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Old 05-17-2002, 01:02 AM   #1
useffects
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Default Loss Of Power

On my Saturn, when braking or when stopped at a red light or stop sign, the lights dim slightly (instrument cluster and headlights), the motors slow down ( HVAC blower and windshield wipers), and when a turn signal is on- the instrument cluster lamps dim in sync with the turn signal. This is a 1999 SL1 with approximately 17,000 miles. This loss of power occurs even without the A/C on. I have read in other posts about the premature failure of alternators on Saturns- but could this be the case at only 17,000 miles? Or, is this a common trait with Saturns? Thanks for any input on my situation.

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Old 05-17-2002, 01:30 AM   #2
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It definitly sounds like an alternator problem, and no it shouldn't be happening at 17,000 miles. Try taking it to the dealer. It's between the two bumpers so it should be coved.

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Old 05-17-2002, 10:16 AM   #3
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youll know for sure if its the alternator if you cant shift out of first or second, or cant pass like 3000 rpm...and then u turn the a/c and everything else you can off...including the headlights ect and it runs normal again... **** sux...ull br drivin and ur power steering goes and everything else too

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Old 05-17-2002, 10:39 AM   #4
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Idea

While the car is idling (after warming up first!), disconnect the Ground Battery Cable connection (Black connector).

Then turn on everything you can find electrical, headlight, AC, HVAC blower, turn signals, defroster blah blah......see if the car die or not.

If not, replace the battery it's weak.
Otherwise, the alternator is not cranking out enough juice.

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Old 05-17-2002, 12:10 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. Do you think it could be a voltage regulator module or is that built into the alternator? In other words, shouldnt there be a constant smooth source of power regardless if the car is idling or at 2000+ rpms?

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Old 05-17-2002, 02:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by useffects
Thanks for the replies. Do you think it could be a voltage regulator module or is that built into the alternator? In other words, shouldnt there be a constant smooth source of power regardless if the car is idling or at 2000+ rpms?
You're right about the voltage regulator. It limits to around 13.8 - 14v. However, it can't produce electricity if the alternator is putting out less than 14.

At lower RPMs, the voltage isn't high enough to charge the battery, so the power flow to the electrical system is still FROM your battery until the RPMs increase. If the battery is weak, then you will notice a 'dimming' effect until your alternator is producing enough power to compensate.

If there was a problem in the voltage regulator, then you would need to replace the entire alternator. The VR is more likely to fail than the coils, but that's how they make their money. I would much rather just replace an offset VR by unscrewing it and clipping it into a wiring harness.

Sigh. Those were the good ol' days.

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Old 05-17-2002, 03:29 PM   #7
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Roll Eyes

Even just the VR is bad, the whole Alternator still need to be replaced regardless. Thanks for today compact integrational design of car electronics.

Before you are judging the alternator, take the above test first and see if the battery is weak. Most of the time it's the battery in low-mileage cars......

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Old 05-17-2002, 05:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by qlara
While the car is idling (after warming up first!), disconnect the Ground Battery Cable connection (Black connector).

Then turn on everything you can find electrical, headlight, AC, HVAC blower, turn signals, defroster blah blah......see if the car die or not.

If not, replace the battery it's weak.
Otherwise, the alternator is not cranking out enough juice.
Umm, that can blow up the ECU.... I know of a few people on my Beretta sites that have done it.
~D.J.~

...
2012 Mercedes Benz C250 Sport Sedan
2008 smart fortwo Passion Coupe 8/28/2008 - 3/12/2012
2002 VUE FWD4m - Gone but not forgotten. 5/14/2002 - 10/31/2011

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Old 05-17-2002, 10:20 PM   #9
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The best thing about the battery when the car is running is that it acts much like a giant capacitor for the alt. It absorbs voltage spikes that the alt can produce. So like OhioVueBoy says DON"T disconnect the battery with the engine running.

useffects:
When the lights etc go dim at idle do you have a full electrical load going? The alt does not produce full amperage at idle. So under full load there can be a certain amount of dimming or slowing of electrical devices. If everything comes up ok at higher RPMs then chances are that you are running normal. We don't see that many problems with the newer style (yours) alternators as we did with the old. If you are concerned enough get the charging/battery systems checked out. This will reveal if there is a problem.

"You're right about the voltage regulator. It limits to around 13.8 - 14v. However, it can't produce electricity if the alternator is putting out less than 14."

Unless the alt is producing 0 amps then it is producing electricity. An analogy for the production of DC current is much like water through pipes. If you have flow you have current. It takes extra flow to push up hill, a discharged battery is like trying to go up hill. You need extra umph to get the battery charged. This is why most automotive systems can run well on 12-14 volts. 12 volts from the battery at rest with no charging. 14 volts with the alt going to push the charge into the battery, you can't push the electrons into the battery if they are equal on both sides. As for the RPMs most alternators produce power very nicely at about 2000 RPM but still can and do at idle or high RPM.

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Old 05-18-2002, 07:05 PM   #10
DarkAngel
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Default Is Your Car a Manual Tranny?

I was wondering if your car was a manual transmission because if it was a manual then its normal for the lights to dim when downshifting, or when turning especially when there is a lull on the engine such as the a.c. or head lights. If its not a manual you will want to take a look at the alternator. I've had a friend's alternator go out and it wasn't fun sometimes its not just the alternator but it depends on the car. Hers was a kia, need I say more other than she totaled it twice. And my boyfriends alternator in his mustang went out I think but his engine was already bad and his connecitons were old since it was an 84 so you can see how "way leads on to way" just like Robert Frost in The Road Not Taken. Good Luck and I hope this Helps. Another thing to check would be your connection to the battery and make sure its well connected, you know while your under the hood. It made me late for work one day when the car wouldnt start for that reason....

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Old 05-18-2002, 11:51 PM   #11
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The loss of power occurs at idle with the headlights being the only major load. It will occur without the A/C on and without the blower motor on. Also, on a side note- the dome light flickers sometimes when the vehicle is not running. Yes, this is an Automatic not a manual.

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Old 05-19-2002, 09:51 PM   #12
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Sounds like a voltage problem. Probably the voltage regulator or the alternator. Good Luck.

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Old 05-20-2002, 09:50 AM   #13
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Put a voltmeter across the battery terminals.
Have somebody start the car
It should read

With the car off 12-13 v
Cranking engine 9-12 v
After it starts 13-15 v

Does it read low when its running?
It will slowly go down if the alternator is bad

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Old 05-20-2002, 10:22 AM   #14
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Default Dome Light flickering

Useffects: The Dome light flickering is most likely due to the micro-switch controlling & sitting on the door frame (when you open the door, the switch pops out) has a buildup of dust/dirt on it. Press it and let it "Pop" out should help in cleaning it out.

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Old 05-20-2002, 02:19 PM   #15
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useffects, the symptons you describe sound like the ones I had in March when my alternator went out--dimming lights, wipers slowing, etc. I also had my "anti-lock" light stay on.
But you're right--it does seem early to have an alternator problem, and I thought the problem with alternators had been fixed by 1999.

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