Vehicle Charging System Problems

     In the past I have tried a few times to review our data and come up with a planned component replacement / rebuild for the alternator.  I found that in most cases the original alternator would last 120,000 to 150,000 miles at the time of its first failure.  Upon further investigation subsequent failures occurred around 20,000 to 70,000 miles.  This makes it difficult to try to determine a planned component replacement schedule for the alternator or charging system. 

    Upon talking with a couple of my colleagues it was suggested that we may need to check into defective remanufactured alternators.  I may agree that some of the alternators may have been defective but not as many as I was sampling for the report.  With the particular industry we are in, it is common to make cuts to the maintenance department by hiring inexpensive help with lack of automotive repair experience.  I have identified where poor performing charging systems place undue stress on the alternator causing premature failure. 

Charging system performance

    It is a good idea to check your alternators performing by 1) checking for excessive resistance in the charging system circuits that would decrease current flow and affect charging system performance; 2) cleaning connections and making sure they have good contact to improve charging system performance.  This step would help resolve resistance issues.

Presentation1

    For an example I will refer to the diagram above when talking about performing voltage drop tests.  A lot of Automotive Repair Technicians are not familiar with the voltage drop test and get a little confused when shown the test because the digital multi meter is usually hooked on the same side of the circuit, either insulated or ground.  For example if we hold the black probe on the negative battery terminal (3 in Diagram) and the positive probe of the DMM on ground (4 on diagram).  This would confuse some Technicians because there wouldn’t be a voltage reading.  Technically there should not be a voltage reading.  When performing these tests you want the DMM on the lowest voltage scale.   At this point you want to place this circuit in an operating condition by starting the vehicle.  Upon the vehicle running you want to capture the reading while the engine is running for the first few seconds while the alternator is putting out a high current to start charging the battery.  If there is resistance in the circuit some of the current will not flow as a result showing a voltage on the DMM.

For the ground circuit you should not have more than .2 volts or 200 millivolts.  This would be pretty much for all circuits in the charging system.  With such voltage drops you will see a lack of performance in your charging system.  Depending on some voltage drops, the charging system will try to compensate causing the alternator to put out 15 or more volts while only getting 13 volts at the battery and to power stuff in the vehicle, hence poor efficiency.  And the alternator is working so hard at that higher voltage that the alternator will prematurely fail.  Therefore when replacing an alternator or regulator that has failed I would recommend:

  1. Checking voltage drop on the insulated supply circuit, ground circuit and insulated circuit to the regulator.
  2. Clean and tighten connections to reduce voltage drop.
  3. Check field voltage specs and determine if alternator current flow is in sync with the field terminal voltages.

    In most newer vehicles today you may find that they don’t have regulators.  Car and van manufacture’s are using the vehicles ECM to control the alternators charging output.  This means that engine, body and chassis grounds are more important than ever.  Make sure you have good grounds and that connections are clean and tight.  With proper maintenance you should have a long lasting and efficient charging system.

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Your Vehicle’s Tires–Friend or Foe?

    Tires are considered one of the most important parts on your vehicle.  It is important to check your tires routinely to ensure they have enough traction for your to stop in a short distance and hold the car to the road on turns.  Routine inspection and service is very important to increase the life of the tire and ensure proper traction for safety.  Feel free to also watch the video on tire maintenance.

Tire maintenance

Weekly Inspection

    Check and adjust your tire pressure.  Make sure the tire pressure is at the recommended specifications.  You can find these in your User’s Manual.  In some cases you can find the pressure specifications on one of the passenger doors on the inside when you open it, or the door jamb/post.  Sometimes they are on the fuel door.  Adjust your tire air pressure to the specification when the tires are cold.  As you drive the vehicles friction and tire movement action causes the tire to heat up causing air pressures to increase.  DO NOT FILL THE TIRE OVER THE RECOMMENDED MAXIMUM TIRE PRESSURE SHOWN ON THE TIRE.  In the past, it was common to check and adjust your tire pressure every time you filled up your fuel tank.

    Inspect for tire wear.  Commonly some people wp-treadwear=baruse a penny to measure tread depth to determine if their tire is worn beyond the legal limits.  Placing the penny upside down in the tread groove you will look for President Lincoln’s head.  If his head is partially covered by the tread of the tire, the tire is still good.  Make sure that you test all tread grooves and make sure you don’t place the penny on the ‘tread wear bar.’  This is a bar specifically designed in the tire to indicate when your tires are legally bald and must be replaced.  If any tread groove is at 2/32” or less, the tire is legally bald.

6000 miles

    When you have your breaks inspected, commonly performed every 6000 miles, you should rotate your tires using the recommended tire rotation method as stated in your Owner’s Manual.  This will increase your tire life by distributing the abnormal wear caused by front suspension geometry.  vehicles have been designed to steer the vehicle by turning the front wheels, certain geometry was designed into the front suspension to aid in steering the vehicle, returning the steering wheel back to center and driving the vehicle straight down the road.  Because of the angles and actions that are involved in the front suspension, front tires will have increased wear.  By rotating your tires, you can distribute the wear over all of the tires therefore increasing the life of your tires.  I usually get approximately 70,000 miles of tire life on my vehicles.

Examples of tire wear

Under Inflation

Tires that are under inflated can be unsafe because you have less tread contacting thewp-underinflation road.  If you have to stop quickly, there is a chance the tires will ‘skid’ actually causing the vehicle to travel a further distance hitting what’s in front of you and causing an accident.  Tires that are under inflated have more wear on the edges or ‘shoulders’ of the tire.  As the tire rolls, the center will buckle slightly not allowing the center of the tire to contact the road surface.  Under inflation causes high heat build up in the tire due to the increase friction and tire action.  This can cause faster tire wear and decreased fuel mileage using more fuel.

Over Inflation

    Too much air pressure in the tire will cause the edges or shoulders to lift from the roadwp-overinflation surface allowing only the center of the tire to contact the road.  Again you have less tread contacting the road for very little traction.  This is a safety concern because if you had to brake hard to stop quickly, there is a possibility that you can lose traction and skid into what is in front of you causing an accident.  There is also the possibility of a blow out as the tire heats up.  Heat causes the pressure to rise additionally increasing tire pressure.

Cupping or Cupped

    Cupped wear is when your tire has high and low spots commonly on the outer edge ofwp-cupped the tire, almost like being ‘wavy.’  Cupping is caused by the tire and wheel bouncing up and down constantly as you drive down the street.  Most commonly this would be caused by bad shock absorbers or struts that limit how much a vehicle bounces or the spring oscillation.  Other causes can also be loose suspension parts, e.g. bad strut bearings, misadjusted or worn wheel bearings, worn ball joints, etc.  When you see signs of ‘cupping’ you need to have your steering and suspension system inspected by a professional to determine the problem causing the abnormal tire wear. Cupping can increase the tires resistance to the road and decrease your fuel mileage causing you to use more fuel when you drive.

Camber Wear

    Some tires will wear on one edge.  This indicates that the ‘Camber’ alignment angle is notwp-camber-wear correct.  When this occurs you should consult with a professional to determine what caused the alignment angle to change, repair it and perform an alignment.  Commonly it would be worn suspension parts that may need to be replaced.  The worn suspension parts will cause the tire’s angle to change possibly causing the vehicle to pull or drift in a particular direction causing you to have to hold the steering wheel to keep the vehicle moving straight while driving down the road.  Cars with camber in the negative numbers will have increased tire wear on the inside edge of the tire where it is difficult to see the wear.  This will cause vehicle drivability issues and decreased fuel mileage using more fuel. 

Feathered wear

    Feathered tire wear indicates that the tire is not rolling straight down the road but iswp-feathered-wear being dragged partially sideways down the road.  This is most likely due to worn steering linkages, e.g. tie rods or rod ends, causing your ‘toe’ alignment angle to be incorrect.  Consult a professional to diagnose the problem causing your tire wear and properly align the vehicle.  Feathered wear caused by the tire not rolling straight will cause increased friction and tire wear.  This will severely decrease fuel mileage using much for fuel to operate your vehicle. 

Summary

    When I was growing up there were fuel service stations that would check your tires, wipers, vital fluids and wash your windows each time you came in to fill up with fuel.  With the introduction and progress of self serve fuel stations, you cannot find full serve fuel stations anymore.  This is why it is not surprising to see a late model vehicle setting on the side of the road with its flashers on disabled.  There are many that are not familiar with certain maintenance procedures such as checking your oil or tires each time you fill up with fuel.  They drive the car until something fails and they are stranded.

    It is good practice to study your OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture) owner’s manual and perform the recommended maintenance as outlined to keep your car running safe and dependable for many years.

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Should I or Shouldn’t I write about Automotive Service?

    As I read other blogs and read articles published by the staff at WordPress with tips on writing a successful blog, I set and ask myself if I should choose a subject that I am knowledgeable and stick to writing about a consistent subject. I am going to propose this question to the followers (5) that I have and see what the consensus would be.

    One subject that I am very knowledgeable about is the automotive, truck and bus repair 008industry. This is a subject that I could write an article a day for the next two, maybe three years. Even thought I have been out of working on vehicles for several years I still remain ASE Master Certified and have been for over 25 years. Categories would range from maintenance to rebuild with operation, diagnosis in between. This subject would 007hopefully benefit many people interested in working on cars, trucks, or even buses. Articles of interest would be published and possibly some of my projects that I am working on including my 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, or better known as my Jeep JK.

    Since my employment in the transportation industry, I am erudite in Federal commercial transportation regulations and maintenance, mainly bus passenger transportation. With this knowledge I will publish articles that would be a reference for small transportation companies to utilize assisting them to remain in compliance with Federal regulations.uvs120915-001

    I do have small amounts of knowledge about computers, software, building web pages, etc. but there are many people out there already publishing articles on that subject which would then make me redundant. With the knowledge from researching healthy diets and lifestyles I already have a blog “Changing Health Habits of a Couch Potato.” where I publish articles, again being a little redundant because many people blog about that health and fitness.

    I would like to pose the question to my followers, if any, “Do you think I should write an in depth automotive repair blog?”

uvs120915-002

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Restore life back into my ‘blog’

    With so much going on in my life, I have decided to revive my ‘blog.’ There are some that would agree it is therapeutic to put your life story on print to provide for a different perspective. Needless to say you can’t tell a story without the involvement of additional characters which may introduce some disruption in the lifestyle you are documenting.

    I do have several different blog sites that discuss different subjects with some which I would be more knowledgeable about than others. There are some subjects which convey my personal opinion and some that convey knowledge that I have gained over the years. It would be optimistic that someone would benefit from the knowledge and be able to gain from something I have published.

       Meanwhile I have been thinking what to do with this particular blog, considering I have a total of 4 different WordPress blog sites.  I was considering using this blog site pour out my knowledge of automotive and diesel technology.  I will attempt to publish with illustrations blogs that describe the operating, diagnosis and repair of automobiles, trucks and buses.  You are welcome to read my other web logs housed and sponsored by WordPress.com.

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Family, Holidays and Blogging

    The Holidays are enjoyable times where family get together to enjoy in old traditions and begin new ones.  Starting with Thanksgiving through the cross over into the new year, we remain busy.

    It was the beginning of this year where I committed to a “post a week” challenge on WordPress where time and projects diverted me from my commitment of posting a blog each week.  Being that I am not a writer, I am trying to stimulate the creative side of my mind to write.  In most cases I am not sure what to write about even with the excellent suggestions from WordPress.  Although as I look back I see many subjects I could have written about. 

    Thanksgiving was a great time spent with family and friends.  There were a couple of minor disappointments, but nothing that would ruin our time together.  One would have been the Christmas Tree lighting that was moved a week later.  Upon us travelling to IMAG0022Oakland, CA on the Friday after Thanksgiving to watch the Christmas tree lighting and enjoy in the festivities, we arrived to find that it was moved to December 2.  In the past it has always been the Friday after Thanksgiving.  The silver lining here I was able to purchase my pork buns in Chinatown to take back home with me. 

     We finally did however get to enjoy the Christmas tree lighting the next week with family.  Unfortunately part of the family missed the actual lighting of the tree.  After an enjoyable tree lighting ceremony with our family we decided to have a nice dinner together.  General consensus lead us to eating at ‘Ihop’ (International House of Pancakes) where we received the worse service and tasting food ever.  I am still in negotiations with IMAG0020-1aIhop regarding their compensation for the terrible service and food at their restaurant in Emeryville on San Pablo Avenue.

    Anyway to finish up here, we have had a great time with family and friends so far this holiday season.  I figured I had better write about something and get it published to my blog site for someone to read.  I am going to attempt to write more in the future and maybe start a new one on fitness and health as I am trying to find my fountain of youth, well maybe middle age.  Happy Holidays.

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A little more Healthy

    Still diligently attempting to compete in this weight loss challenge as previously written in a previous blog.  I have lost a little weight.  Trying to keep it off is another story.  With the cookies and Halloween candy around the house as temptations, it is difficult.  I have been faithfully exercising on a daily basis and eating/drinking better.

    I have been sticking to my 10 to 12 oz ‘green smoothies’ in the mornings as a meal.  There were two people in the house drinking them, the other was part of the challenge as well.  This was to help her become healthier while heading towards her weight loss.  I had recently read that water cress was another super food with nutrients and also helps to fight cancer.  I happen to look this information up on the internet and found that the Medical News Today published a study showing that eating watercress actually repaired DNA structure.   The green leafy vegetables also raise your PH level in your body which also reduces the risk of cancer and some other ailments, (I have read).  In my green drink I try to add all of the high nutrient super foods to detox and feed our body.  Today I used the following in my drink:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Beat Leaves
  • Watercress
  • Carrots
  • An orange
  • Grapes
  • Little bit of water/orange juice

    I didn’t have any apples today, or I would have also added an apple.  After my exercise, I make one of these smoothies in my blender where it blends everything to a smooth drink almost like a powdered drink.   This way I am getting the fiber and juice in one drink.  I am eating my vegetables in my drink without chewing, and because it is all broken down, it digests easier.  I know it doesn’t appear appetizing, but the taste is really good.  It is sweet.

    I had noticed that we would drink our smoothies in the morning and there would be 5 to 10 ounces that we would just end up pouring down the sink.  Well one day I had looked up on my shelf, and remembering the articles on the internet about the benefits of juicing, I decided “Why don’t I capture the juice to drink later in the day?”  Excited about this experiment because my blender had already ground up everything to dust, it would be easier to extract the juice out of the mixture, so I got my juicer down from the shelf, plugged it in and then poured the rest of the smoothie into the juicer. This provided me with some nutrient rich juice to drink later that day.   This was a juice consistency where the smoothie was the consistency of a thicker milkshake.  By doing this I wasn’t wasting much of anything except the green sludge in the waste container which was the blended vegetable fiber.

    After about two weeks of drinking the smoothies and juices, I have felt much better and my mind is much more in focus.  Before when I had trouble resolving an issue, now I can look at situation, identify the issue and come up with a resolution right away, easily.  There must be something to this raw vegetable diet that you read about on the internet.

    This doesn’t mean I am going total vegetarian or vegan.  I still love a good USDA prime ribeye steak once in a while.  I just don’t eat as much steak as I used to.  I am also working on staying away from fast food where the sodium is through the roof on those meal deals.  It is time to start getting healthy.

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Weight Loss Challenge

    I have found that this weight loss challenge is exactly that, a challenge.  After working from home for many years and being inactive for as long as I have been, exercising and eating right was a little difficult for me in the beginning.  It all started out as a discussion with a couple of the family members and their exploits of their weight loss challenge they had internally.  

Diet

    This meant for me that I would have to begin eating properly.  Portion size would be the first thing to consider.  I would have to begin controlling the portions that I eat.  This way I am not too full, which in most cases I eat to that point.  The type of food is another thing I would have to change requiring me to eat more vegetables and fruit and properly partner those with the correct proteins.   With the onset of type 2 diabetes it is important to make sure the correct ratio of carbohydrates to protein are correct for blood glucose control.  I started off with simple things such as;

  • 10 ounces of a vegetable/fruit smoothie and an egg for breakfast
  • 1/2 sandwich for lunch, sometimes a whole sandwich
  • A healthy meal for dinner

    I use a Vitamix blender to make my smoothies.  It it does a great job of blending everything into a smooth creamy drink.  I am in the habit of making too much of the drink and end up pouring some of it out.  As my mind worked I happen to look up on the shelf and noticed by Juiceman juicer.  I decided to take the left over smoothie and pour it into the Juiceman which extracted the juice.  This way I had a tasty light juice for lunch.  The smoothie provides my fiber and nutrients for breakfast and the juice provides for additional nutrients for lunch.  The smoothies and juices taste good to me, but others may disagree by the look and taste of the smoothie.  My smoothie consists of;

  • Cup of Kale
  • Cup of Spinach
  • 1 Apple
  • 1 Orange
  • 1/2 cup of strawberries
  • 3/4 cup of Carrots
  • Teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 scoop of flax

    Sometimes I will add 1/2 of a fresh red beat to change the color from green to red.  There are some that get disgusted by the green color even though it tastes good. 

   Exercise

I needed to get active again.  After setting at home working, I was not as active as I was when repairing vehicles in the mechanic field.  Needless to say I was out of shape.  I began working on an elliptical machine in the morning starting for 15 minutes at a time.  I am now up to 25 minutes using a resistance of 5 so it feels similar to walking up stairs for 25 minutes and almost a mile.   I began to exercise on the elliptical in the morning prior to additional work out and breakfast, and in the evening just before dinner.  I hear echoing in my mind the doctor telling my wife after her heart attack and operation that she needed to walk briskly two times a day for 20 minutes.  I took that advice.

    After my trusty travels on my elliptical, I complete a whole body work out to tone muscles in my body and help burn fat.  Working from home I was pretty weak and strengthening was needed for me.

Results so far

    Currently I am happy to say, I have much more energy than before.  At times where I could lay down easily and take a nap now has become difficult.  In the past couple of weeks I have lost about 4 pounds and approximately 11 1/2 inches total from my body.  Although like most that begin a program, after a few weeks it may fizzle out like it has in the past for me.  I will attempt to keep going and see what happens.  Unlikely that I will win the challenge but I already feel better doing the challenge.

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