Monday, October 18, 2010
Why I didn't change my own Alternator
I had some work done on the Escape last week and felt the need to share this little tidbit. Now, I love my truck (above in Arizona)... what with it's 160,330 miles and unlimited uses. It's hauled everything from popcorn machines to kayaks to table saws... and once hauled me in the back deck on the way to St. Louis.
So, when the battery light started coming on periodically and our friends at Autozone said the alternator wasn't charging at full capacity, I decided I'd try some DIY with Dad in the garage. Then I pulled up the following directions. By the time I got to the part about removing the front axle, my eyes had glazed over and I knew I was outta my league. Off to Gibbs Garage it went, where they reported it "took a little longer than we expected."
DISCONNECT THE NEGATIVE BATTERY CABLE
1. Block the tires, set the emergency/parking brake, and put the truck up on jack stands and remove the front wheel.
2. Remove the black plastic splash shield from underneath the right side of the engine. It's held on by about 5 M8 bolts, and one Phillips head screw.
3. Remove the serpentine belt. With the cover off, from underneath you can put a 3/8" drive socket into the tensioner pulley.
3. Next you need to remove the front axle. Do it in one piece. Loosen the 32mm nut that assembles the shaft to the spindle. Back the nut off so about half the threads can be seen- you will hit the head of the nut to get it to go back through the spindle. Remove the front (15mm) and rear (I used a 3/4" but it was slightly too large) bolts holding the lower control arm to the frame. I pulled the assembly away from the truck at this time and braced it. Use a socket on the nut. This will star the process. After it started to go through I used the jack handle until the axle went back through the spindle. Now remove the 2 nuts (10mm) holding the half-shaft bearing and slide the front axle out of the trans-axle case in one piece. PLACE A CATCH CAN UNDER THE AXLE, YOU WILL LOSE FLUID!!
4. (YOU DID DISCONNECT THE NEGATIVE BATTERY CABLE, right?) There are 2 plastic snap clips holding the back splash guard for the alternator. A flat head screwdriver will pry these out and and if you're carefull you can reuse them. There are (3) M13's holding the alternator, two on bottom, one on top (do the top one first, it's easier to hold the alternator up to get the last bolt out. Remove these bolts and slide the alternator out of the way. (Try using different extensions and a u-joint on the ratchet, they can help in different combinations. This will also help when you are removing the alternator bracket.
5. Now, that the alternator is unbolted, you need to take off the alternator bracket. There are 3 (10mm) bolts that go from the rear into the engine block. The top can be seen from under the truck. The next one is below and the third is easily remove from the side of the car near the wheel.
6. Once the bracket is out, you can you have a little more room to get to the electrical connections. Be careful with the regulator connector, you need to push inn the tab that holds it in. I used a flat screw drive on the tab to release the lock. If you look at the new alternator and you will see a square hole in the connector where the lock engages the connector). The positive wire is held on by a 10mm nut.
Put it all back together. You will lose a little over a quart of tranny fluid so you may want to pick that up when you get the alternator.
The hardest part for me was literally unplugging the alternator. There is no extra wire so getting in there to push the tab and pull the plug was rough.
Total time from start to finish was 2hours 15minutes from the time I broke the first lugnut until I started the truck, this included a run to the auto store to empty my oil container so I could catch the tranny fluid and a 10 minute break for some water. It was about 90 degrees and very humid. I used all hand tools, no air. I'd be happy to go another 6 years and 180,000 miles before I had to replace this thing again, especially in the summer when my other truck is broken down and taking up the space in my air conditioned shop.