For the later production years of models covered, the manufacturer calls this unit a "generator,'' although it is in fact an AC generator, thus an alternator by definition.
The alternator charging system is a negative (-) ground system which consists of an alternator, a regulator, a charge indicator, a storage battery, the wiring connecting the components, and fuse link wire.
The alternator is belt-driven by the crankshaft. Energy is supplied from the alternator/regulator system to the rotating field through two brushes and finally two slip rings. The slip rings are mounted on the rotor shaft and are connected to the field coil. This energy supplied to the rotating field from the battery is called excitation current and is used to initially energize the field to begin the generation of electricity. Once the alternator starts to generate electricity, the excitation current comes from its own output rather than the battery.
The alternator produces power in the form of alternating voltage. The alternating current is rectified by three positive and three negative diodes into direct current. The direct current is then used to charge the battery and power the rest of the electrical system.
When the ignition key is turned ON , current flows from the battery, through the charging system indicator light on the instrument panel, to the voltage regulator circuitry, and to the alternator. Since the alternator is not producing any current, the alternator warning light comes on. When the engine is started, the alternator begins to produce current and turns the alternator light off. As the alternator spins and produces current, the current is divided in two ways: part to the battery (to charge the battery) and power the electrical components of the vehicle, and part is returned to the alternator to enable it to increase its output. In this situation, the alternator is receiving current from the battery and from itself. A voltage regulator is wired into the current supply to the alternator to prevent it from receiving too much current which would cause it to put out too much current. Conversely, if the voltage regulator does not allow the alternator to receive enough current, the battery will not be charged fully and will eventually go dead.
The battery is connected to the alternator at all times, whether or not the ignition key is turned ON . If the battery were shorted to ground, the alternator would also be shorted. This would damage the alternator. To prevent this, a fuse link is installed in the wiring between the battery and the alternator. If the battery is shorted, the fuse link is melted, protecting the alternator.
To prevent damage to the alternator and regulator, the following precautions should be taken when working with the electrical system.
See Figure 1
An On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system is incorporated into all gasoline models. It is controlled by the engine controller. The engine controller monitors critical input and output circuits of the charging system, making sure they are in good working order. Some are checked continuously, and some are monitored under certain conditions.
If the OBD system senses a problem, it will enter a fault code into the system memory and illuminate the CHECK ENGINE light. The fault code will remain as long as the problem persists. However if the problem does not reappear after 50-100 engine starts, the computer will automatically clear its memory.
Fault codes are numbers which identify the bad circuit. However they will not identify which component in the circuit has failed. The fault codes can be read by switching the function of the CHECK ENGINE light so as to cause it to flash the two-digit code(s) in sequence (refer to the portion of Emission Controls for more information on reading codes). A special diagnostic instrument called the DRBII scan tool may also be used to access and display the fault codes for diagnosis. The tool is connected to the diagnostic (data link) connector and activates from one to five automatic test modes to aid in trouble diagnosis.
There are many possible ways in which the charging system can malfunction. Often the source of a problem is difficult to diagnose, requiring special equipment and a good deal of experience. This is usually not the case, however, when the charging system fails completely and causes the dash board warning light to come on or the battery to become dead. To troubleshoot a complete system failure only two pieces of equipment are needed: a test light, to determine that current is reaching a certain point; and a current indicator (ammeter), to determine the direction of the current flow and its measurement in amps. This test works under three assumptions:
In order for the current indicator to give a valid reading, the truck must be equipped with battery cables which are of the same gauge size and quality as original equipment battery cables.
- Turn off all electrical components on the truck. This includes making sure the doors of the truck are closed (to shut off interior light(s).
- If the truck is equipped with a clock, disconnect the clock by removing the lead wire from the rear of the clock.
- Disconnect the positive battery cable from the battery and connect the ground wire on a test light to the disconnected positive battery cable.
- Touch the probe end of the test light to the positive battery post. The test light should not illuminate. If the test light does come on, there is a short or open circuit on the truck.
For DIESEL trucks only, disconnect the voltage regulator wiring harness connector at the regulator. Turn the ignition key
- Connect the wire on a test light to a good ground (engine bolt).
- Touch the probe end of a test light to the ignition wire connector into the voltage regulator wiring connector. This wire corresponds to the I terminal on the regulator.
- If the test light comes on, the charging system warning light circuit is complete.
- If the test light does not come on and the warning light on the instrument panel is on, either the resistor wire, which is parallel with the warning light, or the wiring to the voltage regulator, is defective.
- If the test light does not come on and the warning light is not on, either the bulb is defective or the power supply wire form the battery through the ignition switch to the bulb has an open circuit.
- Connect the wiring harness to the regulator.
- Examine the fuse link wire in the wiring harness from the starter relay to the alternator. If the insulation on the wire is cracked or split, the fuse link may be melted. Connect a test light to the fuse link by attaching the ground wire on the test light to an engine bolt and touching the probe end of the light to the bottom of the fuse link wire where it splices into the alternator output wire. If the bulb in the test light does not illuminate, the fuse link is melted.
- Start the engine and place a current indicator on the positive battery cable. Turn off all electrical accessories and make sure the doors are closed. If the charging system is working properly, the gauge will show a draw of less than five amps. If the system is not working properly, the gauge will show a draw of more than five amps. A charge moves the needle toward the battery, a draw moves the needle away from the battery. Turn the engine OFF.
REMOVAL & INSTALLATION
See Figures 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7
- Disconnect the negative battery cable.
- Disconnect and label the alternator output (BATT) and field (FLD) leads, then disconnect the ground wire.
- You may need to spray a lubricant on the existing nuts and bolts for easy removal. Sometime it may be necessary to allow the lubricant to sit for a few minutes.
- Loosen the alternator adjusting bolt and swing the alternator in toward the engine. Disengage the alternator drive belt. On models with a serpentine belt, release the automatic belt tensioner as described in Routine Maintenance .
- Remove the alternator mounting bolts and remove the alternator from the vehicle.
- Install the alternator using the old bolts. Tighten the bolts, but not all the way, you still need to install the belt.
- Install the old belt, or a replacement if worn. Always inspect your belts before reinstalling an old one, you wouldn't want to do this job over again due to a junk belt.
- Be sure to connect all ground wires and leads securely.
- Adjust the belt tension as required (see belt tension adjustment in Routine Maintenance ).
- Connect the negative battery cable.