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Old 06-13-2003, 22:14   #1 (permalink)
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Alterntor woes!

Right now I hate the word alternator. The first thing to go on every used car I've owned has been the alternator. They've all gotten progressively harder to change. I now drive a 91 Escort GT, and to change the alternator out, I had to remove my exhaust pipe to get the old one out and the new one in. This is made even more tricky because I have to have a special "flex pipe" right going from the manifold to the cat.... grrr. Anyway, I noticed my charge light come on and then the belt broke, so I put in a new alternator and belt. it started squealing and then the belt burned up. I put on a new belt and it started smoking and burning really hot, so I figured it was too lose. I tighten it as far as I can, and it seems to be the perfect tension, and there is no smoke, no noise and no extreme heat from the belt. All is good for 4 days, and then I notice my headlights failing. I pull over... swear at the alternator, as I know it is going to be the problem, and then pop the hood. I can clearly see the belt and it is loose. I look closer and it appears to be twisted. Now, this had to have JUST happened, because in my paranoia over losing another belt, I've been checking the tension, temperature and condition of the belt after every trip I made since changing it. I look at the bracket and the alternator is pused as far back as it can. I figured it came loose somehow, but since this is as far as I can tighten it, it hasn't slipped and I cant tighten it anymore. So, i figure the belt is stretched or warped or something, and that's why it looks twisted. I can move the alternator pulley freely, and I can move the water pulley freely. The only other pulley is the crankshaft pulley and that cant be a problem because it's the one that does the powered spinning and it also spins another belt powering the AC and the power steering, and that belt hasnt had any problems. I am really at a loss as to what to do, and I am SO sick of dealing with this. My only hope is that someone out there knows what the heck Im doing wrong and how I can end this headache. One other thing to note... I tried to crank the engine over to drive it a few feet on battery power to park it. There wasnt enough juice, so I turned it off. Now, every time I push in the clutch, the engine starts to turn over. I can have the ignition turned to start, on, acc, or off... I can even remove the key completely from the off postition and push in the clutch and it slowly tries to turn over. This is some weird crap... what is going on? I think my car is posessed, and Friday the 13th has made it's mark on me and my scort.
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Old 06-15-2003, 02:13   #2 (permalink)
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Last thing first, sounds like the ignition switch or wiring is partially melted due to the attempt to drive the car on the starter.
Is the fanbelt a Ford item and right for the car? If the alternator's on max it sounds like it could be too big. You should have at least 1/2" adjustment left over when tensioned correctly. While the belts off, check the water pump pulley for side-to-side movement, this will give a faulty tension reading- if its bearing is starting to wear, the belt will become increasingly slacker.
Do all the pulleys line up correctly?. And finally, beware of over-tightening as this can also give problems, the belt can distort and extra load is placed on the water pump brg.
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Old 06-16-2003, 02:25   #3 (permalink)
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I didnt try to drive the car on the starter. I noticed the lights dimming, pulled over, shut if off, looked under the hood, and tried to restart it. The restart was a failed attempt because the battery was dead. The water pump moves very easily, but there is no side to side play. If the alternator was positioned to have the belt be any looser, it would slip and burn up instantly.1/2" of play is too much. Looking from above, the pulleys look to be out of alingment, but then looking from the front they look fine. Looking at just the alternator pulley it looks like the alternator is cocked and angled slightly, but putting a rigid pipe from the water pump pulley to the alternator pulley shows correct alignment... also I dont know how it could be misaligned as there is no way to adjust that. The belt seems to be worn on one side, and there is a groove cut into the side of the belt. One belt was a replacement from an auto parts store, and it was a cogged v-belt and the other was a standard v-belt from a hardware store that I I matched up with width and length.
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Old 06-16-2003, 05:56   #4 (permalink)
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I'd recommend you get down to your Ford dealer and buy the right belt for your car. Guessing on length/width isn't really the way to go. The 1/2" I was referring to is spare movement of the alternator, not the belt ie the adjusting slot on the bracket. Therefore, if you have a belt thats too long and don't have the 1/2" spare movement on the alt. when tensioned correctly, any slight stretching is going to take it beyond adjustment.
Wear on one side is a sure sign of misalignment, are any alt. mounting holes elongated? Is the pulley all the way on?
Sorry, when you said ' I tried to crank the engine over to drive it a few feet on battery power to park it' it sounded like driving it on the starter to me. Still worth checking the ignition switch out.
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Old 06-17-2003, 00:44   #5 (permalink)
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Yeah, in reading my own post it seems that way. I meant I treid to get the engine running to drive it a few feet with no alternator. I had the alternator tilted all the way back. There was no room on the bracktet. The old mounting scratches match your description of 1/2". The length and width were exactly matched the the belt recomended by Auto Zone, but that may not be right either. The wear on one side, and the fact that the belt twisted would scream misalignment to me, but like I said, it's SO hard to tell. It looks different at every angle. I the pulley and size of the alternaor itself match the original alternator. The thing looks angled, but then with tools it seems like it's aligned. I cant imagine how it could be misaligned because there is no adjusting for this. Also, since you seem to be so knowledgeable about this, am I wrong in removing the bolts from the flex pipe/resonator connection to pull the alternator out the bottom of the car? The haynes manual says to pull it out the side after removing the splash guard, but I cant get it out over there. I think Im taking the car into a mechanic. I hate to do it because it's just an alternator, and Im going to pay so much to have it put it, but I am at my wit's end.
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Old 06-17-2003, 03:32   #6 (permalink)
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As I'm in the UK and our Escort is totally different from yours, I can't be specific about what needs to come off to gain access. But, if something looks wrong to the eye then it generally is. Possible causes of this are incorrect fitment, unsuitable component, or dowels/spacers missing/dropped off and misplaced.
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Old 06-17-2003, 13:49   #7 (permalink)
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Ok, I am having a mechanic replace the alternator :( I couldnt mess around with it anymore. He isn't going to work on the ignition problem because he has no wiring diagram for this car. What specifically do you think needs to be replaced? The ignition switch in the steering column (the thing the key goes in??) or is it a relay somewhere or something else? How would I replace it, and can I do this myself? Thanks for all the help.
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Old 06-17-2003, 15:01   #8 (permalink)
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There should be a plastic drum at the bottom of the ignition barrel with a contact set in it, start from there by pulling the multiplug off its loom and seeing if it still tries to turn over, if it doesn't, replace the switch; if its still the same, the wiring, relay(s), fuse-box, all need to be tested for continuity between V(+) and the starter solenoid. Also there's sometimes a main lead between the alt. and the starter that may be worth checking out. Whatever the cause, the starter is getting a live to the solenoid either via a burnt wire or a sticking relay or similar.
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Old 06-18-2003, 18:43   #9 (permalink)
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Ok, here is how it stands. Right now the starter engages whenever I push the clutch in enough to trip the clutch safetly switch. Also, the Fuel Cutoff and Brake light in the dash stay lit whenever the ignition is on. I checked under the hood for any burnt wires, harnesses, etc. and didn't see anything. I also looked under the dash for any signs of damage and saw none. I didn't see any relays or fuses though, just a bunch of wires with clips to connect them together. To check the thing you are referring to, I assume I have to get into the steering column? How would I replace the ignition switch?
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Old 06-19-2003, 01:38   #10 (permalink)
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Ok... new twist. I heard a new noise today, and it was coming from near the alternator, so I figured it was going bad or the belt was about to go again. When I looked, I noticed something new... something I haven't seen before. A loose hose. I dont know what the parts are all called, so you have to bear with me here. If you were looking at the engine from the viewpoint of the passenger side of the car you would see the alternator to your left front... the a/c to the right front the engine is center and far ahead to the right is the battery and far ahead to the left is the distributor maybe? Ok. Above the alternator there is a VICS shutter valve actuator that is metal and tilted forward. To it's right and slightly below it there is a black plastic cansiter called the vacuum chamber canister. These parts are connected through two black things just below them that are side by side and have wiring harnesses plugged into them. The one on the left has the harness plug in from above, and the one on the right plugs in from below. This loose hose has the plastic nipple from where it used to connect broken off and stuck inside of it. This hose connects to the top of the shutter valve actuator and then goes down to the black thing on the left to the nipple on the bottom below where the wiring harness plugs in. This black thing (where the nipple is broken off from) sucks are in becuase when the engine is running and I stick my finger over the broken hole it sucks my finger to it. What the heck is this thing, is it going to be REALLY expensive like I think it will... what does it do, what harm will it do because it's broken, and how the heck do I fix this? It looks like both of these black things (valves maybe?) snap onto the engine, but it sure doesnt look like it's something that can be easily pulled and replaced because there are no screws. Coming from the bottom of this thing is another wire or hose (I cant tell which) that goes to the bottom of the vacuum chamber cansiter. Now, when I worked on the engine last I pulled the wiring harness from this black thing to make room for the socket to slip over the alternator adjustment bolt. The nipple would have been below this still and out of contact with the wrench. It was still connected at this point, and I know the sounds my engine makes, and it didn't make this sucking noise, which is why I noticed it today, the first day I had the car back and drove it. When I spoke to the mechanic yesterday, he told me that he installed the new alternator from the top. This made me curious because the manual says to do it from the side, and seeing as this was not possible for me to figure out, I had to do it from the bottom twice. I can't phathom how he did it from the top. He would have had to remove a lot of things, tilt things, etc. This black thing, and its nipple, would not have been movable, and when pulling the alternator up, I could easily see it snagging the line or the nipple itself and breaking it right off! My problem is going to be convincing the mechanic that it is his fault and that he should front the cost of the repair.
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