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Old 06-14-2010, 07:41 AM   #1
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Alternator failed-no battery light?

So my alternator crapped out the other day: Sitting at a red light, car sputters dead, try to restart- battery's got no juice. My first instinct is alternator failure, but I never had a battery light pop on, so I instinctively blamed the walmart battery. Pushed the car into the advance auto parking lot (lucky proximity, I know ), and pull the battery- they come back with it too low to test, so up the road I go to wally world (3 yr free replacement, or I wouldn't have bothered) - get the same thing, "it needs to be charged before we can test it", so an hour later they pronounce it "good", it was just discharged. Skeptically I take it back to the car and put it in, fire it up, and notice the horrific smell coming from the pass side of the engine, and some very faint accompanying "bad ground" engine rpm feedback through the speakers. Still no battery light, and I've got no scary noises or smoke, so I drive it on home without issue, all the time wondering what's goin on.

Go out later that evening on an errand, car dies on me again, at a traffic light, those brake lights suck up a ton of juice, y'know, and again, the battery's got no juice to restart. Still no battery light, wtf? So I hooked up a spare battery and some cables and limp it home (I was just around the corner, lucky again) to deal with it yesterday.

So after remembering the rpm feedback I heard, and remembering a post on here (after searching ), I take all the grounds down in the engine bay, and the connections on the alternator itself, and clean 'em up real good, hoping to get away without buying an alternator. Put everything back together, hook up the fluke meter real quick, and the alternator's a goner, which would explain that smell. But I notice after I take it off that it's still got the Nissan sticker on it, so considering it's got 147k on it, and knowing the salt and corrosion it got from it's life up north, I'm ok with it going out at this point.

What I'm not ok with is my battery light never coming on, or any light, for that matter, that would give me an indication my alternator was failing, so I wouldn't get stuck twice in traffic and sweating bullets in the heat pushing the car around

Isn't that what it's supposed to do? Why didn't mine? And yes, it does illuminate with ign switch "on", so I know it's there.

Comments?
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Old 06-14-2010, 09:42 AM   #2
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Does the bulb "test" OK........is it lit when the ignition switch is ON and the engine not running?
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Old 06-14-2010, 10:15 AM   #3
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I think his last sentence answers your question. Yes it lights up on ign sw on.
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Old 06-14-2010, 01:54 PM   #4
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I'm getting too old for this.......I missed his last sentence completely. Looking at the FSM about the only thing I can see is to also check the output circuit (for a drop in the battery voltage) from the alternator terminal B back to the battery which includes the fusible link.
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Old 06-14-2010, 02:26 PM   #5
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Yes talking about getting old...every car repair project I have, I have aches and pains...
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Old 06-14-2010, 03:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
Looking at the FSM about the only thing I can see is to also check the output circuit (for a drop in the battery voltage) from the alternator terminal B back to the battery which includes the fusible link.
Thanks Samson, I did look at that fusible link, it appears still intact. All indications are that my alternator simply burned out, and I'm ok with that, I'm just perturbed that my "early warning system" let me down, and was curious as to if anyone else has experienced this as well?
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Old 06-15-2010, 03:36 PM   #7
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not only the battery light but also the brake light will come on...if u do replace it use OEM Nissan alternator...
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Old 06-15-2010, 05:35 PM   #8
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i had my alternator die without a battery light coming on, it sucked.

i did have a volt gauge installed and i noticed it dropped below 12, so that is how i knew my alternator died. very simple to install one
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Old 06-15-2010, 06:37 PM   #9
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alternator

can someone give me an idea on how to turn the battery light and brake light off after replacing the alternator twice in 3 days. i dont know if the alternator that i put for the second time is still bad. after i put the second one i let the car run for more than an hour and it didnt die so i assumed that it was finally charging but why is the battery and alternator light still on? i would appreciate any suggestion. thank you
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Old 06-16-2010, 10:42 AM   #10
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Did you measure the charging voltage? Did you measure your battery voltage? If you did, what were they?
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Old 06-16-2010, 03:50 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johng030579 View Post
can someone give me an idea on how to turn the battery light and brake light off after replacing the alternator twice in 3 days. i dont know if the alternator that i put for the second time is still bad. after i put the second one i let the car run for more than an hour and it didnt die so i assumed that it was finally charging but why is the battery and alternator light still on? i would appreciate any suggestion. thank you
Do a battery test to see if the battery is still good. You do not want to replace the alternator with a dead battery as it will prematurely put wear on the alternator
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Old 06-17-2010, 06:51 AM   #12
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i did all that already, i have a very good battery, the car is running now but the battery and break light is still on, i dont wanna take the alternator again and get another replacement if there is nothing wrong with it. i dont wanna drive it cuz some people said it could set on fire. i really dont know what else to do.
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:29 AM   #13
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alternator

Quote:
Originally Posted by mandyfig View Post
Did you measure the charging voltage? Did you measure your battery voltage? If you did, what were they?

i took the battery to advance auto hoping that would be the problem. but when they tested the battery, it registered 580 cca, and there are some other numbers i cant remember on top of my head but they basically told me not to buy another one...as far as the alternator goes. i was invited inside the shop rebuilding my allternator and they showed me the test they do to see if it is working and it did, it registered a 12. 5 - 13 + volts and amps would go 124+ but i noticed that its not consistant, it keeps on changing as the machine goes....i dont know if i should get one from the dealer instead, or maybe there is something wrong besides the alternator,
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Old 06-17-2010, 08:35 AM   #14
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Get the rebuilt alternator from Advanced Auto. Lifetime warranty. Same Nissan alternator but rebuilt.
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Old 06-17-2010, 12:10 PM   #15
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I may have prematurely condemned my alternator.........

So I proceed to put on my new alternator yesterday after work, bleed a little, sweat a LOT, start it up and let it run while I put my tools up and the rf tire back on, everything seems good. Go inside, shower, let the evening progress, then take it for a test drive later that night.

Start the car up, let it run for a few minutes and decide to take it to the gas station down the road to fill it up, 'bout a 5-10 minute drive, including the neighborhood and the stop lights. Pull into the pump, leave the car running for the a/c, fill it up, get back in, start re-programming the stereo, and the car sputters, stumbles, and dies!! WTF!!! It'd been running for like 30 minutes!

Again, no juice in the battery, as if the alternator isn't charging. I don't know what is going on at this point, but after checking all my fuses and fusible links and battery connections I get a jump and start the car up, and I am livid, so the poor car suffered a flogging all the way home. Ran fine, headlights on, a/c on, and it also proved to me that my fuel delivery isn't the issue.

Here's what I think I overlooked: there's a connection at the positive battery post, two plates bolted together. Now, I have seen, and this is hard to explain, but I've seen alternator's working fine, and bad connections not allow the re-charge voltage to get back to the battery, yet the car will somehow find a way to get the juice it needs to run, through that bad connection. Perhaps all along my alternator was fine, I haven't had it tested yet, but am going to. Edit: just got the test results back- bad alternator.

So tonight I'm gonna take that joint apart and clean it real good, it was dark by the time I got home last night and I had already showered, so I wasn't about to get back outside. Also, I left my damn fluke meter at work, so it wasn't available for diagnostic use. There's no external visible corrosion, but that's really about the only thing left I can think of to try.

I've never had a battery light during this whole fiasco, so the circuit from my alternator to the ECU must not have any problems, which would make me think a bad connection somewhere else. I cleaned everyone of them before I replaced the alternator, with the exception of that one at the positive terminal.

Anyone else got any ideas?
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Old 06-18-2010, 05:12 AM   #16
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Can't say that I've ever even heard of this before:

Bring home the fluke meter and jumper wires (to bypass any suspect circuits) and try to figure out what's going on with my new alternator. Jump the car off again, start checking voltages. Getting 13.8-14.2 everywhere I try: battery, battery terminals, pos. to intake manny, alternator to neg., alternator to block ground, alternator to intake manny, everywhere I try, I'm getting good voltage. No ground issues, no wiring issues, good deal.

Let the car idle, headlights on, a/c blowing cold, for about 25-30 minutes while I'm checking things, putting up things, etc, thinking it must have just been a one-time hiccup, and then the engine rpms drop, just a tick, but I hear it. Hurry up and yank the fluke meter back out, knowing I don't have much time, stab the battery posts, 8.2V.........

W
T
F

Before I can get to the alternator stud, car dies.

Now, I've never even heard of an alternator with an "on/off" switch, either internally or externally. They either charge or they don't, right? Why is my brand new alternator charging for 30 minutes and then turning off? Last night when it did this, I jumped it off right away, and drove it for about 10 minutes, HID's and A/C on, injectors and spark plugs just a-going, so I know the alternator was working even after heated up.

Anyone ever experienced this before? I _really_ don't want to replace my alternator again. I'm gonna wander over to my mitchell site and check some wiring diagrams, but I'm not really expecting anything useful. My f@^king new alternator must be bad.

Great.

oh, still no battery light.
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Old 06-18-2010, 07:53 AM   #17
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How about forgetting everything and starting all over again?

If you battery is about 3 years old, just a get a new one ($60). Given your current predicament, you should just get a new battery regardless. When you run in to electrical problems, battery is the cheapest and the easiest component to rule out. Check all the connections for corrosion. Get another alternator. Drive the car with the multimeter connected at all the time until you nail this down.

If something is causing your alternator to burn out repeatedly, either your battery has a shorted cell or your alternator supplier (i.e. autozone etc) has too many duds. There was a link for a reputed ebay seller who sells nothing but rebuilt and tested alternators.

You have not explicitly stated but I presume your battery light turns on when switch is turned to engine run position and goes off as soon as the engine starts. It should be instantaneous i.e. should go off well before the oil light goes off. If that is the case, then the only explanation is that intermittently your battery is shorting and draining causing strain on the alternator to blow out. This would also explain why the battery light will NOT come on. The battery light turns off as long as the alternator voltage is greater than the battery voltage.

Hope this helps, I really sympathize with your plight and hope you find the solution.

- Vikas
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Old 06-18-2010, 10:11 AM   #18
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Isn't that "sudden" 8.2 volt reading at the battery (even without any alternator output) be an indication of a sudden, large load on the battery........like a dead short? The sudden drop in idle RPM and then the engine quitting could have been caused by a sudden, large load on the alternator as well. Even a discharged battery (no loads) will have a voltage of around 11-11.5 V. This could also explain the multiple blown alternators, as sontakke mentioned. I think that you need to closely inspect the alt. to battery circuit wiring (output and battery voltage sense circuits) for fraying/damage/rubbing etc.
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Old 06-18-2010, 11:08 AM   #19
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Those are both good questions, I appreciate the discourse.

The battery was stated to be "good, just discharged" when given back to me when was that saturday? And so I just went back with it, but I can try a known good battery this evening and see what I get, sure.

My battery light does illuminate with key on, so I know it works, and I have confirmed all circuits good and cleaned without any corrosion anywhere. I will be leaving the voltmeter connected this evening throughout to see what starts happening when. Thanks Vikas

Samson, your question is "on the right track", but there is an explanation for why the battery was so low at that moment. A "good" battery will not go from a state of discharge to charge in the snap of a finger, nor will it go from a state of charge to discharge that quickly. The alternator would have stopped charging the battery at let's just call it 15-20 minutes into the 25-30 it took for the car to die. During those say 10 minutes of run time, the injectors, ignition, headlights, a/c, are all slowly sucking the life out of the battery, taking it from 14v to 13, then 12, then 11, etc, until "critical mass" was reached, and the battery no longer had enough juice to fire the plugs or injectors, and engine rpm suffered as a result. By the time I could reach for the meter and touch the battery posts, it was discharged to approx. 8v, and the engine died.

I can't yet say I've had "multiple alternator failures", as the original one at 147k was bad, I was told, and that's well within reason. This new one I put on, I think the internal voltage regulator is fubar, not much else seems to fit right now. I've ruled out parasitic draws, bad wiring, corrosion, circuits, etc.

But I will replace the battery tonight, and leave the voltmeter connected throughout, something's gonna turn up.

Thanks you two, anyone else?
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Old 06-18-2010, 12:22 PM   #20
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I am subscribed just to find out how this soap will turn out! I like to know what the root cause was.
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Old 06-18-2010, 05:34 PM   #21
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I subscribe to few car related forums and my impression is that in majority cases ( more than 3/4th ) electrical problems get resolved by replacing battery and checking the connection. My personal experience bears that too. It is not even worth to measure parasitic drain on some cars before putting a new battery because many of the newer cars have significant drain for some time when you reconnect tbe battery to put the ammeter in series.
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Old 06-18-2010, 11:26 PM   #22
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uuhhhh, heh, this is embarassing.........

I found the problem, it was me. I'll explain:

See, I come from the "old school" that used to turn every last thing on that a car had, if you needed the battery recharged. Headlights, a/c,radio, etc., if you wanted the alternator to put out some frikkin voltage, you made it, dammit. Back then they didn't have all these high draw gadgets and headlights and what-not.

Well, that approach is what screwed me this time around. It took the voltmeter being constantly hooked up for me to see the folly of my ways. My battery was of course weak/discharged, so after I jumped it off I again turned on the HID's, the AC, the radio, and immediately noticed when at idle, that the battery was so weak, and all those circuits were putting such a strain on the alternator, it was not able to keep up, when merely sitting at idle. The voltage was slowly dropping, 12.2, 11.8, 11.4, etc.

Quick blip of the throttle, 13.6, turn off the headlights, 12.8 at idle, now we're talking. Turn off the AC, 13.8. Well it's just too damn hot to sit outside without the AC on, so I pick up the rpm a little, hold it for 10 mins or so, shut it off, refire, shut it off, refire, and then take it out for a spin.

It's fixed. Sometimes there really is a "loose nut behind the wheel"

Sorry for the anti-climactic resolution
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Old 06-21-2010, 07:31 AM   #23
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I think you still have a problem. Your alternator is NOT providing any charge at idle. That is WRONG.

But your approach was incorrect; to recharge the battery you should NOT be turning on more accessories but should turn them off as you are doing now.

I will hook up the voltmeter on mine when I get a chance and do comparison.

- Vikas
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Old 06-21-2010, 08:49 AM   #24
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I think you still have a problem.
You're right, I did still have a problem. I was out running errands saturday, and the car progressively turned over slower and slower until I drove over to walmart and yanked the battery out. Who knew they actually honor that "3 yr free replacement" label? Who knows who the original purchaser was, but they load tested it real quick and condemned it. I yanked a new battery off the rack and walked out without spending a penny, hah!

Throughout my running around friday and saturday, I had a voltmeter hooked up to my cig lighter, and yep, at idle, that old bad battery would not hold any more than about 12v at idle. Immediately upon firing the car up with the new battery, my meter swept over to 13.5-14v, and been there pretty much ever since.

All's well now, thanks for the conversation
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Old 06-21-2010, 04:11 PM   #25
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Well, I am going to say "I told you so" but I will wait for a week before saying it :-)

Seriously, bad battery explain pretty much everything including not getting the battery light. I suspect the logic check for bad alternator, NOT for bad battery. When one of the cells of the battery goes intermittent, you get lots of crazy electrical problems. If it shorts randomly, it will strain the alternator.

Now with the new alternator, new battery and all the sparkling clean connections, you are good for another 147K miles on that baby!

- Vikas

Last edited by sontakke; 06-21-2010 at 04:15 PM..
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Old 06-22-2010, 05:19 AM   #26
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Now with the new alternator, new battery and all the sparkling clean connections, you are good for another 147K miles on that baby!
And I was thinking the same thing, until my BRAKE and that little battery box light flickered on on me last night as I was parking the car........jeez...........

NOW my battery light decides to come on??? weeeeeeeeeeeeeak.....

Didn't care, too late to worry, went inside, deal with it tomorrow, thinking it was just some ghost. This morning on the way in, it seems to be almost brake lights-on related. Won't flicker or pop on when I'm cruising, but after sitting at a stop light for 30 secs or whatever, BING! there they are. Voltmeter still shows 12.5+ even when this is happening, but it does get back to 14 when the lights go out.

I swear, I'm not even popping the hood until those lights stay on longer than 5 or 10 minutes or whatever. Too damn hot to play the guessing game.

Do our cars have any known issues with the brake light switches or rear circuit boards that would explain this?
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Old 06-22-2010, 09:00 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by BlackMacks View Post
You're right, I did still have a problem. I was out running errands saturday, and the car progressively turned over slower and slower until I drove over to walmart and yanked the battery out. Who knew they actually honor that "3 yr free replacement" label? Who knows who the original purchaser was, but they load tested it real quick and condemned it. I yanked a new battery off the rack and walked out without spending a penny, hah!

Throughout my running around friday and saturday, I had a voltmeter hooked up to my cig lighter, and yep, at idle, that old bad battery would not hold any more than about 12v at idle. Immediately upon firing the car up with the new battery, my meter swept over to 13.5-14v, and been there pretty much ever since.

All's well now, thanks for the conversation
I am just relieved that this is over...for now!
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Old 06-22-2010, 10:39 AM   #28
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I will say it again; the 12.5V is NOT GOOD if the engine is running. There is known high failure rate on aftermarket alternators. Looks like you picked up marginal alternator.
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Old 06-23-2010, 05:25 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by sontakke View Post
I will say it again; the 12.5V is NOT GOOD if the engine is running. There is known high failure rate on aftermarket alternators. Looks like you picked up marginal alternator.
Yeah, my battery light's flickering on and off with more frequency now. Looks like I'll be replacing my new bad alternator when the replacement arrives tomorrow........
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Old 06-23-2010, 07:05 AM   #30
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Your charging voltage should be 13.6V+ if I remember right.
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Old 09-08-2010, 09:17 AM   #31
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Alternator going?

So, i have a 2004 SE model. Recenlty bought a brand new battery and had some other work done about 2-3 months ago (i.e power steering line had a leak, ABS and Engine light were on constantly so had to get those off and changed some other electrical part related to the braking system). Now in the past few weeks i've noticed my in-dash lights dim for a few seconds while driving. Then on two separate occassions the car wouldn't start. It would crank but not turn over until after a few tries and a couple minutes wait.
Now this morning, as i was sitting in a line of traffic, everything went dead and it shut off. I immediately put it in park and restarted and everything was good again. Over all this time there have been no warning ligts or any other signals (besides the dimming of the in-dash lights) that something was wrong. I'll have my mechanic check it out tomorrow first thing. Should i prepare to buy a new alternator or can the same one be repaired?

Also, there is a grinding/rattling noise upon start up that usually subsides in a few minutes. I was told i need a new tensioner (didnt specify which one). Could this have any effect on the alternator?

Last edited by orangeglo; 09-08-2010 at 09:24 AM..
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Old 01-02-2011, 03:57 PM   #32
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Hey Black,

how did you finally fix your issue as i am having EXCATLY the issues you experienced.
It is a 1998 Maxima and i have replaced the battery, alternator.
the battery would drain and it seems after the engine is warm, the dash lights would dim as no power then engine would shutters and eventually dies.
I measured the volatage when i started the car and it be at 14.5 which means the alternator is charging, then after some time, ( 10 to 20 minutes ) the volatage would start to drop as the alt is no longer charging...and it starts to drain the battery.
Have you found your fix as i am sure it is the same as mine. tomorrow i will be again getting another alternator as i am runnig out of idea
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Old 01-03-2011, 11:59 AM   #33
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Hey,
this happened to me recently and I think I found the problem. Make sure to connect the bracket holding the bundle of wire attached to the alternator. On that bracket there is a ground wire and i think that wire is ground for the alternator.
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Old 01-05-2011, 03:56 PM   #34
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Thanks Rox. I found the problem, it was the alternator i replaced, it was a bad one, the store gave me another one and it has works fine so far....
thanks again!
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Old 12-01-2011, 06:39 PM   #35
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Hey guys, I'm a newbie here but I'm having the same exact issue. I had a new battery put in about 2 months ago at Auto Zone and have now replaced the (bad) alternator with one from autopartswarehouse.com. Alternator tested well and battery had full charge.

So I get home from the mechanic just a few minutes ago, I'm idling for a few minutes in neutral, reverse into parking spot, and just as I'm about to shut everything down, the electrical starts sputtering and dies. Car won't start. Mechanic says to slow-charge the battery overnight and bring it back to him. Something is definitely draining my battery but I can't figure out what it is!!

Should he simply check the wiring? Could it be a bad (new) alternator or possibly just bad wiring? My mechanic did say he saw a half-*** job done by the previous mechanic where some wires were simply taped together and not soldered- he fixed that. This is getting frustrating.. :-(

Thanks in advance to anyone with suggestions!

My car: '03 Maxima SE

Last edited by Shalomaxima; 12-01-2011 at 07:10 PM..
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Old 12-01-2011, 06:39 PM
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