I had to replace the original alternator on my '99 Z28 Camaro in January and have had 3 after market and 1 OE and all continue to discharge with air and radio on. Mechanic says it is fine but I think there is a problem.

The alternator is connected to the ECU which seems to be working fine. What could be the problem?

  • 2
    Is it just discharging at idle? Or is it all the time? Do you by chance have an underdrive pulley on your engine? Jul 24, 2016 at 22:03
  • Did your mechanic explain the reasoning behind thinking it was working correctly? When you say the ECU seems to be working fine, have you actually tested the alternator controls? Or, does the ECU just seem to be free of faults?
    – dlu
    Jul 24, 2016 at 22:32
  • 1
    Also, what exactly are you basing your claim of discharge on? How do you know it's discharging at all? What tests did you run to ensure this was the case? Jul 24, 2016 at 23:43
  • Does the car have an ammeter? Photos of the instrument cluster make it look like it has a volt meter but nothing for amps.
    – dlu
    Jul 24, 2016 at 23:52
  • @dlu - There is a voltmeter, but it is just a step above an idiot light as far as function. Not going to be overly accurate. Jul 25, 2016 at 1:37

1 Answer 1


Alternator output increases with RPMs – on a car this means with engine speed. At idle the output of the alternator may be too low for it to provide for all of the electrical load, and so you'll see a discharge.

To test the alternator you can look at the output as you increase engine speed. You should see the output voltage start to climb along with engine speed. By normal cruise speed you should be seeing about 14.2 V.

One other thing you might want to check is the pulley size on the alternator, if the pulley is larger than the original, it will be driving the alternator at a slower speed than the original one and the alternator will need higher engine speeds to produce full output. At idle the output will be lower than your original alternator and it might be low enough to produce the symptoms you're seeing. Or, the new alternator could have piqued your interest in the behavior of the electrical system and you're seeing things you didn't notice before. People are funny that way…

If you're not seeing long term low output problems – e.g., a low battery, slow cranking speed when you try to start, etc. – then I would say "trust your mechanic."

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