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DIY: Do It Yourself
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Old 05-01-2010, 06:47 PM   #1
hexagone
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Replaced Alternator, battery light still flicking?

Hey guys, 3 weeks ago I flew from Chicago to Oklahoma and picked up a clean 01' 330i 5sp that I drove back. This isn't my first BMW, (2 e36 M3s before)- but I didn't own those for long and I'm still fairly fresh with these cars.

The problem:

150 miles in my drive home, the cars cluster light flickered, the car shuddered- and I managed to pull over to the side, waited a few minutes and restarted the car. Batt light still on.

Drove another 50 miles to the nearest stealership, where they said I needed an alternator (figured as much myself). Luckily I found an autozone Bosch reman (120amp) for $330 + core, and they charged me $200 to install as I watched in bewilderment at how easy it was. Luckily the master tech gave me a post inspection purchase, so that gave me ease of mind as everything checked out. Battery itself was still fine.

3 weeks later now- the battery light was flickering during driving. Stopped, turned off the car and then as I gave contact with the key- all lights were on per usual, but even then the batt. light flickered. Turned it on, and it idled and the light flickered intermittently- but nothing else, no noises or anything noticable.

Drove away, and it went away. So now I've been scouring messageboards... and a lot of people suggested replacing the voltage regulator instead of the alternator, but that shouldnt be my case since the alt. is brand new.

Any input?
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Old 05-01-2010, 08:22 PM   #2
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Many Remanufactured Alternators fail almost immediately after you install them. This happened to me in 2008 when I had my 1995 318i. I went thru 2 Reman. Alternators in the space of a month before just going to the BMW Dealership and getting one there.


They may look good but they are NOT!!!!



$200 is also EXTREMELY high for installing this. BMW Of Manhattan billed around $850 for everything with $137.50 (if I remember correctly) being the labour fee for installation.

I did my first two installations myself when I got the remanufactured alternators and it is indeed easy but if you have an old car with lots of rust and gunk under the hood then getting the old alternator out can be a physical challenge. I ended up using a pick axe to pluck out of the engine bay.



The problem with the BMW E36 and I see the same design flaw on my E46 engine is the Alternator sits below the power steering tank. As we all know power steering tanks leak dark viscous sticky fluid all the time or have dribble coming off the cap and this inevitably slowly leaks onto the alternator bolts and literally become rock hard gunk that seals the bolts onto place.

Removal of the old Alternator was harder than anything else because of that. By the time I was installing my second Alternator after the first one failed it took me about 20 to 30 minutes compared to the 6 hours it took me in the driveway of trying to remove the old busted alternator.


BTW, I think Autozone is on the short list of places NOT the get Remanufactured Alternators.
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Last edited by delmarco; 05-01-2010 at 08:37 PM.
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Old 05-01-2010, 09:59 PM   #3
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First, recheck your battery. Quite often, a bad alternator will take a battery with it. If it were me, I would have replaced the battery at the same time...if that was possible in your situation.
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Old 05-01-2010, 10:13 PM   #4
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+1
Agree.

If you're "new" alternator is going out again, it's a sign that the battery is not holding a solid charge. Definitely have your battery tested.

(Unless you have some kind of high end audio system that's putting extra drain on your electrical system...)
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Old 05-01-2010, 11:11 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by delmarco View Post


BTW, I think Autozone is on the short list of places NOT the get Remanufactured Alternators.

The issue at hand was that I was on the highway, with a red battery light staring me in the face, 450 miles away from home. I mean- it was either $750 for what the dealership wanted that day, or $530 for the one I found in that town.

I'll go tomorrow to have my battery checked, as it was fairly new and a dealership "OE" BMW battery with the little indicator window at the top. But say the battery does check out, is there any way of testing the alternator without pulling it? I'm trying to resolve the issue asap, as I have a series of appointments next week with school/job stuff that I don't want to jeopardize attending late with a finnicky car.

Last edited by hexagone; 05-01-2010 at 11:21 PM.
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Old 05-01-2010, 11:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BimmersGarage View Post
+1
Agree.

If you're "new" alternator is going out again, it's a sign that the battery is not holding a solid charge. Definitely have your battery tested.

(Unless you have some kind of high end audio system that's putting extra drain on your electrical system...)
You/ve got it backwards. If the alt was going bad, your battery probably went dead or is dying from not getting proprly charged along with the extra load. Your battery was likely compensating for your low alternator voltage and current.
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Old 05-02-2010, 01:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hexagone View Post
The issue at hand was that I was on the highway, with a red battery light staring me in the face, 450 miles away from home. I mean- it was either $750 for what the dealership wanted that day, or $530 for the one I found in that town.

I'll go tomorrow to have my battery checked, as it was fairly new and a dealership "OE" BMW battery with the little indicator window at the top. But say the battery does check out, is there any way of testing the alternator without pulling it? I'm trying to resolve the issue asap, as I have a series of appointments next week with school/job stuff that I don't want to jeopardize attending late with a finnicky car.
BMW refunds a percentage for core turn ins. So I think they would have reduced it some.

Like I said I was in the same boat as you and didn't want to pay $600 to $800 at the dealership and went for a $350 non-refundable Reman unit from ebay that died the same week I put her in and then I spent about $500 on a another reman unit (sold to me with a warranty) that also died and which I returned got my money back and just did it at the dealership.

By the way my battery was brand new when the reman units failed.

Good Luck.
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Old 05-02-2010, 03:19 PM   #8
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Okay...

I pulled the airbox and saw that the connector to the alternator itself... was loose. In fact, the metal retainer on the connector was bent out of shape and wouldnt 'clip' I took some wire and tied it down so it wouldnt move... which leads me to believe it could've been a loose connector which I paid $500 for.

Ugh.
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