How to Replace an Alternator

A malfunctioning alternator is a common problem with countless vehicles nationwide. Learning how to replace an alternator is a useful skill, because you’re likely to have an alternator go bad on a vehicle sometime in your life. When a vehicle’s alternator stops working, the battery no longer gets charged and is soon drained of power, so your car won’t start.

While replacing an alternator isn’t too difficult of a mechanical procedure, it’s expensive to have done by a mechanic, especially if you purchase a brand new one. For those who have some mechanical knowledge, a good set of tools and an official automotive repair guide, the procedure can be done at home. Save a little money by buying a re-furbished alternator and trading your old one in, which can earn you even more of a discount.

That last part is important. Even if you’re a skilled amateur mechanic, consult an official repair manual which covers the particular make, model and year of your vehicle, unless you’ve replaced alternators on this model more than once. An auto repair guide provides specific and accurate details on the steps you need to take. For safety’s sake, have your work inspected by a certified mechanic, just to make sure everything has been installed right.

With that in mind, here’s a step-by-step guide for how to replace an alternator.

How to Replace an Alternator – The Process

The following will guide you through process of replacing an alternator.

Step 1

Disconnect the battery to prevent accidental grounding issues, which can result in a number of battery accidents. Wear proper protective gear, such as safety glasses and gloves.

Unhook the wires leading to the alternator, making sure you remember where they all go. It’s prudent to make notations about where they go or label the wires in some way. It’s up to you but the extra effort up front will be worth it when you don’t have to pull your hair out trying to get the wires back into their proper place.

Step 2

How to Replace an Alternator

How to Replace an Alternator

Remove the belt from the alternator. This is a tricky step. Take your time and don’t force it. Forcing the mechanics here can damage the pulley system, costing you more money.

Unhook the bolts that secure the alternator to the engine. There’s a good chance the bolts might be corroded and stubborn, so giving them a light spray of an approved automotive repair lubricant helps in getting the bolts off.

Also, torque wrenches are a good idea, to prevent you from stripping the bolts by applying too much force. Stripping out the bolts is a common mistake with inexperienced or otherwise impatient mechanics, and this makes your job all-the-more difficult and expensive.

Step 3

Remove the defective unit and place it out of your way. If you plan on buying a new alternator, take the old one with you to the auto parts store, to show the sales person. This lets them know exactly alternator you need.

Another option is to hunt around junk yards to find a working alternator. This can be more cost effective, but there’s no guarantee the part in question actually works. Make sure you’re buying from a junkyard you trust, or have the alternator in question inspected to make sure it works.

One word of caution: unless you are an experienced mechanic, don’t try to take your alternator apart yourself. There are many delicate parts inside an alternator and, if jostled, the parts break.

Once again, get a re-furbished one cheaper by trading your old one in, if that’s an option. This saves you more cash.

Step 4

Install the replacement alternator, by following the steps listed above, but in the reverse order. Make sure to refer to your automotive manual throughout this process. Follow any instructions they give you over the information found in this article.

Take your time and maintain your patience. Take a break, if you feel your temper starting to boil. Don’t get in a hurry, because that’s when mistakes are made.

When dealing with the belt pulley system of the alternator, make sure that you tension it correctly, according to the directions outlined in your automotive repair manual. Have your work inspected by a mechanic, to make sure that everything is dialed in and working properly.

Be careful when hooking up the alternator wires, making sure the wires go in their proper place. This precaution avoids problems, while it give you more experience inspecting your handiwork. Once you get the parts back into the engine and the engine works, you officially know how to replace an alternator.

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