Alternator and Voltage Regulator Problems

Discussion in 'Shop Talk' started by Tarot Farm, May 29, 2005.

  1. Tarot Farm

    Tarot Farm Well-Known Member

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    I have to replace the alternator and/or voltage regulator about every three months in my trucks. I have several Dodge Rams and a Ramcharger that I drive. This has happened ever since I bought them and I have had two of them since they were new (1984 and 1986). I used to drive a few Chevys and the alternators would go bad on them in about 2-3 months time.

    I do not use any extras that would be putting a strain on the electrical system.
    I do not drive that much at night or need the lights very often. I do not pull trailers very often either.

    So, what do you all think is going on with the alternators and voltage regulators?

    One more thing, I never 'jump start' other vehicles either.
     
  2. fordson major

    fordson major construction and Garden b Supporter

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    what is it that goes on these parts? never had that problem, can change a ballast resistor or a starter in five minutes flat though!! do you always park them in the same places? thinking stray electrical voltage or corosive material that might affect the components . to tight on the belt? or out of line ?
     

  3. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ...............First off , You mayBE INCORRECTLY Diagnosing the Problem . A continuous drain of power from the battery could be mis-diagnosed as a malfunctioning Alternator\voltage regulator . Try this.....REmove the Plus terminal cable from the battery , then , connect a 12vdc Test Light to the cable that was attached to the "+" terminal...... then Touch the sharp point to the "+" terminal on the Battery . This should be Done with ALL systems OFF . IF , the Test Light "lights UP" , YOU have a Power drain that is Bypassing the Ignition switch . Now , start pulling fuses from the fuse panel....ONE at a time until the Test light GOES OUT!!!!! The offending power drain will be something that is connected TOO that Particular FUSE . At this point you can take the vehicle to a garage and ask them to locate the "power Drain" and repair , Without having to incur a large fee for you have already found the Problem area , fordy.. :)
     
  4. Tarot Farm

    Tarot Farm Well-Known Member

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    I wish that I knew what it was with the parts we get! The new alternator that I just got tests 'weak'...the parts dealer agrees that it is a faulty 'new alternator' and I have to wait until Tuesday to get another one; they only had the one in stock. :grump:

    I never park them in the same places as I have too many 'gas theives'. :bash:
    :bash:

    Nothing corosive or electrical around at all. Belts are all ok too. In line as well.

     
  5. John Hill

    John Hill Grand Master

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    This is really strange because it seems like you have the same problem with more than one truck? As suggested by Ford Major there seems to be something in the environment that is killing these, or else they were never at fault anyway.

    Do you have any high power electrical equipment mounted on the trucks? Diesel gen sets or welders or anything like that?
     
  6. Tarot Farm

    Tarot Farm Well-Known Member

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    In one case the voltage regulator was 'melted down to the firewall'. Another time it was over charging the battery; different vehicle.

    We tried the checking the fuses (the way you stated) with each vehicle and the alternators all tested bad at the parts store too. So it is not just our testing being done here.

    What would make the voltage regulator melt down?



     
  7. Tarot Farm

    Tarot Farm Well-Known Member

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    NO, there is nothing at all mounted on these trucks. I do live in an area where I am surrounded by irrigations that are all running on electrical power. I also have two power lines that run along one end of the farm. That would the only electrical things around these trucks.

     
  8. Hip_Shot_Hanna

    Hip_Shot_Hanna Well-Known Member

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    the only thing i can think of that might cause this is there is a bad conection somewhere that is stoping the alternator reading the battery , check all the main cables from the alternator to the starter/ battery for a "dry" conection , and make sure the alternator has a good " earth"
     
  9. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

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    I have seen this happen in the past, it turned out to be that the battery cables were reversed via polarity and color. Basically the battery was charged backwards - negative hot post. Positive ground, but this happening over multi vehicles does not make sense. I would question the test equipment, it is possible that the parts store is takeing you for a ride after a misdiaganoist problem solving session.
     
  10. Tarot Farm

    Tarot Farm Well-Known Member

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    We have used different testing equipment, from different sources (ours, our friends -he is a mechanic too, plus the parts store).

    The cables are all the right way too. I never allow any jumps starts from my batteries either.

    As for the parts store trying to take me for a ride, he is giving me another alternator for free. He also gave me another voltage regulator for no charge.
    Both came right off of the shelf and since he did not know that I was coming in, he could not have placed them on the shelf special. The next time though, I have to buy the new parts. The battery is still new and it tested ok after it was charged; no dry cells either.

    We have been having these 'low voltage' type of thing here with the electric company. The lights in the house go very dim and stay that way for several hours. The electric company then send out a repair truck who goes to the transfer station and 'fixes it'. But this happens about every two weeks or so.
    Could this have something to do with the problems on the trucks?

    I do know that it murdered one of the tv's, a refrigerator, and my other computer. I now have a little device that keeps the voltage (in the house) from going too low and too high. I do not remember the technical name for it. I just hope it saves the new computer I have. I can do without the tv and refrigerator, but not the computer. (I also have an online business).

    I live about 7 miles from a large power plant too. I am also next to two rivers and this whole county sits on top of a large underground lake. I want to solve this problem, so I am trying to think of anything in the environment that would be different here. Could this create a 'field' of some kind? Just guessing. I am getting tired of this happening.

     
  11. John Hill

    John Hill Grand Master

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    This is really weird especially that fact that more than one vehicle is involved.



    I dont know where you live but if its a cold place do you use plug in block warmers? Do you connect up a battery charger while the battery is in the truck(s)? Other than those it is hard to see how the mains power could effect the vehicle electrics.

    If it is an electric field problem or some sort of earthing problem I would be more worried about the family than the trucks.

    However, it is hard to imagine your mains power could be having any effect on what happens in your vehicles as the electric fields to do that would, I expect, have to be massive.
     
  12. Runners

    Runners A real Quack!

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    I would stick a DVDM (volt meter) across the battery and measure the resting and charging voltage - or take it to some place that can test the battery and alternator IN the vehicle at rest and while running.

    Somebody already said to check for power drains, good place to start.

    A second test would be the output of the alternator, amps and volts.

    Weak alternators ...??? I've heard of shorted, blown rectifier(s)... maybe that's an easy expression for a problem they don't want to explain.

    Resting voltage can be 12.0 to 12.6 volts, 12.6 is nice.
    Charging voltage could/should be in the 13.8 to 14.6 range, depending on the battery's manufacturer, battery size, state of charge, sulfation, age, etc.
    This is across the battery, nowhere else.

    I'd guess if you can't hit 13+ volts during a fast idle, with a new alternator, start looking for corrosion on the cables around the starter, battery, and any ignition blocks. Those studs on the starters / solenoids are nice places that look clean, but once the nuts are loosened all kinds of corrosion is discovered.
     
  13. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ...............I don't pretend to beable to accurately Diagnose your ongoing problem , BUT , the FIRST thing I'd DO....IS Try buying parts at A Different parts store . New alternators being shown to be bad would automatically make me Seek a different place for parts . fordy.. :)
     
  14. farminghandyman

    farminghandyman Well-Known Member Supporter

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    you may want to actual try to get a new alternator and voltage regulator (both units) at a dodge dealership, (not rebuilt)

    I was having starter problems was changing one out about ever three to six months on some vehicles, and changed to a different re-builder, (auto parts store) ford claimed they did not make any new ones for my cars and trucks, (so I could not get new) but it solved my problems on the starters.

    but it made me wonder I would get about 90,000 out of the first starter and then after that some times would not get 3000 to 6000 miles.
    then I found out that some rebuild companies just fix the bad part and that is a rebuild,
    and then there are companies that truly rebuild the units new brushes, turn the commutator, bearings and test the resistances in the wiring, etc, some even replace and or rewind the coils,

    I would suggest to buy the unit that has a life time warranty or the longest available, and then if you continue to have problems the warranty will cover the new parts,

    It is possible you just got a few poor units from the factory, and then keep getting poorly rebuilt units, that have either been bad or frying each other, (now if you have been buying from various suppliers and it is not poor quality) flooowing are a few possiblities,

    but will ask this question, are your batteries clean, if a battery is covered with dirt or filth it will short across the top of the battery, (take a volt meter and put on one terminal and place in the center of the battery you will see a reading depending on the amount of filth and build up there is), and if your in a really dusty area it is possible that your battery is shorting across the top and creating a unreasonable load for the alternator or voltage regulator to handle,

    Are the alternators equal to or better in amp capacity than the OEM units, that came on the trucks,

    Are the correct parts being bought, is the voltage correct, to the unit, the battery the proper size, (is the part guy geting you the right stuff?

    Is the wiring in good condition, no bare spots, or places that have got hot and melted, together,

    have you check with the a dealership to see if there is any service bulletins that could have come out on those years and dealing with electrical/charging problems

    do you run a volt meter in the cab,
    could something else be creating an unusual drain on the electrical system to over work the charging system,

    I know it is the honking sound system you have, blowing the circuits, LOL,
     
  15. farminghandyman

    farminghandyman Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Is this problem just yours, or do your neighbors have it too,

    is there any thing unusual in your soils, Iron, aluminum, copper, salts, chemicals, that could work there way in to the electrical components of the truck and fry it,

    do you have trouble with any other electrical items,

    do all things you drive have the problem or just the dodges,

    you said the Chevy's did too, (do you have any cars,), have the roads been treated with any thing, do or has there been illegal wast dumped on your roads, ( I know some companies have taken a tanker out and open up a valve and head down the dirt road to get rid of a tanker full of some thing they would have to pay to have properly disposed of, {it at one time had gone on around here})
     
  16. John Hill

    John Hill Grand Master

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    I dont want to be alarmist but it is very curious that more than one vehicle has this problem and that at the same time you are having problems with your mains power. Of course having problems with one truck does not make the other proofed against deterioration but it sure is a curious situation.

    About the only way the mains power could effect the truck(s) when there is nothing plugged into the trucks would be for there to be a significant voltage differential applied to the truck somehow. It is hard to imagine how this could be occuring through induction (i.e. a strong magnetic field) but perhaps there is a significant voltage potential in the ground (I mean the ground as in 'dirt', what we stand on). You are having significant and unresolved mains power problems and maybe there is a mains problem, perhaps a neutral return problem, such that your mains load is being carried via earth return. The rear wheels of the truck are connected via the drive shaft etc to the trans and the engine but they are otherwise moderately well insulated from the truck body unless the park brake cable is providing a good conductive path. The front wheels are connected to the body via the steering gear which may be providing a good low resistance path. Now if mains currents are circulating in the ground there may be a difference in voltage between the point where the rear wheels are and the point where the front wheels stand. This means a current between the two which most easily flows through rear wheels, trans, engine, alternator, battery, body, front wheels and back to the ground. Realistically I think this is VERY unlikely but it can easily be protected against by ensuring the engine to body earthing leads are in good condition, clean and making good connection.

    It might be interesting (and possibly scary) to put two metal pegs in the ground, say 20 feet apart, and measure for an AC voltage between the two. If you find any get the power company onto the job.



    P.S. Do you ever have problems with wheel bearings on these trucks?
     
  17. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

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    Static electricity could be a cause if the dew is heavy or unusual conditions exist, try a dangleing ground strap, like you see on propane trucks.
     
  18. wy_white_wolf

    wy_white_wolf Just howling at the moon

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    Doesn't really supprise me too much. Same person/mechanic working on all the vehicles would make the same mistake on all of them. I'd look for loose or missing ground straps between the engine /body/frame. People/mechanics seem to leave these off alot thinking that they aren't required.

    Might try a different mechanic see if they can locate the problem. Or try a different parts store. Expecially since they had a new one test as weak.
     
  19. fordson major

    fordson major construction and Garden b Supporter

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    electric irrigation,salts from fertilizer , and problems with the local grid? sounds like a chemical mix with eletrical potential. in a prior carreer spread liquid manure with aluminum irritaion pipe . electrical problems were common on all the tractors due to corrosive acids (people too) esspecialy bad when hot and humid. took to sealing electrical conections with spray silicon ,that lessend the problems . also the fluid moving through the pipe created static that went to ground .have to try johns earth ground idea and see if there is "tingle" voltage. cause problems on many dairy farms! also talk to a local lineman for the electric coop and see if he can give an idea as to why the grid is having problems .
     
  20. Runners

    Runners A real Quack!

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    I like John's idea too! We ran into this kind of problem between building grounds OFTEN.

    In one example, we had extended a temporary electrical service (100 amp panel) using good old tri-plex cable, from one building across a parking lot to another building. The problems started when the new building steel was grounded. The impedence of the aluminum wire (tri-plex) was higher than both earth and the metal building, so the whole area became "hot" whenever someone fired up something of 120 volts. 240 wasn't a problem, just when there was a voltage imbalance between the two legs/lines - the whole works became a better electrical path than the neutral!

    It really came to light when one of the guys was trying to mount a metal box to a column, everytime he fired up his drill, the drill bit would arc to the metal column!


    The other thing I'd check is ALL the electrical connections. Remove each nut, clean the corrosion off, add the electrical grease and tighten it back down.


    About a month ago, I replaced a "string" of 12v batteries - all were VERY hot when I got there. The rectifier (as in battery charger) was hot, running at 100% load on these little 33ah AGM sealed batteries. The batteries were buldged, and so hot I had to carry them away in a "sling" of cardboard.

    When I got them to a safer place, I pulled out the VOM and started testing. 3 of the 4 batteries showed 12.8v or thereabouts, normal, but still very hot. The 4th battery read 4-5 volts which mean this 12 volt battery had 4 shorted cells! This followed a power outage and heavy drain on this battery bank 2 weeks prior. The same batteries had been tested GOOD in March - still had the test results sticker on each battery. In essence, 4 bad cells killed 20 more. BTW - the whole place stank of sulfur from these SEALED batteries!

    Freakish stuff can & does happen with power & batteries. I've learned not to dismiss anyone's suggestions - John & the guys talking about chemical seepage might be on to something.