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Old 01-23-2013, 02:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Can't Maintain Proper Voltage at Idle (Please Help I'm out of Ideas)

I have a 2001 SEL and ever since I have owned it I have had the same issue. After starting and the car returns to low idle it acts like the alternator is not putting out. This is most noticeable at night with headlights on or having the the heater fan running on high. When the car idles I can hear the fan rpms drop and the headlights dim. As soon as the engines rpms come up off of idle I get a very very noticeable increase in fan rpm's and the headlights get really bright just for a second (pulse of light) then return to a steady (normal) brightness. I took it to a reputable shop and had them load test the battery and Alt. They said that the battery had a bad cell and that needed to be replaced before he test the alternator. I stuck a Yellow top Optima in and took it back to have the alt. tested. He stated the "alternator is on it's way out" he said there was virtually no output at idle and produced 88amps @ 2000rpm. Since I'm into stereos I found a 220amp HO alternator with an under drive pulley. When installing the new alternator I did the big 3 upgrade to 1/0 copper welding cable all the way around. I also ran two runs of the 1/0 wire from the front battery to the trunk and added a second matching Yellow top Optima. I figured this would finally fix my issue but I am still having the same exact symptoms. I also decided to add a stinger volt meter and it confirms what I thought. At idle voltage trickles down and stabilizes between 12.2-11.9v with headlights on voltage drops to 11.6-11.4 then if I turn on the fan with headlights on it drops to 11.2-11.0v. This is w/o my stereo on. Took it back to be retested with the new alternator and got the same result as before when idling. Shop guy said it was basically not producing anything at idle but I was getting 195amps @ 2000rpm. All these tests were done w/o any aftermarket stereo gear in the vehicle just stock electrical loads. I have to be missing something??? or got a defective new alternator. Any help is much appreciated.
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Old 01-23-2013, 03:33 PM   #2 (permalink)
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That is VERY low voltage. My guess is the new alternator is defective if you are sure all of your wiring is correct.
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Old 01-23-2013, 03:48 PM   #3 (permalink)
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So when you got the new alternator it came with it's own voltage regulator (you didn't swap any parts over), right? Your serpentine belt is also nice and tight, correct? Did you check the voltage sense fuse #26 (10A)? With the alternator under load, what is the voltage drop from the alternator + post to the + battery terminal?
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Old 01-23-2013, 04:08 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by behlinla View Post
So when you got the new alternator it came with it's own voltage regulator (you didn't swap any parts over), right? Your serpentine belt is also nice and tight, correct? Did you check the voltage sense fuse #26 (10A)? With the alternator under load, what is the voltage drop from the alternator + post to the + battery terminal?
New Alt. came w/voltage regulator and new belt is tight.
I did not check the voltage sence fuse #26 (10A) w/alt. under load. or the voltage drop between the alt. +post and the Batt. +post.

I will check those here shortly. What should I be looking for on the sence fuse #26(10A) besides verifing it's not blown?
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:12 PM   #5 (permalink)
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What should I be looking for on the sence fuse #26(10A) besides verifing it's not blown?
Other than not being blown and being the correct amperage, make sure the terminals aren't corroded.
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Old 01-23-2013, 10:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thank you, I'll run some tests and post up the results.
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Old 01-24-2013, 07:27 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Did you buy the car new? Vulcan or Tech?
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Old 01-24-2013, 08:17 AM   #8 (permalink)
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UNDERDRIVE pulley on the new alt????? Big mistake. With a UDP, the alt will never charge correctly at idle. BTDT on 5.0 Mustangs.
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Old 01-24-2013, 02:42 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Did you mean underdrive (larger) or overdrive (smaller) pulley? If you have a "system" you would want to go in the overdrive direction? Good catch Jeff.
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Old 01-24-2013, 03:25 PM   #10 (permalink)
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You guys beat me to it. That is why I asked if he was original owner. Could also be an underdrive main pully. If you have a big stereo it can't keep up at idle.
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