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My car (a 1991 Citroen BX 1.4) has been giving me alternator problems since I got it, the alternator failure came on every now and then and dimmed or disappeared when I revved the engine, my first move was to change the 10 year old battery.

Now one day my car didn't start and battery reading was 11v, so I decided to change the alternator and, as my repair guide specified, I fitted a brand new 50A alternator.

Now my car responds better but every now and then my lights will dim to a 10% brightness, windows roll up really slow, until I rev the engine ever so slightly and everything is completely back to normal as if my battery was completely charged, in laymans terms, one second of the engine revving every now and then is all it takes to keep my electrical system happy.

Still when parked my car's battery reads 11.8-12.5v and 0 milliamp draw.

It's no mystery, that's not how a car should behave, but I'm completely out of ideas here.

  • 1
    Have you checked the condition of the cables and plugs between the alternator and the battery? – Nick C Jul 19 '16 at 12:51
  • @NickC No, I have not, would scuffs in the cabling cause this behaviour? I'll inspect as soon as possible – EChan42 Jul 19 '16 at 14:06
  • Check the point that these cables connect. Any corrosion should be removed with some emery cloth / fine sand paper. – Steve Matthews Jul 19 '16 at 14:09
  • scuffs probably not, but poor, loose or corroded connections certainly would, as could any damage to the cables. – Nick C Jul 19 '16 at 15:12
  • Can you check with Ampere meter how much electricity it drains from battery when the ignition is ON and engine is not running? I don't think that I can help in this question, but it could help the other pro's.. – Arturs Bolsunovskis Jul 19 '16 at 16:24
2

It sounds like your alternator is not putting out full power – or perhaps the alternator output isn't getting to the battery. Often the wiring is set up so that the alternator is connected to the battery and all of the vehicle loads are connected from the battery.

So, if the wire between the alternator and the battery is damaged or the connections are corroded then there is a possibility that the battery will not get fully charged and the vehicle loads won't get adequate power. You can test this by connecting a volt meter between the alternator output terminal and the battery positive terminal while the engine is running – be careful to stay away from belts and fans and anything else that can move. Set the meter on the lowest DC voltage scale and check. The reading sound be 0.00 V – or very close to it – assuming 4 AWG wire and a load of 50 A and perfect connections the drop on a four foot cable would be (based on 0.0004 Ω / foot) about 0.03 V. If you see anything more than 0.05 to 0.1 V I would be very suspicious of the cable and/or its connections.

The same current will also be flowing in the ground path, but this may be much harder to check. Still if nothing else makes sense, you can do worse than to go through the car checking and cleaning the ground connections.

Other possibilities include a failing voltage regulator, or perhaps an alternator pulley that is too small. Check the voltage at the output of the alternator when the engine is idling, it should around 14 V in most cars, maybe a bit lower (13.5 ish) if the battery is fully charged or if the alternator pulley doesn't allow full output at idle. As you increase the engine speed the output should go up a bit and peak around 14.2 V.

  • +1, I'd rule out voltage drop across the charging cable before turning my attention towards the regulator – Zaid Jul 25 '16 at 22:26
  • After rewiring all the connections from the alternator to the battery and adding 2 new ground conections my car is working fine and outputs 14.5v so I'm happy to say you solved my problem and diagnosed it correctly! – EChan42 Sep 11 '16 at 10:42

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