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Voltage Regulator
Fuses and Fusible Links
Charge Indicator Light
Ignition Switch
Drive Belts
Select a part to view solution for common problems associated with the item.
Operation: The battery has four main functions. It supplies the energy to operate accessories when the engine is not running, it supplies the energy to crank the engine, it provides additional energy when electrical demands exceed the abilities of the charging system, and it acts as a voltage stabilizer absorbing voltage fluctuations in the system. Advice: Corroded, dirty, or loose battery terminal connections can cause problems in the charging system. If a bad battery is suspected, remove the battery from the vehicle, clean the terminal posts, top off the electrolyte levels if accessible, fully charge the battery and then load test it.
Operation: The voltage regulator controls alternator output by opening and closing the field circuit in the rotor. To insure that the battery stays fully charged, most regulators are set for a system voltage between 14.5 and 15.5 volts. Advice: On older vehicles the voltage regulator was often a separate part from the alternator. Most modern alternators have a built in voltage regulator. Some are accessible on the outside of the alternator, while others are internal and are usually serviced by replacing the alternator. Other than obvious burn marks on the casing, it's hard to condemn a voltage regulator without testing it. If the voltage regulator is suspected to be bad, check to ensure that it can be tested before removing it from the vehicle.
Operation: A fusible link is a fuse that resembles a short piece of wire. Sometimes there will be a rubber barrel shaped marker attached to the link to visually set it aside from the rest of the wiring. Fuses and fusible links are designed to protect the circuit that they are a part of. If the current in a given circuit exceeds the amperage that it is designed for, the fuse or fusible link is supposed to burn and stop the flow of current before damage can occur to the components in that circuit. Advice: If the charging system tests faulty on the car and the alternator and voltage regulator test good off the car, you may have a blown fuse or fusible link. Check the fuse box lid or owners manual to see if there is a charging system related fuse. A wiring schematic which can be found in the repair guides for the vehicle you are working on is very helpful at this point of the diagnosis. Recommendations: Repair guides
Operation: The charge indicator is a light on the dashboard that illuminates whenever system voltage drops below a predetermined level. Advice: On older vehicles the charge indicator bulb was an integral part of the charging system circuit. If the bulb burned out, the system would not charge. Most modern systems employ a resistor wired in line with the bulb to maintain the integrity of the circuit if the bulb burns out. You can check the bulb by turning the ignition switch on without starting the engine. With the engine off and the ignition switch in the run position, the charge indicator lamp should be on.
Operation: The ignition switch is an integral part of the electrical system. The majority of automotive system components do not receive any electrical current unless the ignition switch is on. Advice: It is possible for a faulty ignition switch to cause problems in the charging system, however if a faulty ignition switch is the cause of a charging system problem, there will probably be other ignition switch related symptoms as well.
Operation: The alternator is most commonly driven by either a v-belt or a ribbed or serpentine belt. Advice: A loose or glazed drive belt can slip, causing the alternator to spin slower than normal resulting in low alternator output. At the other extreme belt tension that is too tight can prematurely wear out any bearings that are involved. For more information select the "Job Info" tab under belt lookup.
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