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I bought my first 1999 Esteem 1.6 back in 3003, my current 2002 Esteem 1.8 in early 2011, and it just feels really weird to be no longer driving one, and not to quote the old TRON movie, but - - - END OF LINE - - -

My 2002 hit 366,xxx and is just suddenly frying alternators, its gone through three in the past two weeks, I've done all the troubleshooting that I can and I couldn't really find any reason why they are all loosing their voltage regulators, it currently has a brand new one that ran in the driveway for about 30 minutes but I haven't driven it anywhere.

Someone even suggested I hook my oscilloscope up to the car to see what was going on, everything basically looked normal on the scope and then I turned the car off, and there on the screen is a high frequency triangle wave, since radios have oscillators in them I pulled the fuse on the radio and its still there, the key is even out of the ignition.

Has anyone ever heard of this before?

So anyway... I've had to borrow a friend's spare car for the last three days to get to work and with no clear path to fixing this I bought another car today, so my Esteem is for sale for the next 7 days, on June 16th it goes to the junk yard, I'm asking for $500 and it comes with the following (brand new) spare parts...

2 rear struts
Both front air bags
Water pump
2 front brake rotors.
Black/chrome grill.
Belt tensioner.
Upper and lower radiator hoses.
Front brake pads.
Steering tie rod ends for both sides.
2 transmission output seals.
2 front crankshaft seals.
Bottom motor mount.
2 oil filters.
3 air filters.
2 front strut mounting kits.
Set of snow chains in original plastic box.
Bottle of what is left of Asian red anti-freeze.
2 plastic storage "footlocker" bins for the above said parts.
Driver's side inner plastic fender.
Front plastic outer bumper, has been painted the factory silver but needs to be clear coated.
Front driver's side fender, has been painted and clear coated the factory silver but needs pin-striping to match the car.

The car has the following problems...

- Frying alternators.
- Cracked front bumper.
- Damaged driver's side fender and inner fender.
- Front driver's side tow hook was hit by a previous owner and bent the metal in that area around, not a structural problem really but none of the plastic in that area lines up right.
- High pressure power steering hose is starting to weep.
- A/C condenser fan comes on but doesn't spin the fan blade.
- Backlight on the radio no longer works.

I haven't done the math but with all the spare parts you are pretty much getting the car for free.

If anyone in the greater Portland Oregon area wants it please PM me, clean title, cash only, no "middle men", no trades, or payment plans.
 

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Sorry to hear your getting rid of an old family member.
I was just wondering since frying alternators is not so easy to do, normally,
but after the second one, at least, I would have had a new battery to go along with the alternator, if not sooner.
It seems as if this major reason for alternator trouble was overlooked.

Just my 2c

Best of luck with the new car & selling the old one.


Don

^_^

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I would have had a new battery to go along with the alternator, if not sooner.
This thread appears to agree with you Donewrken;

https://community.cartalk.com/t/dead-battery-kills-alternator/66828
This is useful too;
https://community.cartalk.com/t/does-an-alternator-going-bad-kill-a-battery/32505

Jim/Gym, you will be missed, you provided many good ans. in the past.

I now there is a little hate going on with your car, those alternators are no simple matter to change.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Donewrken...

I had the battery tested it actually tested higher than its rating amp rating, the battery cables were checked, positive to ground shorts, battery ground to engine block, alternator housing to engine block, etc. there is really no reason why the alternator should be frying the regulator, blowing the diodes from load overload I could understand.

Brit101...

Yeah, its easily an hour just to get it out and that is if everything goes right, if you are having a bad day and have to multitask other things that you had to do it can turn into a three hour job, and then there is whether or not anyone in town has one in stock.

My long list of spare parts was the end result of things like having to borrow my roommate's spare car to get to work because no one in town had my brake pads in stock.

Everyone...

But then having this mystery high frequency triangle wave showing up, the growing list of problems that I posted about, the car having 366,xxx miles on it, and my boss expecting me to be at work everyday, the final answer was "I give up."

I had also been planning on getting a truck again, I have kind of gotten back into the place in my life where I needed one again, I was trying to wait a little longer but the car forced the issue.

I plan on sticking around to answer anyone's questions, I owned two Esteems for a total of 15 years and have had just about everything go wrong with one that can, but I have seen a lot of these in the junk yards lately so it seems like everyone is giving up on them and its not like they were totaled the bodies looked perfectly fine, so I think at some point at least the "Esteem" part of this forum will eventually go dead.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Sorry, I know I said it would be for sale for seven days but I need to get things in motion to get this thing towed away so consider it gone now.
 

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I am going through alternators like crazy too. One every few months. It's been going on for quite some time, and I thought I had finally found the culprit when I noticed that my mechanic used the wrong kind of grease when attaching the battery post clamps. Re-doing those clamps helped tremendously. No problems so far, but STILL, the voltage gets really low when I run all my accessories at idle: 12.2V with my lights, A/C, and radio on. The fan seems to put the biggest load on the battery out of all the accessories. I'm just wondering if maybe this is normal. At idle, I'm reading 13.6V with No accessories on, and 12.2V with ALL accessories on. Will this burn out my alternator again?
 

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First - it's extremely unlikely that the type of grease used when attaching battery post clamps is a contributing factor to alternator failure.
Second - how are you determining that it is the alternator that is defective? What do you mean when you say "burn out" the alternator?

A quick & dirty check of the charge system functionality would be to hook a meter up to the battery and take the following readings ...

a) engine & all accessories off - battery voltage should be somewhere between 12 & 13V, exact voltage is not critical and will depend on the battery state of charge.
b) engine running at idle, all accessories off - battery voltage should be 1~2 V higher than it was in a) - again, exact voltage not critical and dependent on battery state of charge
c) engine running at roughly 2000 rpm, lights, a/c, etc on - battery voltage should be between a) & b) - again, exact voltage not critical and dependent on battery state of charge.

Assuming the vehicle's electrical system has not been modified and no "power hungry" accessories have been added, I would think it quite unlikely that the alternator would "burn out", and by that I mean over heat & burn the windings.
 

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Something else that may be worth considering, if it does have a loose connection in the "primary" wiring between the alternator and the battery, then you could be getting voltage spikes that can kill the regulator. Have you actually checked or replaced the lead between the battery and the alternator INCLUDING the alternator fuse? or just kept fitting alternators? Checked the main grounding lead to the chassis and engine block to the battery? (its got to have a return path remember) checked alternator mount to block is clean and tight?
"burning" one out is uncommon, as they are effectively self limiting and when they hit the max they can output they just stop producing more current. I have run them as DC welders for years and haven't burnt one out. Have had failures due to worn brushes etc but they have never "burnt" out yet.

From what you're describing I would be suspicious you have a wiring fault.

I too am confused by what you mean "wrong grease" on the terminals, as any grease applied is to stop corrosion and won't affect contact as its a scraping contact anyway on the terminal. If you say things are better with "different" grease, this is indicating you have a connection issue.

At idle, as Fordem says, you should have somewhere between battery volts and 14.4V accessories off and engine idling, at 2500 rpms, should be 13.5 or greater with all accessories and lights on. I'd expect 12.5 ish minimum at idle with everything on and a fully charged battery.
 

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I would think it quite unlikely that the alternator would "burn out", and by that I mean over heat & burn the windings.
The non working alternators I have encountered have had issues with a diode going open. Also a toasted regulator or three. The cause of both can be due to someone jump starting and flipping positive and negative cables while the engine in the good vehicle is running. Finally, one lady fried her Outback alternator trying to charge her dead battery, I didn't get the opportunity to see the damages so I'm not sure what let go in it.
I agree with
I would think it quite unlikely that the alternator would "burn out"
and
"burning" one out is uncommon, as they are effectively self limiting and when they hit the max they can output they just stop producing more current.
If they were re-manufactured alternators, I've heard some shops do pi$$ poor work and use the least expensive / reliable components, All things to consider.

It only takes a slip of a screwdriver to short a winding.
Don

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Don - the issue here is that many "electrically inexperienced" people use the wrong terminology to describe the issues they are experiencing, so that those of us who have worked in the industry have no option but to ask questions so as to better understand what they mean.

Your telling me what you have experienced doesn't help me figure out what "MostEsteemed" means when he speaks about his alternator "burning out".
 

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Sorry, nevermind
Don
 

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Thank you all for your help. I am electrically inexperienced and do not like having to figure out my electrical problems on my own, but my mechanic, who seems to be the highest rated in my area, has done, all in all, more harm than good, so far. It is said mechanic who has claimed that the alternator is "overloaded" when it has to "work too hard." I don't really understand what the mechanic means by this, myself. The battery clamp issue that I solved surprised me as well. I didn't think anything of the clamps and posts being covered in grease myself, at first. I would have done the same. It was undeniable, though, that playing around with the positive wire near the post was allowing the vehicle to start, when it would otherwise fail to. I think the problem was that the mechanic had put so much grease on the wires that there was grease coating each individual copper strand of each wire, which I assume was preventing current from flowing freely through the whole wire. All I know for sure is that cutting off the greasy ends of the wires, and cleaning the posts and clamps thoroughly solved the problem of the car failing to start reliably. By this time, though, the alternator was again failing to provide adequate power to the run the car for the 4th or 5th time in the last 2 years. What's funny is that the alternator is under warranty from the shop that installed it. They're the ones that keep replacing these alternators and failing to solve whatever problem is causing them to fail.

I appreciate all of your help. I was under the impression that the voltage of the electrical system should not fall below 13V while the engine is running at idle, even with all of the accessories on. I don't have many accessories, mind you, just radio (which draws VERY little power, I checked), stock headlights, and an air conditioning system. The speakers are all stock as well. I'll go back and take some measurements at 2,000 RPM and 2,500 RPM to see if those readings are more inspiring.

I'm already worried about what 2013GV said about how it probably shouldn't fall below 12.5V at idle, even with all accessories. It definitely drops to 12.2V at idle with the air conditioner on, with measurements taken with 2 different voltmeters. Additionally, the cheapo Bluetooth OBD reader that I have regularly reads as low as 11.8 volts while I'm driving with the air conditioning on. If I switch the fan off, I have no problems. It stays pretty steady at 13.2V. So, I've been driving that way out of an abundance of caution.
 

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Something else that may be worth considering, if it does have a loose connection in the "primary" wiring between the alternator and the battery, then you could be getting voltage spikes that can kill the regulator. Have you actually checked or replaced the lead between the battery and the alternator INCLUDING the alternator fuse? or just kept fitting alternators? Checked the main grounding lead to the chassis and engine block to the battery? (its got to have a return path remember) checked alternator mount to block is clean and tight?
"burning" one out is uncommon, as they are effectively self limiting and when they hit the max they can output they just stop producing more current. I have run them as DC welders for years and haven't burnt one out. Have had failures due to worn brushes etc but they have never "burnt" out yet.

From what you're describing I would be suspicious you have a wiring fault.

I too am confused by what you mean "wrong grease" on the terminals, as any grease applied is to stop corrosion and won't affect contact as its a scraping contact anyway on the terminal. If you say things are better with "different" grease, this is indicating you have a connection issue.

At idle, as Fordem says, you should have somewhere between battery volts and 14.4V accessories off and engine idling, at 2500 rpms, should be 13.5 or greater with all accessories and lights on. I'd expect 12.5 ish minimum at idle with everything on and a fully charged battery.
In addition to everything I said above, I should add that I replaced the alternator primary wire about 2 and a half years ago, but I'm confused by what you mean by "alternator fuse." I connected the alternator directly to the 80 amp fuseable link on the fusebox, which I assume then powers the entire fusebox. This seemed to be where the wire I was replacing had connected to, but I'll admit I didn't take apart the entire wiring harness to make sure. I can't remember what tests and research I did to determine where the primary wire should go, and now that you mention it, I am a bit scared of the inexperienced person (me) who performed that job 2.5 years ago. I should probably do a continuity test on the old primary wire (I kept it in the harness for just such an occasion as this).
 

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the 80A fuse can get corroded terminals, check it at some stage.

Your issue sounds like bad connections. Your mechanic is not an auto electrician and is guessing.

Overloaded and working too hard is a cop out, if the alternator is sized correctly (most are 80A or more) then its not going to be working too hard. If its an 80A alternator and working to its max it will output 80A, the fuse is there to protect from fire if a diode fails in the alternator itself (or you revers polarise things jump starting, in both cases, lots of current flows down that wire to ground.)

now, your battery connections, you say grease on the wires on the terminals? do you have those stupid ones that clamp on the wire? if you do theres a lot of your issue.
Replace them with a proper soldered style, or one with a terminal post that has a nut and washer and use a crimped on or soldered on lug on the wire.

Check the body and engine main ground leads as well for corrosion.
 

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You should make note that you are testing the system by means of a voltage reading,
I suggest you use an AMP clamp meter and record the actual current provided by the alternator and the current draw off the battery..
You can have a voltage reading but have very little in the way of amps... in that case the battery will always be in a discharge mode..
 

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I'm already worried about what 2013GV said about how it probably shouldn't fall below 12.5V at idle, even with all accessories. It definitely drops to 12.2V at idle with the air conditioner on, with measurements taken with 2 different voltmeters.
Go back to my previous post - you'll notice that I repeatedly said the exact voltage is not critical and will depend on the battery's state of charge.

Assuming a good battery, as long as the battery voltage with the engine running & the accessories on is greater than the battery voltage with the engine off, it is an indication that the charge system is charging the battery.

The terminal voltage of the battery whilst it's being charged will vary with the charge current and the battery's state of charge, and can vary anywhere from around 12V to over 14V, if you have access to an ampere meter, you can as Phil is suggesting check the actual charge current, but be aware that charge current will also vary with the battery's state of charge, and the charge system voltage, which varies with the battery's state of charge, the engine rpm, the electrical load on the charge system, and the alternator output, which also varies with the engine rpm and the electrical load on the charge system.

Confused yet?

The secret is not to get obsessed with the actual values of system voltage or charge current as they will vary, once they are within acceptable ranges and follow the expected pattern it can be assumed that the system is working as it should - it is easier to do this with voltage readings than it is with current readings because most vehicles use a 12V electrical system so the expected voltage ranges are known, if you attempt to do it with current readings then you have to consider the alternator's rated current (which can be determined from the service manual) and the vehicle's electrical load (which is an unknown variable).

Let's look now at that "overloaded" alternator, and again, I'm going to point you back to my previous post, where I "assumed that vehicle's electrical system had not been modified" - if that assumption is valid, then the stock alternator is not overloaded - the vehicle manufacturer would have specified a unit capable of meeting the requirements of the expected electrical load along with a reasonable safety margin.
 

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As Fordem says, the voltage will vary due to load and battery charge level. Bad connections will make any issues worse, and create low volts and lack of current flow. Get good connections in place and a fully charged battery and I bet the volts get up towards 14V or more at 2500 rpm with nothing else on, headlights on, fully charged battery and good charging circuit, expect something over 13V at 2500 rpm. As long as the volts are above the ign off battery volts, its going to charge.
Ideally with everything running and battery charged, the alternator will be supplying all the current required to run the car and accessories.
 

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You are aware that you can have the correct voltage on a circuit.yet the circuit is not capable of carrying any/much current...
 
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