.
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:07 PM   #4
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So i took the easy way and had O'reilys test the alternator, and they say its going bad. Its got a bad diode and is only at 34amps apparently. So Its looking like I'm gonna have to start with that. Then maybe have them do the belt when they get in there. I'd do the alternator, but it sounds like a PITA and I'm not sure I've got the time.

I thought all these parts were replaced when I got my new engine put in... *sigh* my luck with this car is abysmal...
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Old 11-20-2012, 06:18 AM   #5
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The alternator takes a couple of hours to remove. It's not that bad. From what I understand it's easier with an ATX if you have that transmission. Here's how I did it. Someone else did it recently and said that they didn't unbolt the exhaust heat shield like I did. It should be even easier on an 06 because I think your PS reservoir is not in the way- IIRC, it's on top of the pump. I replaced my belt when I did my alternator.

http://www.focusfanatics.com/forum/s...tec+alternator
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Old 11-20-2012, 10:01 AM   #6
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I think I may get lucky here, I've got a header so that heat shield doesn't exist in my engine bay :) Thanks for the write up man, this is gonna save me hundreds of dollars at the mechanic's.
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