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Old 01-06-2009, 09:28 PM   #1
studentinhiker
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Default 95 sl1 how to tell if alternator is functioning?

Hello out there in Saturn land, I have a 95 saturn sl1 that had the serpentine belt replaced after it had been squeeking for a couple of months. I replaced it as I found that when I started the car it would run fine then about a half hour into a drive the lights would dim, both dash and head and then the whole car would stop after the battery went totally dead. I am thinking that it might possibly be the alternator, but am not sure what to do to make sure that it is that part and not something else. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to narrow the trouble down?

Thanks so much for your assistance

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Old 01-06-2009, 10:27 PM   #2
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Default Re: 95 sl1 how to tell if alternator is functioning?

Saturn didn't make any L-series cars in '95, making yours most likely an S-series SL and should be reposting in the S-tech forums.

Your car may have several issues, whether its mechanical, electrical, or both. Before thinking of a faulty alternator not generating enough power for running the electrical system and charge the battery there are several issues to consider; belt tensioner, corroded battery cables/loose connections, battery older than 4yrs and maybe on its last legs, and the alternator possibly faulty. You'll have to perform several things to begin isolating this problem down to one or two items.

Begin by checking the belt tension - if you can depress the belt between pulleys easily with just your fingers, then its possible that the tensioner spring is worn out resulting in poor power transmission to the accessory driven components; water pump, alternator, power steering pump, and a/c compressor. Replace the tensioner and idler pulley too. With a good tensioner and new belt, there should be sufficient belt tautness to drive all the accessories correctly including the alternator. The next few things to look at are the battery, battery cables, connections and possibly voltage checking with a multimeter or having an auto store check the battery and charging system for you. Free. Autozone or other large chain store.

The battery being over 4yrs old may be on its last legs and needs to be charged and load tested at a store or replaced. The battery cables showing any signs of corrosion may have been damaged from a faulty side terminal battery cracking at one post and leaking acid into the (most likely) RED positive cable to eventually eat away the copper wires under the heavily insulated ring terminal. Peeling back the heavy insulation will reveal this deep damage and replacing the cable(s) will restore full current carrying capability for the electrical system. Be sure both ends of the cables are connected securely and don't show signs of corrosion. Wirebrush any corrosion from the ground connection. After checking the battery and cables for good electrical connections, the alternator can be checked, either as mentioned before or with a multimeter to measure voltages at the battery terminals.

A good battery should read approximately 12.5v+, 13.5v+ engine idling, and 14.3v+ above idling. A battery reading lower than 12.5v either means a discharged one needing an overnite charge or a failing one. Replace as necessary. The last two voltage readings with the engine running is to observe the alternator regulator automatically adjusting the alternator output according to electrical load and engine rpm. Lower readings would mean a failing alternator. Remember that the belt drive system must be in good operating condition before condemming the alternator as the alternator will load the engine down as it tries to supply all the electrical needs of the car while simultaneously charging the battery. Auto stores can check the battery and alternator too if you don't have the tools to do this.
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Old 01-08-2009, 07:57 PM   #3
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Default Re: 95 sl1 how to tell if alternator is functioning?

On those S-Series the alternator is conveniently at the top, so you can use the tried and true screwdriver method of checking the alternator. With the engine running, dangle a screwdriver (metal side down) behind the alternator, if it's magnetically pulled towards the alternator, then the alternator probably works and you should start investigating the battery. If it doesn't pull towards the alternator, then the alternator definately doesn't work, and you should start checking belt tension, and if that's all okay, replace the alternator itself.
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Old 01-13-2009, 11:55 PM   #4
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Default Re: 95 sl1 how to tell if alternator is functioning?

Thank you so much for all the valuable information. I am going to try those steps and see what is going on. Thanks again for all your help will let you all know what i come up with.

Peace to you and your,

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