Crisis averted

So we’ve been noticing that the van’s battery is not charging recently. We started out with the intention of having a bit of a work day, but ended up searching for a Dodge dealership instead.  We chose a dealership mainly because if we had a true problem, we didn’t want any potentially sketchy car repair places to see us coming a mile away and rip us off.  Not to say this can’t happen anywhere, but we’re from out of town, you would hope the best service you can get for a Dodge vehicle, is at the dealership.

As we drove there we started to eliminate the things that were draining or battery.  Turing off the lights, then the heater. The radio turned off and on by itself so we took that as a sign to turn that off too. With two miles to go we started to get really worried as the meter showed a drain on the battery every time we braked.  By the last mile our left/right indicators stopped working completely.  We were headed into seriously dangerous territory.

We just made it to the dealership on our last ounce of power, and pulled in the front of the lot. The sales guys definitely got a kick out of us pulling in.

While Andrew got to work at looking at the alternator I went off to the service bay and asked for any advice.  A nice guy named Jeff came by the van and mentioned a few possibilities, one of which was the was the voltage regulator.

We have a spare! Thankfully, before we left a friend was nice enough to come check out our van and mention a few spare parts we should have on hand. Apparently the voltage regulator was notorious for dying on these cars.  Jeff told us that on the newer vehicles this part is built into the larger system and now costs 500 dollars to replace. Meanwhile I managed to easily replace it and it only cost us 10 bucks for the part.

The next thing was to charge our dead battery, which we were able to do on the fly with the generator and battery charger.

After charging for a while we had enough juice for a successful start. Even though we got her running, the battery was still not charging on it’s own.

We went to speak to talk to Jeff about the next steps. He indicated they could take it and run tests which would cost in the neighborhood of $50. Then the work would cost $79/hour and a new alternator would be around $55. The catch though is that it would have to be a Dodge part; one which was not in stock. This was all starting to add up quickly.

By this point we had pretty much deduced it was the alternator (hopefully). Andrew had also checked out the installation, which seemed manageable. Jeff called around and checked for parts for us, and found a local place with it in stock. Our plan was to attempt the exchange ourselves. With a van this old, most of the mechanics would be just about as new to this as we were. So, we thanked Jeff for all his tremedous help went off on our way.

Just a mile down the road we were at the auto parts store getting our battery tested for free and buying a new alternator.

With only two bolts holding it in place the alternator was fairly easy to remove.

Installing the new one however, was slightly more tricky. It’s heavy!

Once we got it in and tightened everything, we hooked the electrical back up and tried turning the key…