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Old 06-22-2018, 01:16 PM   #1
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Battery charging problem, alternator, or something else?

Hi guys,

I'm beating my head against the wall with my '03 SVT here.

My alternator died about 2 months ago, and knowing that reman alternators have a high failure rate on these guys, I decided to pay a shop to replace it so that it'd be under warranty.

Well, two weeks later the replacement reman alternator failed. The shop replaced it with another reman alternator, which lasted another two weeks. Guess what, that also failed a few weeks later!

After the 2nd replacement failed I paid them an extra $120 to install a new Motorcraft alternator so that I wouldn't have to deal with all of the downtime again.

Since I picked it up a few days ago, I've had my X4 tuner running in its gauge mode so that I can keep an eye on the battery voltage. What it's reporting is worrying!

The voltage was bumping around between 13-13.5 for two days after I picked it up but is now bouncing around between 12.8-13.2. I've never seen it go above 13.5 since I've been watching it.

So, is something wrong that's killing my alternators? I thought normal charging voltages would be 13-14.5 or so, and I certainly didn't expect to see anything below 13 while driving around (not just at idle).

Thanks in advance for any suggestions on where to look. I'm nearly ready to ditch this car that I really like otherwise because of charging gremlins.


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Old 06-22-2018, 01:29 PM   #2
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Also, because everybody likes pictures, here's a photo of mine!

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Old 06-22-2018, 03:55 PM   #3
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How old are the battery cables? Replace if elderly. At a minimum, remove the ground from the block and clean the surface with sandpaper. Then clean the battery cables at the battery end too. Always look for a bad ground first.
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Old 06-22-2018, 04:47 PM   #4
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The voltage regulators used in the rebuilds are absolute low dog crap and can fail in minutes. I rebuild my own alts and have pretty good luck with that but you MUST use a quality regulator.

If the rebuild does not change the entire diode plate then the faulty design has the rest of them crack out to again burn up the regulators when they boost field too high trying to pick up lost charge due to the bad diode connections. Ford absolutely used their most stupid engineer to design that plate.

Likely the same one that designed the all-in-one battery cable assembly that is too small in gauge to melt all over the place. They commonly melt at the starter interface where the charging cable joins to the main starter cable.

The battery terminals are crap and once cleaned to remove even the slightest metal are loose even when tight at the bolt, you can easily twist them by hand.

I upgraded the cable by splitting it in 2 parts and each much bigger gauge cable used, different solid old school terminals as well. The alts I use a good regulator on and different diode plate, and a few mods made to the alt to make it more durable, and once done they live until the better reg spits out (much longer) or the brushes wear out to force you to work on it again.

When I was in parts roughly 20% of the new OR rebuilt alts failed testing right out of the box, and they commonly use the crap regulators even in the brand new ones.

You can solder back up a diode to then have the one right next to it crack, I've seen as many as 6 out of 8 cracked and nothing wrong except that the leads are cracked, solder them back up and working again until they again crack which will be quick. Past a point though the missing diode(s) fries the reg.

They run very hot in normal use with little extra overhead and any extra undue load they give up. The alts put out a lot of amp but only intended for a short period of time, if say the battery is close to going bad then they charge all the time trying to keep the battery 'filled up' and the extra heat takes out the alt. Very common when I was in parts simply to have incompetents change the alt with no charging of battery back up to full and they'd rather let the alt do it and in minutes the new alt is fried trying to do that. Ford in service manual says it takes 8 hours to completely charge the battery doing that and it is an absolute NO to doing that and right in the manual. I saw the results in parts as I quickly guessed why when people brought new alts back a day after buying them and alt burned up, I had to lay the warranty rule of not having the battery fully charged on them and deny the warranty to make them buy a second $200 alt. Not fun there.
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Old 06-23-2018, 12:31 AM   #5
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Thanks for the help, thatís all good info. I do think the shop that replaced the alternator did not charge the battery first, so that could be a contributing problem.

I took it to autozone and their tester diagnosed good diodes but bad voltage regulator on the new alternator.

Sounds like I might have better luck if I clean the grounds myself and trickle charge the battery to full before I bring it back to the shop for them to warranty the alternator.


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Old 06-23-2018, 03:11 AM   #6
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You should know that the diodes can test as good all day and still be bad, one of the hallmarks of that alt. The cracked diode ends contact during the test but at higher speeds the vibration then makes the lead shake back and forth to touch/not touch. The problem is that the diode leads are too long to vibrate and the solder at the end is paper thin as well and cracks the solder point. Then the diode lead comes up through the solder point to barely touch or not as the case may be.

The aftermarket diode plate shortens the diode leads by about 3/16" and as well uses a positive pinch/weld process on the diode lead that has much better contact than Ford used. So far I have not seen one break a diode lead yet.

I used to have fits getting reliable tests on that alt when I was in parts, one passes 5 times then fails on the 6th. The test fixture commonly used can be very problematic too if testing alt out of car, it generally works best when new and after a bunch of tests they have fits connecting to test properly. We were constantly buying the test lead setup over and over when it went bad.
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Last edited by amc49; 06-23-2018 at 03:14 AM.
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Old 07-11-2018, 04:40 PM   #7
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I came here specifically to look for something like this.

I got my 2004 SVT a year ago and the voltage was a bit low but it seemed ok. We needed to do a lot to it so kept it in the back of our heads for later.

In early May, it died on me with no warning after a bike ride (with two flats so I couldn't even ride the bike home!!). Literally drained the battery trying to start it for a couple of minutes. Had a friend rescue me, and when we went to get it a few hours later, I said let me show you what it did, but it started right up.

Ordered the alternator and replaced the battery as that was about 5 years old. Things were fine until Monday.

Monday I go out to start it and it won't even crank. All my lights are one, stereo is on, will not crank. In May it cranked but would not start. Boyfriend gets underneath, hits the starter, it fires up. Great, so let's add a starter to the list (after wheel bearings last week)

He comes home at lunch to get it to work on it tonight. It started right up and it's only 3 miles away. He apparently went out to look at it mid-afternoon and the battery is dead. Nothing was left on - there's really nothing to leave on anyway.

He's got it on the lift now but I was wondering if there are any other issues we should be looking at that may be common to this car. Something sparked when he hit the starter but there wasn't enough room to see exactly what it was, so he's going to look for the source of that.

Also, I've always had an issue where I have to nearly put the clutch through the floor to get it to start. Even while cranking, if I relax it will stop, give it a harder push it starts cranking again. He feels it's cranked too slowly all along, I don't know any better as to me it's always been like this.

We typically get Motorcraft parts. I hear what AMC is saying about the rebuild quality though. I worked in parts for 7 years and we saw it with both Motorcraft and aftermarket, just really depends on what the item is. Unfortunately they don't get a ton of SVT work there so we're kind of scratching our heads on this.

I will start my own thread if you want but wanted to chime in.

Last edited by DianeSVT; 07-11-2018 at 04:51 PM.
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Old 07-11-2018, 08:07 PM   #8
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That doesnít sound good, but my carís story wonít help. Itís currently getting its FOURTH replacement alternator at the shop, fortunately all under warranty after the first.

Iíve just replaced the battery too and Iím hoping that solves the charging issues that have plagued it for the past few months.


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