The alternator charging system is a negative (-) ground system which consists of an alternator, a regulator, a charge indicator, a storage battery and wiring connecting the components, and fuse link wire.
The alternator is belt-driven from the engine. Energy is supplied from the alternator/regulator system to the rotating field through two brushes to 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 current. The alternating current is rectified by 6 diodes into direct current. The direct current is 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, 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 turns 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 fully charged and will eventually go dead.
The battery is connected to the alternator at all times, whether the ignition key is turned on or not. 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.
Your car is equipped with an alternator. Unlike the direct current (DC) generators used on many old cars, there are several precautions which must be strictly observed in order to avoid damaging the unit. They are:
- Always observe proper polarity of the battery connections: be especially careful when jump starting the car. (See for jump starting procedures).
- Never ground or short out the alternator or alternator regulator terminals.
- Never operate the alternator with any of its or the battery's lead wires disconnected.
- Always remove the battery or at least disconnect the ground cable while charging.
- Always disconnect the battery ground cable while repairing or replacing an electrical component.
- Never use a fast battery charger to jump start a dead battery.
- Never attempt to polarize an alternator.
- Never subject the alternator to excessive heat or dampness (for instance, steam cleaning the engine).
- Never use arc welding equipment on the car with the alternator connected.
CHARGING SYSTEM TROUBLESHOOTING
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, where 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:
- The battery is known to be good and fully charged.
- The alternator belt is in good condition and adjusted to the proper tension.
- All connections in the system are clean and tight.
In order for the current indicator to give a valid reading, the car 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 car. Make sure the doors of the car are closed. If the car 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 light. If the test light does light, there is a short or open circuit on the car.
- Disconnect the voltage regulator wiring harness connector at the voltage regulator. Turn on 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 goes 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 from 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 light, 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 5 amps. If the system is not working properly, the gauge will show a draw of more than 5 amps. A charge moves the needle toward the battery, a draw moves the needle away from the battery. Turn the engine OFF.
- Disconnect the wiring harness from the voltage regulator at the regulator connector. Connect a male spade terminal (solderless connector) to each end of a jumper wire. Insert one end of the wire into the wiring harness connector which corresponds to the A terminal on the regulator. Insert the other end of the wire into the wiring harness connector which corresponds to the F terminal on the regulator. Position the connector with the jumper wire installed so that it cannot contact any metal surface under the hood. Position a current indicator gauge on the positive battery cable. Have an assistant start the engine. Observe the reading on the current indicator. Have your assistant slowly raise the speed of the engine to about 2,000 rpm or until the current indicator needle stops moving, whichever comes first. Do not run the engine for more than a short period of time in this condition. If the wiring harness connector or jumper wire becomes excessively hot during this test, turn OFF the engine and check for a grounded wire in the regulator wiring harness. If the current indicator shows a charge of about three amps less than the output of the alternator, the alternator is working properly. If the previous tests showed a draw, the voltage regulator is defective. If the gauge does not show the proper charging rate, the alternator is defective.
REMOVAL & INSTALLATION
Rear Wheel Drive
- Disconnect the negative battery cable. If the A/C compressor interferes with removal of the alternator, remove the compressor (with lines attached, if possible. If the lines must be disconnected, discharge the system safely before disconnecting). Tag (location) and remove the wires connected to the alternator.
- Loosen and remove the top mounting nut and bolt. Loosen the bottom mounting nut and bolt. Push the alternator towards the engine and remove the drive belt.
- Remove the bottom mounting nut and bolt: remove the alternator.
When removing the bottom mounting bolt do not loose any of the adjustment shims.
- Align the hole in the lower alternator leg with the hole in the mounting and insert the lower bolt. Remember to install any adjustment shims you removed. Install mounting nut but do not tighten at this time.
- Install top mounting bolt and nut but do not tighten. Install drive belt and pull the alternator away from the engine to put pressure on the belt.
- Adjust the drive belt to the proper tension and tighten top mounting bolt. Tighten lower mounting nut and bolt. (See for proper belt adjustment).
- Disconnect the negative battery cable.
- Remove the condensor fan motor.
- Remove the power steering oil pump from the bracket and position it out of the way with lines attached.
- Remove the power steering pump bracket.
- Disconnect the wiring harness from the alternator.
- Loosen the lockbolt, the support bolt and the adjuster. Remove the drive belt.
- Remove the mounting bolts and the alternator. If shims are provided for correct belt alignment, take note of their position for installation.
- Place the alternator into position, with shims in their proper location.
- Install the support bolt, adjuster and lockbolt. Do not tighten them until the drive belt is installed. After the drive belt is installed, tension the belt and tighten the mounting bolts.
- Install the power steering pump bracket and pump. Install the condenser fan and connect the battery cable.