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Death of an Alternator

 
Old 01-10-2017, 01:12 PM
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Death of an Alternator

Apparently it was a classically typical death.

I started driving in the morning and heard a very faint whirring noise that went up and down in concert with engine speed. I ruled out the transmission because the pitch of the noise varied with engine speed, even when in Neutral. I thought, "Alternator bearings? A/C compressor bearings?" But there were no other symptoms, so I just thought it'd either rear its ugly head eventually or I simply had a new mystery noise.

Drove for about another half-hour. The info display beneath the speedo suddenly lit up with a giant orange warning, "Check SH-AWD system." I suspected that wasn't the problem, but I didn't know for sure -- the behavior didn't change at all. After a few more minutes, the display changed to "Check Power Steering System," at which point I began to suspect it was either the alternator or the battery (which I'd had checked just a couple weeks before because of anemic starter cranking and incomplete steering wheel un-retraction after startup; it had tested out OK). Then the display changed to "Check Charging System" (I think), and the red battery idiot light came on above the upper left of the speedo. Then the red light went off and the orange light changed back to the SH-AWD message. At this point I was pretty sure it was alternator/battery.

By now I was just 5-10 minutes from my interim destination and not in the best neighborhood, so I pressed on. When I hit the gas to accelerate from the second-to-last stop before my destination, the engine suddenly wouldn't downshift into first to give me any decent acceleration from a standstill. After several seconds, it slammed into first and I was able to pull away. At the last light, the same thing happened again. (I learned later this was second-gear limp-home mode.)

I got to the destination parking lot and shut the car off. The power accessories and locking mechanisms still worked. I came back to the car several minutes later and turned the "key." Tick tick tick tick tick tick. No start. I turned it a second time. No sound, just idiot lights. Done.

I found a thread on another board where an Odyssey owner told the exact same story, except he kept driving longer than I did. He had pretty much the same sequence of events, then he lost his dash lights, then his nav went dark, then his car died. Obviously I was just a few blocks luckier.

As an aside, my wife (who's not at all a car person) got hero points the next morning for gamely stopping the bozo tow company who was about to tow the car by two wheels. She firmly relayed my instructions that they'd shred the driveline. My insurer sent out a second tow company who knew what they were doing, whipped out a portable charging unit to jump-start it, and drove it onto a flatbed.

Dealer diagnosis: alternator. Turns out Acura will no longer sell you a new alternator for an RL, only a remanufactured one. Death toll for the alternator, plus the battery (which tested "marginal" after the repair, so they pro-rated it at 60% off): $774. All better, except my wallet. Car has 120k on it.

Now taking bets on the next big failure. A/C stator, perhaps?
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Old 01-10-2017, 01:18 PM
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Thoughts on writing a novel?


Very well written (read:long) post
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Old 01-10-2017, 01:25 PM
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Sorry about the War And Peace length. Shoulda warned about it in the subject line.
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Old 01-10-2017, 03:24 PM
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$774

When I replaced my alternator/battery when I first got the car I paid just over $300 CDN. Of course I did the work myself but damn
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Old 01-10-2017, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by teh CL View Post
$774

When I replaced my alternator/battery when I first got the car I paid just over $300 CDN. Of course I did the work myself but damn
Well, now you've gone and done it: I feel inferior.

In truth, I not only lack your wrenching skills, I was trading money for time. I've had mostly good service experiences with my selling dealership, and I figured they would at least would be able to readily diagnose the problem.

BTW, what make of alternator did you install? I know there are a few choices.
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Old 01-10-2017, 10:08 PM
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Personally, I would consider a $774 repair on a 10 year old car w/ 120K miles an expected expense. The car has served well for that amount of time and mileage. If you really like the car Tony and are not ready for a new one, even a couple thousand in repairs (A/C, tires, struts, brakes, etc) are realistic to make the car go a lot farther. And to find anything near the RL currently on the market expect $55K or more. And some new cars can run upwards of $350 for a routine service call. My former RL was the cheapest car maintenance-wise I had ever owned. So $2-3K in repairs vs $55K is reasonable IMHO. $774 a bargain.
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Old 01-11-2017, 08:02 AM
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Absolutely classic example of alt failure, beautifully written.

I believe they sell the components for the alternator (regulator board, etc) so I wonder if there's a local alternator/starter shop that could re-build it for you?

Two bearings, a slip ring and that's about the only moving components. Presuming there is no break in the armature/stator coil windings, of course.
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Old 01-11-2017, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by TampaRLX-SH View Post
Personally, I would consider a $774 repair on a 10 year old car w/ 120K miles an expected expense. The car has served well for that amount of time and mileage. If you really like the car Tony and are not ready for a new one, even a couple thousand in repairs (A/C, tires, struts, brakes, etc) are realistic to make the car go a lot farther. And to find anything near the RL currently on the market expect $55K or more. And some new cars can run upwards of $350 for a routine service call. My former RL was the cheapest car maintenance-wise I had ever owned. So $2-3K in repairs vs $55K is reasonable IMHO. $774 a bargain.
I wholeheartedly agree, Tampa. That's my plan I'm aiming for 250k+ with this car, luck and components willing. I see people driving their 25-year-old Lexus ES's around that look just fine, and I see no reason I can't do the same. It's got a couple of little age-related failures: the "up" position on the passenger-seatback recliner switch has gone dead, the glovebox light is out. In time, I'll get them fixed. Partly because I'm just anal, partly because if you wait until three things are wrong it becomes impossible to diagnose the fourth one, and partly because I believe it's when you let the car deteriorate that you start to lust for a costly new one to take its place.

Good to see you make a guest appearance on this board. I trust you're still enjoying your ultimate RLX as much as when you first got it?
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Old 01-11-2017, 09:09 AM
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It's more expensive than not but like you said Tony, you're paying for the time saved. DIY is great for saving money but not everyone has the time to invest into it. In the long run, you're better off !
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Old 01-11-2017, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by TonyCD View Post
Good to see you make a guest appearance on this board. I trust you're still enjoying your ultimate RLX as much as when you first got it?
Indeed I am. And yet, I still miss my RL. As I mentioned in another thread, I marvel at the technology my Sport Hybrid has, yet I feel my former RL was at the pinnacle of 'standard' drive-train without VCM, start / stop, hybrid, mechanical / hydraulic steering,, non-regenerative braking, etc. Funny that when I purchased my RL I thought it was leading edge. But now I see it has the height of former auto tech before this jump to synthetic auto engineering. What I mean by that, we have steering, suspension, braking, semi autonomous features and even exhaust sound artificially adjusted in most cars. I am impressed by it, but it somehow evolves to a point where IMHO the driver / car connection is less organic and visceral. I believe I equated my Sport Hybrid to a smart watch where the RL was a precision mechanical Rolex.
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Old 01-11-2017, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by TampaRLX-SH View Post
Indeed I am. And yet, I still miss my RL. As I mentioned in another thread, I marvel at the technology my Sport Hybrid has, yet I feel my former RL was at the pinnacle of 'standard' drive-train without VCM, start / stop, hybrid, mechanical / hydraulic steering,, non-regenerative braking, etc. Funny that when I purchased my RL I thought it was leading edge. But now I see it has the height of former auto tech before this jump to synthetic auto engineering. What I mean by that, we have steering, suspension, braking, semi autonomous features and even exhaust sound artificially adjusted in most cars. I am impressed by it, but it somehow evolves to a point where IMHO the driver / car connection is less organic and visceral. I believe I equated my Sport Hybrid to a smart watch where the RL was a precision mechanical Rolex.
I know what you mean. We are at a strange point in automotive evolution, where tremendous engineering effort is being expended to simulate the sensations the old cars just happened to deliver because there was no way to avoid them. For instance, I remember reading that the engineering team of the Mustang GT as far back as a decade ago was meticulously tuning the exterior exhaust note to be loud just above and just below the frequency that the government tested for compliance with noise regulations. With the original muscle cars, they were loud because people liked it that way, sure, but also because nobody knew a better way to maximize V8 performance than with a recipe that included reduced back pressure. We strain elaborately to duplicate yesteryear's casual failure to suppress noise.

In the summer, there's a weekly "Cruise Night" in my town. When you look at those Sixties legends with their hoods and trunks open, you realize they could have been built in high school metal shop compared to the lowliest cars built today. No CAD/CAM to engineer the body structure for progressive energy absorption in a crash. No tight tolerances or tight-fitting panel gaps. No engine electronics at all until around 1970. I had a body shop manager tell me that rebuilding older vs. newer cars has made him so aware of the superior crash protection of modern cars, he's uneasy driving/riding in an old one. Even aside from making me grateful that the RL was one of the first cars with the modern ACE body structure, it reminds me all over again that automakers now have the challenge to keep the cars seeming familiarly simple to their buyers, while packing in ever-greater complexity in multiple areas where it doesn't show. No wonder cars cost more now. What a marvel the resulting vehicles are actually much more reliable and less temperamental than the old ones.
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Old 01-11-2017, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by TonyCD View Post
Well, now you've gone and done it: I feel inferior.

In truth, I not only lack your wrenching skills, I was trading money for time. I've had mostly good service experiences with my selling dealership, and I figured they would at least would be able to readily diagnose the problem.

BTW, what make of alternator did you install? I know there are a few choices.

It was just a remanned unit from a local business in town.


I completely understand trading money for time. I'm getting to the point where I can't be bothered to do even basic maintenance on the RL. Guess we all get to that point eventually..
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Old 01-11-2017, 06:31 PM
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Seems to have some correlation to your salary and/or number of children.
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Old 01-13-2017, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by TampaRLX-SH View Post
Indeed I am. And yet, I still miss my RL. As I mentioned in another thread, I marvel at the technology my Sport Hybrid has, yet I feel my former RL was at the pinnacle of 'standard' drive-train without VCM, start / stop, hybrid, mechanical / hydraulic steering,, non-regenerative braking, etc. Funny that when I purchased my RL I thought it was leading edge. But now I see it has the height of former auto tech before this jump to synthetic auto engineering. What I mean by that, we have steering, suspension, braking, semi autonomous features and even exhaust sound artificially adjusted in most cars. I am impressed by it, but it somehow evolves to a point where IMHO the driver / car connection is less organic and visceral. I believe I equated my Sport Hybrid to a smart watch where the RL was a precision mechanical Rolex.
.
Beautifully-put!
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Old 01-16-2017, 06:07 PM
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nice story telling. how long does an alternator typically last? i have 107k miles on my 2008 RL. wondering if i should replace it.
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Old 01-16-2017, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by HDNBenjamin View Post
nice story telling. how long does an alternator typically last? i have 107k miles on my 2008 RL. wondering if i should replace it.
U will have battery and abs lights on I am pretty sure. Hm generally alternators don't fail till about 250k on honda. No need to replace it. After u start ur car voltage at battery terminals should. Be around 13.7-14.5v DC. And then u can also turn on all kinds of shit in your car to see if u get a drop in voltage.. anyway those tests are not worth the time. When u see battery and abs light on replace alternator. Till then everything is good.

Yes also OP and u.. best to buy pepboys starters. Superb. Do not buy duralast in autozone. U will be replacing them every few months. It's amazing how duralast does not do anything. 15 years ago j heard same rumors about duralast electronic components. . The whole world knows.. and still nothing changed )

Last edited by MrVtech; 01-16-2017 at 06:42 PM.
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Old 01-16-2017, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by MrVtech View Post
U will have battery and abs lights on I am pretty sure. Hm generally alternators don't fail till about 250k on honda. No need to replace it. After u start ur car voltage at battery terminals should. Be around 13.7-14.5v DC. And then u can also turn on all kinds of shit in your car to see if u get a drop in voltage.. anyway those tests are not worth the time. When u see battery and abs light on replace alternator. Till then everything is good.)
thank you! would not want to spend money if i don't have to.
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Old 01-26-2017, 09:27 AM
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Yep. Sucks when they go...

Apparently, it's a traditional failure - the alternator will "typically" go after approximately 100k.

Mine just went at 113k, so glad it lasted a few more, but there's never a good time. I was driving home from Denver to Colorado Springs and had stopped for gas in Castle Rock, about 75 miles from home. (Note: I don't live on the north side, more like 15 miles south of the city limits.) Fortunately, I keep roadside assistance on my policy, and the guy was able to give it enough juice to start, and just left his jumper kit attached until I drove to/parked at a local garage, and was nice enough to take me to a hotel.

My cost: $395 for the alternator (which had to come from Denver) and ~$200 labor, plus $100 hotel for the night. Had I been home, would have been about $200 part w/core exchange, $150 labor.

Of course, the men in my life were ranting about the cost, with the main theme being "I could have done it for $200 total!" My response: "So could I, but 1. I wasn't home when it died, and towing it home would have cost me $300; and, 2. I needed it fixed *then*, not in three weeks, which is how long it actually takes you to do anything for me."

So, your cost of under $800 isn't horrible, and I completely agree with you about the time/convenience/necessity aspect.
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Old 01-29-2017, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by dmstom33 View Post
Apparently, it's a traditional failure - the alternator will "typically" go after approximately 100k.

Mine just went at 113k, so glad it lasted a few more, but there's never a good time. I was driving home from Denver to Colorado Springs and had stopped for gas in Castle Rock, about 75 miles from home. (Note: I don't live on the north side, more like 15 miles south of the city limits.) Fortunately, I keep roadside assistance on my policy, and the guy was able to give it enough juice to start, and just left his jumper kit attached until I drove to/parked at a local garage, and was nice enough to take me to a hotel.

My cost: $395 for the alternator (which had to come from Denver) and ~$200 labor, plus $100 hotel for the night. Had I been home, would have been about $200 part w/core exchange, $150 labor.

Of course, the men in my life were ranting about the cost, with the main theme being "I could have done it for $200 total!" My response: "So could I, but 1. I wasn't home when it died, and towing it home would have cost me $300; and, 2. I needed it fixed *then*, not in three weeks, which is how long it actually takes you to do anything for me."

So, your cost of under $800 isn't horrible, and I completely agree with you about the time/convenience/necessity aspect.
Thanks, dm. Always appreciate the moral support. I knew when I published the price I paid that it wasn't a bargain price, and that somebody on the Internet might take it as an opening for a "my bargain seeker's longer than yours" sort of reply. I shared it to get price context and to give some to other readers. I'd worked with this dealer service department before, and I wanted the problem quickly and definitively solved by someone who knew these cars.
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Old 05-07-2017, 04:27 PM
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Sadly I'm in the same boat, recently did my timing belt service and now the alternator is whining. I'm going to change it out and contemplating selling it to get something more current but who knows, we'll see how I feel after I get it worked out.
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Old 05-07-2017, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Echoe53 View Post
Sadly I'm in the same boat, recently did my timing belt service and now the alternator is whining. I'm going to change it out and contemplating selling it to get something more current but who knows, we'll see how I feel after I get it worked out.
I know what you mean. I've always found it better to wait some time after sinking money into the car, and then reconsider parting ways with the car.
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Old 05-07-2017, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Echoe53 View Post
Sadly I'm in the same boat, recently did my timing belt service and now the alternator is whining. I'm going to change it out and contemplating selling it to get something more current but who knows, we'll see how I feel after I get it worked out.
Update: Since replacing the alternator, no further problems since (except for the hit-and-run oriface who pushed in my headlight. I can't blame the car for that, though).
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Old 06-22-2017, 03:45 PM
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Searching "Check Charging System" lead me here. This morning when I started my car I heard that whistling noise and the check charging system display. I got the same exact problems as OP driving the 10 miles to work this morning. To my luck, I made it. But barely had any power and no reverse to park into my spot. I tested the alternator after buying a new battery and it's completely dead. Only ~77,000 on the odometer.

I'm not too upset about it, but very glad I didn't have to get towed this morning.
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Old 11-12-2017, 02:36 PM
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My car had a whine the past couple of days but no codes thrown. Everything worked. Today I replaced the alternator and no more whine noise. Car has 119k.
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Old 11-12-2017, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by HDNBenjamin View Post
My car had a whine the past couple of days but no codes thrown. Everything worked. Today I replaced the alternator and no more whine noise. Car has 119k.
Excellent! Happy for you that you got to pick your spot rather than have an emergency repair imposed on you. Done the timing belt yet? If so, you should be good to go for a while.
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Old 11-12-2017, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by dmstom33 View Post
Apparently, it's a traditional failure - the alternator will "typically" go after approximately 100k.

Mine just went at 113k, so glad it lasted a few more, but there's never a good time. I was driving home from Denver to Colorado Springs and had stopped for gas in Castle Rock, about 75 miles from home. (Note: I don't live on the north side, more like 15 miles south of the city limits.) Fortunately, I keep roadside assistance on my policy, and the guy was able to give it enough juice to start, and just left his jumper kit attached until I drove to/parked at a local garage, and was nice enough to take me to a hotel.

My cost: $395 for the alternator (which had to come from Denver) and ~$200 labor, plus $100 hotel for the night. Had I been home, would have been about $200 part w/core exchange, $150 labor.

Of course, the men in my life were ranting about the cost, with the main theme being "I could have done it for $200 total!" My response: "So could I, but 1. I wasn't home when it died, and towing it home would have cost me $300; and, 2. I needed it fixed *then*, not in three weeks, which is how long it actually takes you to do anything for me."

So, your cost of under $800 isn't horrible, and I completely agree with you about the time/convenience/necessity aspect.
Kinda funny you mention that 100K mark, mine failed 6 miles short of 100k

Interestingly enough, my noise started the exact same way... Luckily it was still in the garage when it happened, so it made parking the car much easier. Luckily I didn't get any error codes though! But then again, I didn't drive it when the noise started.
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Old 11-12-2017, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by TonyCD View Post
Excellent! Happy for you that you got to pick your spot rather than have an emergency repair imposed on you. Done the timing belt yet? If so, you should be good to go for a while.
Yup, timing belt done at 90k. I was sweating bullets when the whining noise appeared and reading your post I knew I couldn't afford to delay this repair.
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