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Old 04-16-2013, 07:12 PM   #1
Mango
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Bosch 120A alternator bearing size-can someone confirm?

As PM for a not-too-distant project, I ordered the following based off of an E39 forum for the Bosch 120A. Anyone confirm these sizes fit the E46 Bosch 120A? I might do it myself but looks like it would be easier to have a shop do the actual bearing swap.

17x40x12

and

17x52x17

I did research before buying but couldn't find anything E46 specific. RealOEM appears to list different part#s for the Bosch 120A E46/E39 alternators in some instances--in others it lists it under both models. So I'm not sure if the Bimmerfest DIY applies. I hope they're the same. I figure this is a longshot as almost nobody rebuilds their own alternators but who knows.

The ones I ordered are quality SKF/Bosch bearings (at least advertised as such)
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:17 AM   #2
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Why bother to rebuild?
Should be done with a Bosch re-manufactured alternator around $200 in the first place instead of replacing the voltage regulator and bearings separately.

http://www.autohausaz.com/search/pro...412@Alternator

I am sure re-manufcatured Valeo Alternator can be found at similar cost too.

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Old 04-17-2013, 12:25 AM   #3
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I saw good old Edd China do a alt rebuild the other day I believe there are two bearings, Mango it looks like you ordered anyway, did you order both Sizes?
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:30 AM   #4
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Yep both sizes. I'm well aware of my options. I just want to try this using quality parts. I don't need it. My alternator is perfectly quiet and smooth. I already have a new voltage regulator because I follow and teach full maintenance.

Back on topic in case anyone can confirm. Thanks!
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Old 04-17-2013, 02:05 AM   #5
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Yep both sizes. I'm well aware of my options. I just want to try this using quality parts. I don't need it. My alternator is perfectly quiet and smooth. I already have a new voltage regulator because I follow and teach full maintenance.

Back on topic in case anyone can confirm. Thanks!
You spent over $12,000 on your car and try to save a few bucks?

I have done an alternator rebuild on my other cheap car including regulator, bearings, and brush. After spending 4 hours, I still felt like coming out of bathroom feeling dirty behind even after wiping hundred times.

I was going to mention it in your maintenance list to replace whole alternator instead of just regulator because bearings are more likely fail than regulator over longer service time. I was kind of biting my tongue until you come up with bearing post.

If you consider regulator, bearings, and brush; it make more sense to replace with a re-manufactured alternator instead of rebuilding it to save time and hassle.

By the way, first sign of bearing failure is sticky brown or rusty dirt around alternator housing before noise. That is the sign of grease meting and leaking out of bearing housing. I noticed that on my alternator at 135,000 miles while doing OFHG and new it was time for new one.

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Old 04-17-2013, 02:16 AM   #6
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You spent over $12,000 on your car and try to save a few bucks?

I have done an alternator rebuild on my other cheap car including regulator, bearings, and brush. After spending 4 hours, I still felt like coming out of bathroom feeling dirty behind even after wiping hundred times.

I was going to mention it in your maintenance list to replace whole alternator instead of just regulator because bearings are more likely fail than regulator over longer service time. I was kind of biting my tongue until you come up with bearing post.

If you consider regulator, bearings, and brush; it make more sense to replace with a re-manufactured alternator instead of rebuilding it to save time and hassle.

By the way, first sign of bearing failure is sticky brown or rusty dirt around alternator housing before noise. That is the sign of grease meting and leaking out of bearing housing. I noticed that on my alternator at 135,000 miles while doing OFHG and new it was time for new one.
Eh I'm not trying to save money. It's a project for fun. I know what's involved with an alternator. I don't need any lessons or advice. I know exactly what I'm getting into.

Moving on
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Old 04-17-2013, 03:03 AM   #7
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The problem with rebuilt alternators is that a lot of them use cheap Chinese bearings.
I have had that same Alternator rebuild bookmarked for about a year. I am going to do the same thing. I'd rather know that it has quality bearings, instead of spending $200 for something that may or may not have cheap Chinese bearings. There have been several reports of rebuilt alternators failing very early because of bad bearings. I would rather DIY, and be sure.
I was going to create a post on this when I was done, because I have not seen one for an e46. But I have been indefinitely delayed from doing any work on my car, and that definitely will not be changing anytime soon. I guess you are going to beat me to it!
Where did you order the bearings from? I can still buy stuff at least.

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Old 04-17-2013, 03:05 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by MJLavelle View Post
The problem with rebuilt alternators is that a lot of them use cheap Chinese bearings.
I have had that same Alternator rebuild bookmarked for about a year. I am going to do the same thing. I'd rather know that it has quality bearings, instead of spending $200 for something that may or may not have cheap Chinese bearings. There have been several reports of rebuilt alternators failing very early because of bad bearings. I would rather DIY, and be sure.
I was going to create a post on this when I was done, because I have not seen one for an e46. But I have been indefinitely delayed from doing any work on my car, and that definitely will not be changing anytime soon. I guess you are going to beat me to it!
Where did you order the bearings from? I can still buy stuff at least.
Thank you. I was going to explain this but felt I shouldn't have to defend myself as my reputation for research and application speaks for itself. You hit the nail right on the head. I got them from eBay. I'll PM you the links.
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Old 04-17-2013, 03:49 AM   #9
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That's the kind of attitude why you are get rubbed on by some fanatics here.
You are just part changer like those stealership mechanics that we get mad all the time: change everything and you will be fine!
At this point, early e46's are 14 years old. Some of us are moving past the point of maintenance. Some of us are approaching our cars as restoration projects, which is really what they are now. If you own a car that only had the basic maintenance performed on it, then it is really just a candidate for a restoration project at this point.
This is where people get confused by the things Mango does. He could help matters by referring to what he does as restoration, rather than maintenance. People misunderstand the terminology. What he is doing is restoring the car to factory new condition, or, in his case, he is keeping it as close to factory new condition as possible.
A lot of the things he does are not necessary to keep your car as a daily driver. If it is a daily driver, then you let a lot of things simply age.
Not everyone chooses to do things that way. I have always approached my cars as running restorations. I have not been able to do that with my current e46, for reasons out of my control. But, I am collecting the parts I will need when I am able to get started.
But if you look at it as a restoration, which means you are either returning the car to something close to factory new condition, or trying to keep it close to factory new condition, then most of what he does makes sense.
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Old 04-17-2013, 11:33 AM   #10
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At this point, early e46's are 14 years old. Some of us are moving past the point of maintenance. Some of us are approaching our cars as restoration projects
This is where people get confused by the things Mango does. He could help matters by referring to what he does as restoration, rather than maintenance. People misunderstand the terminology.
Great point! Maintenance vs. Repair vs. Restoration
E46 are at an age where all 3 can apply depending on your point of view.
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Old 04-17-2013, 11:37 AM   #11
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Thanks for the free bumps and support but please keep this on topic. I just want to confirm bearing sizes.
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:21 PM   #12
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Just a few random comments about these alternators. At some point, probably with the debut of the M54 engines, Bosch shifted to a different-size front bearing in its 120A units. The sizes Mango cited in his opening post are identical to the sizes used by the alternator in my car, a '99 528i with M52TU engine. As best I've been able to determine, those sizes are valid for the Bosches in the earlier M52 cars as well. However, the dimensions of that larger, front bearing changed, possibly with the arrival of the M54 and facelifted cars.

vxb.com (even through Amazon) is a very good source for quality bearings. SKF, Koyo, F A G, Nachi, NTN (Taiwan) are some of the best. Another source for quality is http://www.smithcoelectric.com in Colorado.

NTN shows up in genuine replacement BMW parts more and more.

Whatever bearings you get, don't trust any that spin too freely when new. They should feel like they've been packed in molasses and not spin much at all. When I was gathering parts to rebuild my alternator, I bought a set on ebay from one of the regular bearing sellers there. They were very lightly packed with grease and spun too easily for my liking. Still sitting in the boxes as I felt I could find better and ended up installing Nachi (Japan) and NTN.

BTW, at least with regard to the e39s, the Valeo units apparently don't have to have the armature spindle pressed out of the front bearing; with the Bosch units, you need a press because there's not enough space between the bearing and stator fins to use a puller or splitter. I won't say impossible because some people are good improvisors with this stuff. The guerrilla alternative I used is to whack the armature spindle a couple times with a heavy hammer (using something like a piece of hardwood between the hammer and the armature tip to prevent mushrooming and damaging the threads), thus creating enough of a gap to get a bearing splitter underneath the bearing.

The rear bearings have to be pulled off and pressed onto the slipring assembly and that's a task that demands some care because the slipring assembly is plastic. Actually, if you're going to replace the bearings and regulator, you may want to try your hand at replacing the slipring assembly as well. smithco electric has them. Here's a DIY I used; the "tool" to press the new slipring on cost me probably a buck, maybe more for the cost of gas making the trip to the hardware store. I replaced my sliprings because they had what I thought to be fairly deep grooves from the bushes, but after I had the old ones out, I cut them cross-wise to see how thick they were. My car had 153K when I did this rebuild and the old sliprings were only worn about 1/3rd the way through. Had I known that, I'd've left them alone.

On the e39 forum, many people show up with alternator failures that had no symptoms of noise. Squealing alternators are a sure sign of pending bearing failure, but the units with voltage regulators that fail first don't give much warning other than some electrical glitches and the inevitable red battery light on the instrument cluster. The bearings I removed from my alt were not squealing yet; the rear (smaller) bearing had lots of life left but the front bearing spun very freely and its internal grease had completely waxed.

After all this, the alternator in my car operates pretty much the same. It put out 13.9-14.0 V before and after (though I've seen it put out 14.2 V on occasion). Only thing I haven't replaced in it is the rectifier/diode assembly. I know somewhere you can get the diode set for this alternator but the one time I was searching, the price just wasn't in my ballpark.

Last edited by pleiades; 04-17-2013 at 12:49 PM. Reason: forgot to add link.
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:25 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
Just a few random comments about these alternators. At some point, probably with the debut of the M54 engines, Bosch shifted to a different-size front bearing in its 120A units. The sizes Mango cited in his opening post are identical to the sizes used by the alternator in my car, a '99 528i with M52TU engine. As best I've been able to determine, those sizes are valid for the Bosches in the earlier M52 cars as well. However, the dimensions of that larger, front bearing changed, possibly with the arrival of the M54 and facelifted cars.

vxb.com (even through Amazon) is a very good source for quality bearings. SKF, Koyo, F A G, Nachi, NTN (Taiwan) are some of the best. Another source for quality is http://www.smithcoelectric.com in Colorado.

NTN shows up in genuine replacement BMW parts more and more.

Whatever bearings you get, don't trust any that spin too freely when new. They should feel like they've been packed in molasses and not spin much at all. When I was gathering parts to rebuild my alternator, I bought a set on ebay from one of the regular bearing sellers there. They were very lightly packed with grease and spun too easily for my liking. Still sitting in the boxes as I felt I could find better and ended up installing Nachi (Japan) and NTN.

BTW, at least with regard to the e39s, the Valeo units apparently don't have to have the armature spindle pressed out of the front bearing; with the Bosch units, you need a press because there's not enough space between the bearing and stator fins to use a puller or splitter. I won't say impossible because some people are good improvisors with this stuff. The guerrilla alternative I used is to whack the armature spindle a couple times with a heavy hammer (using something like a piece of hardwood between the hammer and the armature tip to prevent mushrooming and damaging the threads), thus creating enough of a gap to get a bearing splitter underneath the bearing.

The rear bearings have to be pulled off and pressed onto the slipring assembly and that's a task that demands some care because the slipring assembly is plastic. Actually, if you're going to replace the bearings and regulator, you may want to try your hand at replacing the slipring assembly as well. smithco electric has them. Here's a DIY I used; the "tool" to press the new slipring on cost me probably a buck, maybe more for the cost of gas making the trip to the hardware store. I replaced my sliprings because they had what I thought to be fairly deep grooves from the bushes, but after I had the old ones out, I cut them cross-wise to see how thick they were. My car had 153K when I did this rebuild and the old sliprings were only worn about 1/3rd the way through. Had I known that, I'd've left them alone.

On the e39 forum, many people show up with alternator failures that had no symptoms of noise. Squealing alternators are a sure sign of pending bearing failure, but the units with voltage regulators that fail first don't give much warning other than some electrical glitches and the inevitable red battery light on the instrument cluster. The bearings I removed from my alt were not squealing yet; the rear (smaller) bearing had lots of life left but the front bearing spun very freely and its internal grease had completely waxed.

After all this, the alternator in my car operates pretty much the same. It put out 13.9-14.0 V before and after (though I've seen it put out 14.2 V on occasion). Only thing I haven't replaced in it is the rectifier/diode assembly. I know somewhere you can get the diode set for this alternator but the one time I was searching, the price just wasn't in my ballpark.
Great info. I suspected the bearings I ordered might be the wrong size. Maybe one of them is correct.. maybe none. I guess the only way is to crack open the alternator.

Again no signs of failure on mine, I am just looking at this as a side project.

If my alternator fails tomorrow, I won't have time to mess with this and just order a reman alternator. But for now all is good and I'm just looking to refresh it at some point.
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:56 PM   #14
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Great info. I suspected the bearings I ordered might be the wrong size. Maybe one of them is correct.. maybe none. I guess the only way is to crack open the alternator.

Again no signs of failure on mine, I am just looking at this as a side project.

If my alternator fails tomorrow, I won't have time to mess with this and just order a reman alternator. But for now all is good and I'm just looking to refresh it at some point.
If you do it yourself, at least you'll know that quality parts were used. I'll probably rebuild another alt someday just to have a spare I can trust. Wide variations out there in pricing, core charges, and quality. If I absolutely had no choice, in a pinch I guess I'd pick a local supplier (Autozone, Oreilly....) with a lifetime warranty. Seems Autozone always has rebuilt Bosches in stock.
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:59 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by pleiades View Post
If you do it yourself, at least you'll know that quality parts were used. I'll probably rebuild another alt someday just to have a spare I can trust. Wide variations out there in pricing, core charges, and quality. If I absolutely had no choice, in a pinch I guess I'd pick a local supplier (Autozone, Oreilly....) with a lifetime warranty. Seems Autozone always has rebuilt Bosches in stock.
Yeah I've always had good luck with reman alternators. I might get one in the future and just rebuild my "core" for fun. Alternator pros sells a new 120A Bosch for $200. They claim its factory new.
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Old 04-17-2013, 01:15 PM   #16
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One thing, if you replace the bearings, are you having the commutator repaired or turned ? What about the brushes.... I had 169K miles on my Ford F150's alternator when it went out- due to the brushes and the commutator failing. The brushes had actually worn into the commutator.
It would be a learning experience, and maybe it will work out for you.. but, you might not be able to do a 100% rebuild withought new brushes.
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Old 04-17-2013, 01:18 PM   #17
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One thing, if you replace the bearings, are you having the commutator repaired or turned ? What about the brushes.... I had 169K miles on my Ford F150's alternator when it went out- due to the brushes and the commutator failing. The brushes had actually worn into the commutator.
It would be a learning experience, and maybe it will work out for you.. but, you might not be able to do a 100% rebuild withought new brushes.
Our regulators have serviceable regulators. Mine was replaced and as such has new brushes. Unless there's a second set of brushes internally I'm not aware of.
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Old 04-17-2013, 01:26 PM   #18
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One thing, if you replace the bearings, are you having the commutator repaired or turned ? What about the brushes.... I had 169K miles on my Ford F150's alternator when it went out- due to the brushes and the commutator failing. The brushes had actually worn into the commutator.
It would be a learning experience, and maybe it will work out for you.. but, you might not be able to do a 100% rebuild withought new brushes.
On these units, the commutator is the slipring assembly on the rear of the spindle and the brushes with springs are built into the voltage regulator as a single replacement part that bolts onto the back of the alternator and that can be removed/replaced with the alt still on the car. If the alt fails without squealing in advance, chances are high the fault is not the bearings but the regulator unit.... easy and quick repair is to just replace the regulator. Aftermarket VRs run about $50.

Some rebuilders apparently lightly sand the sliprings (copper bands) to clean out the grooves formed by the brushes. I'd guesstimate the sliprings can last upwards of 300-400 K miles before the brushes wear through, but not much empirical data on that out there.
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Old 04-17-2013, 01:29 PM   #19
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On these units, the commutator is the slipring assembly on the rear of the spindle and the brushes with springs are built into the voltage regulator as a single replacement part that bolts onto the back of the alternator and that can be removed/replaced with the alt still on the car. If the alt fails without squealing in advance, chances are high the fault is not the bearings but the regulator unit.... easy and quick repair is to just replace the regulator. Aftermarket VRs run about $50.

Some rebuilders apparently lightly sand the sliprings (copper bands) to clean out the grooves formed by the brushes. I'd guesstimate the sliprings can last upwards of 300-400 K miles before the brushes wear through, but not much empirical data on that out there.
More good info. Wondering how rebuilders get away with just replacing the bearings and a new coat of paint and maybe brushes.

I will caution against replacing the VR though while still inside the car. The screws are of very soft material (brass maybe?) and strip very easily as they are very tight. So I recommend taking it out of the car to remove the VR so you can visually match the correct size screwdriver and apply the appropriate amount of torque at the right angle. Even off the car they started to strip!! luckily I used a bigger screwdriver and they came off easily with minimal scarring.

The VR I bought was Bosch and only $37!!
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Old 04-17-2013, 01:34 PM   #20
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On these units, the commutator is the slipring assembly on the rear of the spindle and the brushes with springs are built into the voltage regulator as a single replacement part that bolts onto the back of the alternator and that can be removed/replaced with the alt still on the car. If the alt fails without squealing in advance, chances are high the fault is not the bearings but the regulator unit.... easy and quick repair is to just replace the regulator. Aftermarket VRs run about $50.

Some rebuilders apparently lightly sand the sliprings (copper bands) to clean out the grooves formed by the brushes. I'd guesstimate the sliprings can last upwards of 300-400 K miles before the brushes wear through, but not much empirical data on that out there.
Good to know!
Thanks..
(my car already had the alternator replaced with a rebuilt unit)
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