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Discussion Starter #1
My battery light just came on, and using a voltmeter, the alternator is not charging. (11.9 Volts) Mine is an 04 ZTW wagon with the 2.3 DOHC Duratec, and the alternator looks like a total PITA to remove! It's mounted right in the back by the exhaust manifold, and I don't see any possible way of it coming out the top. Any tips on removing and installing a Duratec alternator?

Thanks!
 

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I did mine a few months ago. It cannot go out the top. I put mine on ramps and it wasn't easy, but not terrible from below. The hardest part is once you have it unbolted, getting it out between the steering rack and the driveshaft. It just barely fits and I spent a fair amount of time wiggling it around. The new one went in easier, maybe I just got lucky.

The other thing is that this particular alternator (mine was a '05 model ST 2.3 duratec) is kind of expensive. I wanted to take it to a rebuilder locally but did not have time.
 

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There are 2 ways I know of. One is to remove the axle on that side. That requires transmission fluid, and draining the transmission. This is probably easier with a manual transmission, and like Bob said- it will barely fit without disconnecting anything.

The other is to remove the lower motor mount bolt that secures it to the bracket. Then have an assistant tilt the engine.

I haven't done it myself, so I can't advise you which is easier.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks Guys!!!!

This is getting a little crazy....

I have a handy voltmeter that plugs into the cigarette lighter. Yesterday, the battery light came on, so I checked the voltage, and it was 11.9V. Today, I start the car to move it in order to clean the garage floor before work begins, and it was 14V!

I wish it would make up its mind!

Anybody know common causes for this on the Focus?

Thanks!
 

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You should try checking it off of the dash. Put your car into diagnostic mode by holding down the trip meter button with the car off and then turn on your ignition. You can scroll through the options until you hit the battery function and find out what it is reading off of the voltage regulator. That will give the most reliable reading.

Outside of the voltage regulator, the pigtail that leads into the alternator is a known point of failure and it is always a good idea to check your grounds to make sure they are all good as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks!

The reason I used the voltmeter in the first place, was because the 'Batt' light was on, so the voltage was definitely low. I'll put it up on stands and check the pigtail and chase the wiring/grounds.

Having it mounted so close to the exhaust manifold doesn't seem like the best thing in the world for anything plastic or electronic!!!

Thanks!
 

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Thanks Guys!!!!

This is getting a little crazy....

I have a handy voltmeter that plugs into the cigarette lighter. Yesterday, the battery light came on, so I checked the voltage, and it was 11.9V. Today, I start the car to move it in order to clean the garage floor before work begins, and it was 14V!

I wish it would make up its mind!

Anybody know common causes for this on the Focus?

Thanks!
That does sound like pigtail or battery terminal problems.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
The car starts and runs just fine, and the connections at the battery are in good shape.

However, to check any of the terminals at the alternator, it looks like it has to come off.

Is it possible to remove the alternator with the plastic air scoop and heat shield attached? As, it looks like the alternator has to at least be taken loose to remove those items.

BTW, it's really tempting to just put it back together, as it has worked just fine, showing 14.1V the last several times I've started it... but I know it will wait for the worst possible time to fail, and I won't trust the car to drive very far.

Thanks!
 

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What's your mileage on THAT alternator?

Aside from something broken or failing alternators do wear out. It's the brushes that wear. When they get worn enough the brushes will begin to make intermittent contact.

Mechanical springs within the alternator keep constant force on the brushes so they stay in constant contact with the alternators armature. The springs aren't precisely designed so the brushes will wear unevenly as the force from the spring varies over the life of the brushes - there are two brushes in the alternator.

Factory alternators last the longest, ~ 130k+ miles assuming no heavy electrical loads. Rebuilt alternators last maybe half as long because the aftermarket brushes/regulators are half as long as the original factory brushes (no, Ford doesn't sell the regulator/brushes separately - I checked !).
 

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They pit also and as the brush wears that brush dust has to go somewhere.

Sometimes cleaning the brush dust away can help but like you said the spring tension that push on the brush can vary. They can hang up in the slot the brush rides in and sometimes tapping them can help.

Ive even had a brush lose tension from heat. It ran fine when cold but failed as soon as it reached temp.

Has anyone tried replacing the alt. with the exhaust manifold off? Im planning to change to a header but i thought while i was there ide put in a new alt. if it can fit with the manifold off out the top?


What's your mileage on THAT alternator?

Aside from something broken or failing alternators do wear out. It's the brushes that wear. When they get worn enough the brushes will begin to make intermittent contact.

Mechanical springs within the alternator keep constant force on the brushes so they stay in constant contact with the alternators armature. The springs aren't precisely designed so the brushes will wear unevenly as the force from the spring varies over the life of the brushes - there are two brushes in the alternator.

Factory alternators last the longest, ~ 130k+ miles assuming no heavy electrical loads. Rebuilt alternators last maybe half as long because the aftermarket brushes/regulators are half as long as the original factory brushes (no, Ford doesn't sell the regulator/brushes separately - I checked !).
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I had plans this evening, and didn't have time to finish the job, so I just put the dust shield back on, re-installed the tire, and let it down off the jack stands. So far, it's been putting out steady voltage, and has been doing great.

Advance has the cheapest prices on alternators, but places like that and Autozone have questionable quality. The last (lifetime warranty) alternator I bought from them lasted 2-3 weeks before the bearings started to scream. Luckily, it was one that was easy to change, and the replacement lasted until I sold the car a year or so later.

The car currently has 98k miles on it, so the alternator shouldn't be toast yet... especially since it still puts out steady current. I didn't take any wires loose, but there was nothing obviously wrong with the pigtail or main power lead you could see visually.

So far, it just seems like a fluke... and I haven't been able to make it go out again... so it would be hard to tell if anything I did actually fixed it! I'll probably let it ride for a while with the voltmeter stuck in the 12V outlet... and keep track of what it does... while limiting the car to short trips. If it acts up again, I'll dig further into it.

Oh, I did hear of a guy changing the alternator out by unbolting the exhaust manifold.

Plus... I'm guessing the plastic air duct has to be removed to get the alternator out??? Is that right?

Hopefully, after starting to unbolt things, the alternator moves around to where all the plugs and all are easier to get to...

Thanks guys!
 

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If the alternator goes out you wont be stranded right? I mean it will still run on the battery but just not for very long.

My sister had this happen recently to her car. The light came on but she kept driving it for a few days. The problem she had was she just HAD to run the air as well which im sure didnt help. She wound up walking home one night. She towed it home but if she would of waited i told her she could of just pulled the battery out, taken it home and charged it a few hours then drive it back home safely. Insted her and my brother towed it to her house risking damage to both cars.

Not only was she running the air but she went out at night. Double whammy on it.

So im thinking keep your trips short and in the day if you can. Do you have an extra battery? incase it goes out you could drive it till it gets to low to run and then swap out the battery to get you home. I also wouldnt recomend running the air.

Ide bet you had a brush issues and when you jacked with it you unstuck a brush or it was in a dead spot moving it around or banging on it might of been just enough to free it up. It may last a while it may just be a matter of time.
 

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I want one of you guys to take apart an alternator and show me some brushes. There should be no such critter. That's the benefit of alternators over generators, and solid state voltage regulators with rectifiers were why we didn't have alternators in the 60's. The problem with the brushes in generators was that you were limited in current output due to the brushes and the ring. The wires could only be so big. On DC generators the windings spin in a case lined with magnets- you need brushes and a commutator ring to transfer induced power to the outside of the case. On alternators, the magnets spin inside the windings, and the power connections are on the outside stationary windings.

Go take one apart, or read an internet article about automotive alternators. All your problems are the built in VR, and damage to the semi-conductors in it from heat. You won't find a brush or a commutator ring in any of them. You will find brushes and commutator rings in starters, and any other DC motor.

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The plastic air duct has to be removed, but it's easy to remove. PZEV vehicles would be more difficult due to a larger mani-cat. So far on this board we haven't had anyone with a Dtec have the VR plug problems like the other cars. That might be due to the Dtec engines not being as old. Let's hope it's because Ford changed something- like larger wires and better plugs. Most of the time our alternator problems are due to corrosion at the battery terminals on either side. I keep grease on mine for just such a reason. I'm still running on the factory battery and alternator, so I must be doing something right- or just lucky. Believe me, as far as batteries go, this is one of the worst I've ever owned. It kept giving me corrosion problems at the terminals until I coated them with grease- a very old trick.
 

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Good luck with the alternator on the car. With a good battery you should be fine. I had an alternator die on my old Saturn with a crappy battery. If the car sat a week it would not have enough juice to start.
When the alternator died, it was at night and i got 2 miles down the road and my lights were so dim i might as well of had them off.

I've seen a guy use one of these Solar Panels to keep from replacing the Alternator. He went years like that. Always parked in the sun haha.
 

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I want one of you guys to take apart an alternator and show me some brushes. There should be no such critter. That's the benefit of alternators over generators, and solid state voltage regulators with rectifiers were why we didn't have alternators in the 60's. The problem with the brushes in generators was that you were limited in current output due to the brushes and the ring. The wires could only be so big. On DC generators the windings spin in a case lined with magnets- you need brushes and a commutator ring to transfer induced power to the outside of the case. On alternators, the magnets spin inside the windings, and the power connections are on the outside stationary windings.
Done and done
The armature


Where the brushes are at the end of the alternator housing


Where the brushes were


And the brushes


My sisters 2004 Honda CR-V just had her alternator go out and we swapped it out. It failed but we havnt decided yet whats wrong with it. We dont know if we got a bad "rebuilt" one or if the A/C the shop just replaced is drawing to many amps and blowing the alternators?

That dark black groove is from that short brush. Not sure if thats the hot side or what. I dont really know how these work or why that one wore out before the other? It looks almost half the length.

I wonder now if tapping on this alternator would of made it work again. Or maybe cleaning it?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
No obvious wire/cable issues. So far, it seems to be a fluke. It's been working just fine. Go Figure...
 

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No obvious wire/cable issues. So far, it seems to be a fluke. It's been working just fine. Go Figure...
I wouldnt bet on it. Keep a spare battery on hand and i wouldnt drive it very far.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Well, I shouldn't have said anything... It was fine ALL THAT TIME, and got driven several hundred miles... but as soon as I said something, it went out again. OH WELL.

I've never seen an alternator that looked like such a PITA to change!

As for brushes... The electricity has to get from the spinning armature to the wiring SOMEHOW. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I finally replaced the alternator... and it still doesn't charge.

The plug looked to be in excellent shape, but the main lug did show a bit of corrosion.

As a test, I checked for 12V at the main lug, as it goes to the battery, and it did show 12V. As a backup test, I ran a jumper wire from the main lug to the (+) battery terminal, and THEN it would work just fine... showing 14.1V.

I don't know how the factory cable can show 12V, and have no charge, when replacing the cable with a jumper straight to the battery makes it charge.

Any ideas? Is there some kind of relay or something along the cable? Something????

I'm pretty much at a loss, and am done for the night. I'll probably look at it again, tomorrow evening.

Any thoughts are appreciated.

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter #20
FIXED AT LAST!!!

Now I can stop driving the minivan every day. LOL!

After swapping the alternator... it still didn't charge.

A few notes:
Removing the three passenger side motor mount bolts allows the engine to slide forward a couple inches making more room. It only takes a minute, and is well worth it.
The alternator heat shield comes off, then half of the plastic scoop comes off.
At this point, the main lug to the battery can come off, and the one bolt and two studs that hold it on come off. Then, it can be unplugged from the harness and removed from the bottom. All this is up on jack stands with the passenger side tire removed.

Anyway... It still didn't charge, so I had the old one tested, and it test JUST FINE... so I started checking wiring. I made a jumper from the main battery lug straight to the battery, and it WORKED. Therefore, the problem was somewhere in the cable.

I cleaned all the connections, and it charged again! Woo-Hoo!

At this time, since it was up on jack stands, I decided to install the 24mm H&R front sway bar that I bought about a year ago... before I realized the front K-member had to be dropped down, etc. Well, that took longer that expected, but we won't go there. lol

I then dropped the car back on the ground, fired it up... and THE ALTERNATOR WASN'T WORKING AGAIN!!!! AARRGG!!! It was now 1:45AM and I had to get up for work at 6, so I walked away, and finally wound down in time to get to bed at 3. lol

This morning, I traced it to the inline 175amp fuse that is made into the cable, and not changeable. I priced a new cable at the Ford garage, and it was $102! F-that! At that point, I smashed the plastic of the fuse apart, and saw two substantial ends that the copper 'pencil lead' element were fused to. The Ford garage had shown me one that looked like this...



so I put 2+2 together, and drilled out the lugs in the cable, and bolted it in place, and secured the new fuse with 1/4" bolts. Everything was covered with di-electric grease to minimize corrosion, and covered with conduit and black tape. It works great!

Now, about the front sway bar...
I had installed a 1" rear bar about a year ago when I bought the front, and it really tightened up the rear, but made the front feel comparably sloppy. (yes, I welded in supports where it mounts to the control arms)
The addition of the front bar made a HUGE difference! The car handles like it's on RAILS now! That wagon, with all it's extra higher placed girth NEEDED those big sway bars! That addition alone was worth all the hassle with the alternator.

Oh well. NAPA sold me the alternator at a discount for $170, a NAPA (Gates) belt for $23... so I've got around $200 in an alternator I didn't need, but it was a learning experience. Who knew these new cars had these big fuses in their battery cables going to the alternator??? My old cars never had that! Never mind the fact that they could go bad... intermittently! Oh well, next time... BEFORE swapping out $200 PITA alternators, I'll be making it a point to check the $10 fuse first!

Oh well. At least the sway bar is on! :D
 
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