Alternator - how long till failure?

Paulone

Frequent Poster
Messages
286
Hi all,
I've a '99 1.6 Octavia with 165K miles on the clock. It's a paragon of virtue until today when it gave me a fright with the charge light coming on while doing 120kmh down the motorway.

I've checked the belt which seems in order and the car's starting and running ok, but the light's not going out so with it's mileage, we're looking at a new or reconditioned alternator...

Trouble is that a check on Ebay for parts reveals that alternators cost more than I can currently afford, so I'm going to have to save up a while for this one (would give it a go myself but 'no more nails' and a posidrive screwdriver aren't exactly going to work on an engine, even if it's 11 years old).

I'm guessing that the charge rate for the battery is currently less than the car's happy with, but it is charging up to a point. My question is:
A - how long does it take for a knackered alternator to become knackered to the point that it strands you?
B - is it playing with fire driving it any distance?

Need to know as wife and son are the one's likely to be stranded. It's currently not used much out of town and is a family hack (besides my dash up the Mway today)
Thanking you...
 

AlbacoreA

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Messages
3,208
If its the alternator it will leave you stranded. When mine failed the car ran for about 7km before it was kaput. Then had to be towed.
 

roker

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Messages
1,532
As long as the bearings are OK, you will probably only require new slip ring brushes in the alternator. You ignition is running off the battery at present, after a few starts you will run the battery flat.
 

Frank

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1,622
ring around for a recon unit.

Might be cheaper than you think.

If you can get a multi meter check the voltage on the battery with the engine off and on. If the voltage is aboove 13 with the engine running you could be ok for a while. Could be a diode pack that is gone.

You could look for a breakers yard with one, no garuntees but you may be lucky.
 
J

Joe Q Public

Guest
Once that red light is on, you are doomed. You might get a few more starts out of the battery. Forget about turning on any lights. The battery will only last a few minutes once you start using the lights.
 

SparkRite

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Messages
1,071
If you can get a multi meter check the voltage on the battery with the engine off and on. If the voltage is aboove 13 with the engine running you could be ok for a while. Could be a diode pack that is gone.
Excellent advice and spot on.
Could still be producing an output and charging the battery, thus giving you some breathing space.
So get out that multimeter.
 
C

Chocks away

Guest
Mine went a few months back. Light was coming on intermittently for a few days. Eventually radio cut out, then indicators and lights but kept going 'til I reached my appointment. On turning it back on ......... nothing. Borrowed a charge pack from the local mechanic and got it back to a specialist firm off Camden St. About €160 (supplied and fitted) for a fully recon one. Gets a bit scary but enjoy the rush! :D
 
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Paulone

Frequent Poster
Messages
286
So here's the update and the answers to my own questions!

After the ABS and airbag warning lights came on while my Missus was coming home last evening, I called around a few mates to see if they could recommend anyone who could have a look.

The recommended mechanic asked if I could bring it in this morning. Five minutes into the trip, all the warning lights began coming on one by one, with three loud beeps and a flashing (!) light being the last.

The speedo dropped to zero, the clock and trip meter vanished. No indicators, probably no stop lights either and I'm now needing to make a right turn on a busy road to reach my mechanic.

The moron behind began to overtake and we were almost all toast, but for the oncoming car swerving onto the verge. There was sufficient time and impetus after Jensen Button had passed to swing the now-dead car into the turn, made all the more difficult by a complete lack of power steering and brakes.

V. dangerous and not to be recommended....

Thanks for all the advice. As a result of the posts, I knew what to say to the mechanic, who then changed his tune from 'needs a new one' to 'I'll see what I can do with the existing alternator'.

In all, the car did about 35 miles and started 7 times.
 
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