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Old 06-26-2007, 02:55 AM   #1
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Default Some ideas for fixing my flickering headlights

Lets start this thread by saying "Not A Bonneville" and "Not a 3.8", now that we have that covered


The 3.5 has a factory alternator defect, to sum it up, the electrical field of the alternator collapses, causing a voltage spike, which in turn causes the voltage regulator to engage and drop the car to battery power. Its not a big deal if it only happened once or twice, but it happens repeatedly, making your car look like a travelling light show at times.

GM claims that vibration causes the field to collapse, cold temperatures do it as well, because I dont notice it that much during this time of year when its 90-100 degrees outside, but as soon as winter rolls around, it comes back.

So some things Im considering are:

Somehow rigging a capacitor to handle the voltage drop.

Upgrading my battery wiring to a thicker gauge to carry more current.

Getting a rebuild kit for the alternator.


Im just wondering how viable these ideas are, there is a newer model of alternator available that has the problem corrected but they run in the neighborhood of 150-175 bucks, and im not willing to pay that much.

I like the idea of a rebuild kit if they arent too pricey, but Im not entirely sure exactly what causes the problem, so i dont know if a kit would take care of it or not. Another reason I like this idea is if I could keep costs down, it would make an excellent short term business venture, because there are several Intrigue owners like myself that hate this problem but cant justify the prices to fix it.

Also, after reading up on capacitors, it seems theyre mostly designed to provide a momentary boost or power and be almost instantly recharged by the cars electrical system. My problem with that is this, the alternator will kick the car onto battery power several times repeatedly, sometimes it will last for several seconds, during this time the alternator is essentially not charging the battery if im correct, so wouldnt that quickly drain the capacitor, making it useless for my intended purpose?


Below is a copy of the technical service bulletin for this issue:

TECHNICAL

Subject:
Headlamps/Interior Lights Dim Intermittently in Cold Weather
(Replace Generator)

Models:
1999-2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue with 3.5L V6 Engine
(VIN H - RPO LX5)

This bulletin is being revised to add VIN breakpoints and to include information on 2001-2002 vehicles which may exhibit a similar condition. Please discard Corporate Bulletin Number 01-06-03-001 (Section 06 - Engine/Propulsion System.

Condition

Important: Short term voltage drops (flickers/fluctuations of lights) may occur whenever high demands are placed on the vehicle'* electrical system. This is considered a normal generator output characteristic and a repair may not be necessary. Some owners of the 1999-2001 model year Oldsmobile Intrigue built prior to VIN breakpoints 1F237068 may comment on an intermittent condition where the headlamps or interior lights may dim intermittently. This condition may also be noted in the blower speed slowing or changing pitch intermittently. Some 2001-2002 model year vehicles built after the VIN breakpoints may exhibit a similar condition.

Cause

On 1999-2001 vehicles built before the VIN breakpoints, this condition may be caused by intermittent low voltage. Transient engine vibrations may induce the generator to experience field discontinuity. This state results in a voltage spike that causes the voltage regulator to reset. During this period, the electrical system drops to battery voltage.

On 2001-2002 vehicles built after the VIN breakpoints, the voltage drop may be due to the electric AIR (Air Injector Reactor) pump cycling. This electric pump causes a large current draw when it starts.

Important: At no time during the above conditions will the headlamps go out.

Correction

On 1999-2001 vehicles built before the VIN breakpoints, replace the generator with a revised generator, P/N 10464469, that has circuitry to inhibit the voltage regulator reset condition. Use the procedure below to replace the generator.

On 2001-2002 models built after the VIN breakpoints, do not attempt any repair to the vehicle. This is a normal condition of the vehicle and does not indicate the need for service. If the customer requires reassurance that this is a normal condition, please refer to the AIR pump demonstration section below.

Important: 2000 model year California and Northeast states emission equipped vehicles and all 2001 Intrigues are equipped with the electric AIR pump. After generator replacement, these vehicles may still exhibit very short dips and/or headlamp dimming due to the AIR pump cycling. Refer to DTC P0410 in the Engine Controls sub-section. If the generator has been replaced, any short term headlamp dip should be considered normal. If the customer returns a vehicle that has been corrected with a generator replacement, you may reassure the customer by demonstrating the condition. Refer to the AIR pump demonstration section.
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Old 06-26-2007, 06:39 AM   #2
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Is the alternator'* regulator controlled by the PCM, or is it built in?

If it is controlled by the pcm, the 2 wires going into alternator could be a place to install a capacitor. The pcm cuts the voltage to the alternator when it spikes, but the capacitor would keep a constant voltage, thus keeping a steady output of the alternator.

Just a thought
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Old 06-26-2007, 08:31 AM   #3
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Picking up another alternator off Ebay or from the parts store should also solve that problem.
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Old 06-26-2007, 12:09 PM   #4
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A cap won't do anything if you alternator stops charging for a few seconds at a time. A cap will only sustain the voltage for maybe a second or two. Unless you get a rediculously large cap.
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Old 06-26-2007, 01:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheetah
Is the alternator'* regulator controlled by the PCM, or is it built in?

If it is controlled by the pcm, the 2 wires going into alternator could be a place to install a capacitor. The pcm cuts the voltage to the alternator when it spikes, but the capacitor would keep a constant voltage, thus keeping a steady output of the alternator.

Just a thought

Heres about the only thing I could find to answer that question, from a post on another forum:

Quote:
I just spent a few minutes looking at my factory service manual (for a 2002) and it describes how the circuit works a little bit. The Powertrain Control Module (PCM) uses a generator turn-on signal to control the alternator. A high side driver inside the PCM, (which I believe is some kind of output transistor), is responsible for turning the alternator on and off by supplying a 5 volt signal to the voltage regulator (pin B - red wire). (Not the big red wire attached to the post).
Sounds to me like the regulator is built into the alternator. I like the idea of a capacitor install, mostly because they can be acquired for quite a low price compared to a new alternator. But like phoenix_flame was saying it might not be effective because of the long spans that the alternator doesnt charge the battery.

I would love to pick up a cheap alternator off Ebay to fix this, the problem is that most of the alternators on Ebay are factory originals from wrecked cars or what have you. Meaning that I would be replacing my alternator with one exactly like it that still has the same problem.

I just hate it because during the winter months its extremely annoying and makes my car look like a piece of crap. Especially on cold starts, envision this:

You walk out to your car on a cold morning, perhaps with a ladyfriend in tow, she says "oh i like your car" you proceed to get in, start it up, and you get the following:
1) FWI hissing like mad
2) AC compressor sounding roughly like a wood chipper when disengaged
3) Headlights look like something out of a nightclub dimming and brightening at quite a fast rate.

The overall impression of my vehicle has just went drastically downhill haha
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Old 06-26-2007, 03:28 PM   #6
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The first two are easy fixes. overall.. You could swap the stock box in and fix the compressor.

However..back to your disco lighting.. You could say.. I'm a cop, it'* a strobe light kit... want to see me in uniform?

Sorry.. seriously though.. it might be worthwhile taking it in for a rebuild if the newer parts are available. There are a couple of places around here that rebuild them for the average joe off the street. I'd head in and talk to them about the issue and how to best fix it.
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Old 06-26-2007, 05:04 PM   #7
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Thanks Boosty Ill have to look around and see if there are some rebuilders in my area. Someone on another forum mentioned that he rebuilt his, or at least that was my understanding, so im waiting to hear back from him to see what he did exactly.


As for the other problems, the FWI stays, its only nasty loud for a little bit, then it settles down and things start to sound good.

The only thing that concerns me about the AC compressor is that it looks like an extreme PITA to change out. I recalling a quote something along the lines of "my HVAC guy changed out the compressor in my Intrigue and he said in 15 years of experience its the hardest one hes ever done. Plus they arent horribly cheap either, even the used ones run a pretty good price.

Im trying to save my money for other things right now, so anything that isnt mandatory i dont want to spend a lot of money to fix. The AC still works, as does the alternator, so im holding off on replacing them, but if I could find a cheap fix for either it would be great.

Thanks for the input so far, if anyone has anything else it would be appreciated.
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