Edmunds Answers



  • zaken1 10/28/12 1:46 am PST

    Since this problem could be caused by several different things; the most effective way to address it is to first have all the maintenance items done which may be overdue:

    Have the fuel filter replaced, have the air filter inspected and replaced if light does not pass easily through the element; have the mass airflow sensor, throttle body, and idle air control valve thoroughly cleaned; replace the spark plugs, spark plug wires, and the camshaft position sensor.

    You now write that the situation has deteriorated to the point where you can't even drive it without jump starting the car. This sounds like; despite your already having changed out the battery and alternator; one or both of them now appear to be defective. If you got a used battery and alternator; this would explain why. If you got a "rebuilt" alternator from a discount parts store; that would also explain the troubles. You see; most discount stores carry alternators which have been worked on in Mexico by semi skilled laborers who do not have the required parts and do not have proper test equipment. This is why there are so many defective units. If you exchange the alternator for another one at the store where you bought it; chances are it will have a different type of problem. The stores make so much profit on these junk alternators that they can afford to exchange them all day long; and still make out like bandits. The only way out of this trap is to buy a professionally remanufactured, thoroughly tested alternator from a NAPA Auto Parts store. I learned this 25 years ago; and I have not had a single defective alternator since then.

    It is also important to NEVER disconnect a battery cable while the motor is running; as it will instantly destroy diodes inside the alternator. If jumper cables are ever mistakenly connected to the wrong terminal; this will also destroy an alternator.

    It is also critically important to have the inside surface of the battery cable clamps and the outside surface of the battery posts scraped to a shiny surface with a tapered reamer type battery cable service tool; and then reassembled and tightened until the cable clamp cannot be moved by hand.

    Problems can also be caused if the battery ground cable is not connected directly to an engine bolt. It cannot be connected to the frame, or to any non metallic or painted part; nor to a bracket. There also must be an additional, smaller diameter ground wire connected from an engine bolt to a bolt in the firewall; and a third ground wire going from the battery negative terminal to a bolt in the fender nearby. If any of these ground wires are missing; or are not connected to the proper locations; that can damage the alternator or make starting difficult.


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