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Old 09-13-2008, 12:19 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Bad Alternator?

Started up my car tonight, and it kinda sounded weird, kinda a sputtering sound when I was turning it over. Then the parking brake light, and battery light were illuminated on the dash. Drove for a few blocks and could smell an electrical smell. I'm guessing alternator, but does anybody else have a different diagnosis? Any way I can check my alternator with a simple multimeter in the driveway? Thanks.
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Old 09-13-2008, 04:25 AM   #2 (permalink)
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by electrical smell you mean what ? burning insulation ?

before you do anything, check all your connections [both battery terminals, the ground at the block and the starter, the positive at the starter, the positive at the alternator. check all the wiring for obvious shorts and damage. squirrels love to make nests and or climb on warm motors and chew wiring.

with the car off check the battery voltage, multimeter on dc volts setting, should be over 12 v .

start the car and check the voltage at the battery again, should be at least a volt higher than it was. generally it should be in the 14+ volt range when charging. if it's too high that's not good either as that will boil the electrolyte and "cook" the battery.

if that doesn't tell you what you need to know, most decent auto parts stores will load test your alternator for free
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:14 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Hi. What model and year soob is this? The symptoms you describe do often occur for a bad alternator. If you smelled burning you might want to look at the wiring going to the alternator, sometimes if there is a bad connection anywhere there it gets realllllyy hot and melts the wiring.


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Old 09-13-2008, 09:46 AM   #4 (permalink)
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It's an '01 Outback.

Batt voltage is around 12.5 VDC, with car running charge voltage is about 14.5 VDC.

Here's why I'm really thinking it's the alternator. The alternator itself is making a humming noise (thought I heard a weird sound coming from the car a few days ago), and the "burning smell" I'm getting is actually coming from the alternator itself.

Out of curiosity, why would I be getting batt light on my dashboard when it appears all the number for the charging system are spot on? Does the cars computer monitor other parameters I can't check for?

Thanks for all the input/help.
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:51 AM   #5 (permalink)
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The batt light I believe comes on when it doesn't see field applied in alternator (even if the output voltage is still ok). Check the small black connector that hooks to the alternator to make sure it is not loose or falling out or melted etc.

Is this the original or a Subaru alternator? Or is it a napa or some parts store alternator (those are generally poor quality).

The pic above is of the alt I bought for my '00obw, something went flaky with it and I was getting like 16 volts out all the time and strange engine stumbling and other warning lights. New one works fine.
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:56 AM   #6 (permalink)
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All connections are tight and nothing is melted.

It's the original alternator. (As far as I know. I'm the second owner.)
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Old 09-14-2008, 07:42 AM   #7 (permalink)
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the burning smell could also be the coating on the windings themselves.

i would go somewhere decent and get the alternator checked, possibly the internal regulator is going screwy you happened to test it when it was acting normal. or the windings are shorting and dropping voltage.

i know the one for my 2.2 wasn't cheap, even at napa.
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Old 09-14-2008, 12:02 PM   #8 (permalink)
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A Subaru OEM reman alt for that soob is going to be $300 easily, and probably way more if bought at a local dealer rather than a dealer who sells online. However parts store rebuilt alts in general tend to be poorly rebuilt replacing just minimal parts to get the thing working again. Yes they usually give a lifetime warranty but it's still your messing around to put the next one and it possibly leaving you stranded.
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Old 09-15-2008, 06:18 AM   #9 (permalink)
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true, no way to tell what was replaced and how long it's going to last.

think i paid $145 for the napa one but there wasn't a suby dealer within 100 miles of where i was at the time.

if you go with an autoparts store, at least use a nationwide one with alot of outlets and keep the receipt in the car.
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Old 02-08-2011, 10:56 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Was it the alternator that fixed this issue?
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