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Old 03-26-2005, 07:27 PM   #1
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Default Alternator Vs Elect Short?

Im told by two mechanics I trust fairly well that my alternator problems - and I mean PROBLEMS - are because of a short in my electrical system "somewhere"......and they say the "somewhere" with a shrug.

What are the problems? Simple enough.....I have yet to have an alternator last more than 10 months in the past SIX years. I have put in 9 of them so far, rebuilds and brand new - lucky for me the NAPA kept checking them out and replacing them free of charge for the six new ones I bought there.

Here is what I know of the car and what might be related, bear in mind I am far from a mechanic and what terminology I use was picked up along the way - its still all Greek to me.....

*Nine Alternators SHOULDNT just die this way.

*Two new batteries as well - soon to be three when I get home tonight.

*My map lights work when they feel like it.

*My fog lamps.......well one used to work, the good one stopped due to impact with a snow bank....

*Passenger side door lock doesnt work, I dont think its related however.

*Fuel sending module doesnt work right - LOTS of problems with idle and stalling after running down the highway for a stretch.

*Remote trunk and locks stopped working in 1998 I think it was.

Im told though that none of these issues indicate that any one of them or something related would be the cause necessarily so Im left with no real clearly defined place to start looking - assuming it is a short in the wiring somewhere.

Is there some holy grail of Pontiac wiring that could help me here or am I just plain up the proverbial creek on this one? Its a great car, it runs like a top except for the problems here - and frankly none of them matter to me in the long run if the car would start each time I turned the key. Please help me save my Bonnie!!!!!


(FYI - Its listed as a 94 SLE package, not sure if that matters.)
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Old 03-26-2005, 07:33 PM   #2
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How long has the fog lamp been bashed? What does the connection and wires look like? any breaks in there?
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Old 03-26-2005, 09:45 PM   #3
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It doesn't sound like any of your problems are necessarily related. Most seem to have happened at different times.

Weak or failing alternators can kill a good battery, so that sounds like a normal side-effect to me as well. Fix the alt problem, you won't eat batteries for lunch.

We need to start taking your problems down one at a time, starting with what Lakeville suggested. Check for exposed/loose wiring or broken bulbs.

Just a side note here, it would take a monstrous short to wipe out an alternator. I don't buy it, and we have alot of experience with alternator problems here. Bonnevilles are notorious for eating them. My best advice under normal circumstances is to buy an alternator from www.mralternator.com and a new battery (spend for a good one) at the same time. I haven't had any problems since doing this, and we have at least a dozen of these running here.

Napa and Autozone alternators are notorious for being one-year units for us. 3800'* run hot, and alternators don't like it. Typical failures are the rear bearing, then that heat wipes out the rest of the unit.

So let'* start tackling your problems one at a time, starting with your fog lights. Go to Wal-Mart, and buy the cyber-white navigators. If you click on my signature pic, and go to my website, you'll find a pic of what they look like. They're very inexpensive, but a perfect quality match for our cars. Wtih your NW weather (I'm in Oregon, so I know you need these and they could be a problem for you).

Where in Washington? Can you add that to your profile, and put 94 SLE in your signature? It'll help us to help you in future topics. We also have a couple good members that might be in your area for a little personal help.
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Old 03-28-2005, 12:08 PM   #4
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Default Re: Alternator Vs Elect Short?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bahde Bonnie
Im told by two mechanics I trust fairly well that my alternator problems - and I mean PROBLEMS - are because of a short in my electrical system "somewhere"......and they say the "somewhere" with a shrug.
There is a small subset of good mechanics who are also good with electrical systems, and I don't think you've found one yet.

First of all, what'* the nature of the alternator failures? i.e. There'* a difference between one that'* electrically dead and not generating anything, and one that'* squealing like a banshee or tearing up drive belts because its bearings are bad. If all the alternators are failing for similar reasons, then maybe there'* something to work with here.

For example, if they always develop bad bearings, maybe they're being installed out of alignment, or the idler tensioner is bad. If they're always dying electrically and just quit recharging the battery after a while, something else may be killing them off. In general, we recommend sticking with the AC-Delco brand of alternators (yes, they do offer them in rebuilt form, not just brand-new), since Bonneville use pushes them pretty hard at the best of times, and the various third-party rebuilt brands are all over the place in terms of quality.

One thing I would definitely check out would be the quality of the cable connections between the battery and the rest of the car. If the charging circuit is going open on a regular basis (due to a loose ground connection at the engine block, for instance), that will eventually fry the alternator; that'* why the service manuals tell you to _never_ remove the battery cable from a running engine. (Some people swear that that'* how you check whether the alternator is working; it'* not a good test of any such thing.)

So check _both_ ends of all battery cables: the battery terminals (pull the center bolt out of each terminal so you can inspect and wire-brush the contact ring molded inside under the head of the bolt), the body/engine connections at the starter and engine block, and also the endpoint of the large cable at top center on the firewall, where it comes in under the cover for the MaxiFuse/Relay Center. Wipe a thin film of Vaseline petroleum jelly on the clean contact surfaces and button it all up again. Good luck.
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Old 03-29-2005, 03:01 PM   #5
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Thank you for the suggestions. :)

I got my new battery in, first baby step down. lol

The fog light issues are since the first alternator problems, the first battery issues are as well. Replacing the fog light should be easy enough this weekend.

Im not a real mechinically inclined person - and I have a very limited supply of tools with which to work....I would better off now if it was just crappy alternators being eaten because purchasing a GOOD one would be within my ability. :) The issues with the alternator are them dying, no longer charging the battery - there hasnt been any noise from it.

My concern is that with 140k miles - we are quickly approaching the point where it doesnt pay to invest a lot in repairs, the car COULD run well for me but at what price? If the alternator issue is resolved completely its a good car though. Over the next week or so I will be investigating all this a bit more indepth - and checking out the suggestions offered here........thank you all so much.
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Old 03-29-2005, 03:03 PM   #6
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Update For Sig....

Paul
Vancouver WA
94 SLE
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Old 03-29-2005, 03:29 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bahde Bonnie
My concern is that with 140k miles - we are quickly approaching the point where it doesnt pay to invest a lot in repairs, the car COULD run well for me but at what price?
It depends upon the nature of the failure, and a dead alternator is just about the simplest bolt-on component to replace; certainly no reason to trash the whole car. Now, if your _transmission_ fell out, then maybe you'd want to seriously re-evaluate your relationship with your motorcar.

Moreover, if your replacement alternator comes with a warranty (e.g. an AC-Delco rebuilt unit), you won't need to buy that thing again anyway.
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