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Tim
Tim, Ford Technician
Category: Ford
Satisfied Customers: 1038
Experience:  23 years Dealership experience, Ford Senior Master Technician since 2000, ASE Master since 1985
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I have a problem with my alternator heating up due to it working

Customer Question

Hi. I have a problem with my alternator heating up due to it working at all the time 100% capacity. This is due to a short in the system that is drawing current, however I am having a hard time finding it. Heres what I have done:1) Take off negative cable from the battery and installed an ampmeter. Put the negative from meter on negative post of battery and positive from meter to the negative cable. 2) Unplugged various fuses from the engine compartment to see if there was any current drop when they came out. According to my ford diagram, when I plugged the FUEL PUMP FUSE (20A), the current dropped 1.5A (amps). Now it says that if it drops more than .05A or than there is a drain in that circuit. When I unplug the PCM this drain is eliminated completely. Just to test the CCRM, I unplugged it too, but the drain remained since the PCM was still in. I replaced the PCM but have the same problem with a new one. WHERE IS THE WORLD IS THIS DRAIN COMING FROM? Thanks in advance for the help.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Ford
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

How much amperage draw do you have with the PCM connected and the CCRM unplugged? How much amperage draw do you have with the CCRM, PCM plugged in and the fuse installed? I will do my best to help you locate your issue.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hello Tim and thanks so much for the reply. I am unsure of the units (mA or A) but it is on the lowest setting on my multimeter under DCA (DC amps). I am going to assume amps since I get no reading on any of the other settings.
1. With PCM connected and CCRM unplugged, reading is 88.1-89.0 amps.
2.With the CCRM, PCM, and fuse plugged in, I pull 88.1-89.0 amps.
3. With CCRM, fuse plugged in, and PCM unplugged, I pull 86..6-87.5amps

SO with the PCM unplugged, it goes down about 1.5 amps. This is also replicated(amp drop) when pull out the "FUEL PUMP" fuse (at least thats what fuse the ford diagram I have is telling me) and the PCM plugged in. I replaced the PCM with another one (disabled PATS to get it to started obviously) and have the same problem/current draw/ overheating alternator. That fuse is the only fuse/circuit that exibits current drop when I pull it.

Now, the car recently died on me on the road. Once I got it towed to the house I check it out and found that a rear o2 harness was being dragged and the wires were all shorting on each other. This was causing the FUEL PUMP fuse to keep blowing and blowing until I fixed the short. Well someone put a wire to bypass the fuse and the circuit was unable to be opened so this big short obviously caused the car to stall on me.Upon fixing that short, the FUEL PUMP fuel stopped popping and I was able to get the car to start, but now I have this alternator issue. Let me know if I can be any clearer or take any more measurements for you and thank you SOOO much again for the reply.
-Matt

EDIT: Here are the diagrams I am working with:

http://www.3.8mustang.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=135367&d=1222212401

http://www.3.8mustang.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=135368&d=1222212401

http://www.3.8mustang.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=135369&d=1222212401

http://www.3.8mustang.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=135416&d=1222365991
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

Ok, it would have to mA, if it were amps the fuse in your multimeter would blow. 86-90 mA's is not enough to cause the concern you are having. So, lets get back to the original problem. The alternator is overheating. We need to see how much amperage the alternator is putting out to see if that is the issue (charging a lot all of the time). It is possible for the alternator to get hot, but not because it is putting out amperage. If there is an internal issue with the alternator it can get hot without charging a lot. You will need to check how many amps the alternator is putting out with an inductive pickup ammeter of some sort. If it is putting out an excessive amount (more than 20 amps at idle with no accessories on) and the battery voltage is staying below 14 volts with no accessories on then you probably have a battery or cable connection issue. If it is not putting out very much amperage (less than 20 amps at idle) but still getting hot, I would say the alternator has an internal issue. Typically we like to see less than 50 mA's draw with everything off after all modules have powered down. It takes up to 30 minutes for the modules to all power down. I hope this helps, let me know if you can do these checks.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok, gotcha on the mA's.

I forgot to mention that I already replaced the alternator with a new one so I believe the alternator and voltage regulator are in working condition. Can I test the output amperage on the alternator with my multimeter or would I need another meter? IF I can use mine, could you instruct me where to put the leads? If I unplugged the the voltage regulator harness on the alternator, the whining sound/bad smell does go away.

Some more info: I did the load test and no load test and it seemed to come out ok.

Base voltate (car off, no key in ignition) was 12.8V
No-load test (car on at 1500 rpms) battery voltage was at 14.5ish volts
Load test (AC/headlights/fan on) voltage across the batter remained around 14.5ish.
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

The voltage is about where it should be. You will not be able to use your meter as it cannot handle the amperage. It wil have to be an inductive type pickup that goes around the large wire on the alternator. Alternators do get hot when they are charging, so lets make sure we really have a problem. The alternator should be rated at 130 amps on this vehicle, but you may not get quite that much out of it at full load. Maybe your local parts store could check your amperage output for you. A lot of parts stores will check this for free. I hope this helps you. let me know what you find. Make sure your battery cables are clean and tight also.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Tim-Sounds good. Although I just got the alternator, Ill take it to see if Its showing the right amount of output. The alternator is overheating because I cannot even put my hand on it after 2 or 3 mins of running. I really hope I get this issue finished soon because this is my daily driver and rely on it for school and work. Ill reply with the results later today. Thanks again so much for your time.
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

They will get pretty hot, I am still not sure if it is a problem. If it is charging ok (not overcharging or undercharging) it may be fine The only other thing I can think of thus far is the alternator fan. This alternator should have a fan internal. It should pull air through the alternator to cool it. Surely the fan is in there and going the right direction! Let me know what you find on the charging amperage and we will go from there.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Sorry for the late reply as I just barely got a chance to take the alternator in. I took it to Autozone and had it tested there. Well it passed with flying colors, but the machine did not give an actual numerical value. Either way, looks the the alternator is good. Now I have no idea what to do.
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

If the alternator passes and the battery and connections are ok, I am not sure you have a problem. Alternators do produce some heat. I actually would suggest taking the car somewhere that can test the alternator output on the car. That would be a more accurate test. I hope this helps, If it does please click the accept button and I would appreciate positive feedback.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Tim, Ford Technician
Category: Ford
Satisfied Customers: 1038
Experience: 23 years Dealership experience, Ford Senior Master Technician since 2000, ASE Master since 1985
Tim and 6 other Ford Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Im 100% sure its not the alternator and think there is a massive current draw, but Im not sure how to locate it.

EDIT..what about a bad engine ground?
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.

fuel128,


 


A poor connection on either end of one of the battery cables can cause the voltage to not reach the battery, therefore making the alternator work harder. That is why we need to check the alternator output amperage at the alternator, to verify a concern. If the ouput amperage is high all the time we can go a direction of finding a wiring fault.


 


Thanks,


Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok I see. Autozone can check the amps but it has to be on the car (I took the alternator off last night a just took it in.) Do you think its safe to drive 1.5 miles go get there or do I risk burning up my alternator? Im going to do this today all post later on the results. Thanks again Tim for the great support.
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 


You should be fine to drive 1.5 miles. I think we will know a lot more after you check amperage output at idle with nothing on. We will know for sure if the alternator is being overworked or not. If it is overworking, have them load test your battery also.


 


Thanks,


Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
OK so I drove it to the the parts store to get tested and it was putting out 103 Amps at 2000 rpm, no accessories on. Also did a load test on the batter and it passed with flying colors (battery is only a month old anyhow). I checked the alternator when I got back the the garage and the was blazing hot. I couldnt even touch it. What would be the best next step? Thanks.
-Matt
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

The next step is to check voltage drop across the cables. Place one multimeter probe on the large terminal of the alternator and the other one on the battery post. Make sure you put it on the battery post and not the cable end. Check DC volts, you should see less than .5 volts. Then check from the negative battery post to the alternator case and also to the body ground, you should see less than .5 volts here also. At the connector on the alternator you should have battery voltage at the light green/red wire and also at the violet and white wire. The white/black wire should have continuity from the larger connector to the single terminal of the alternator. Making all of these checks should narrow down the problem.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
1) Saw zero voltage drop from positive batt terminal to single terminal on back of alternator.

2) Saw zero voltage drop from negative batt terminal and alternator case.

3)Saw zero voltage drop from neg batt to body ground.

4)The yellow/white wire (I thought it was violet in the diagram too but turns out its a Y) has 12.48V going to it.

5)The light green/red wire does NOT have any voltage going to it.

What does that sounds like?
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.

 

Customer

 

Sorry it was so long getting back to you. I had an out of town football game today. No voltage on the LG/R wire means we are getting close. I have attached a wiring diagram for you. The LG/R wire is fed through the Charge indicator in the cluster. Does the light come on with the key on engine off? And does it go off with the engine running? Here are some pinpoint tests to help you. Some of these tests we have already done. As you will see in test B2 it will tell you repair high resistance in circuit 904, which is the LG/R if you have less than 1 volt. This could be fuse18 in the instrument panel fuse panel, the indicator bulb in the dash or a problem in the wiring anywhere in between. Make sure the fuse is good, and make sure it is making good contact in the fuse panel. If the light is on with the key on engine off, the fuse and wiring to the fuse should be good. If the light does not ever come on, it could be the power side of the bulb or the ground side (between the fuse and the alternator. Let me know if you are able to isolate the issue with this information. I hope we are getting it narrowed down now.

 

Thanks,

Tim

 

B1 CHECK VOLTAGE DROP IN A CIRCUIT

  • Turn ignition switch to ON.
  • Measure voltage between A circuit on voltage regulator and positive (+) battery post.

Is voltage drop less than 0.25 V?

Yes No
GO to B2. SERVICE excess voltage drop in Circuit 36 (Y/W). CHECK power distribution box Fuse ALT (20A) and connectors in Circuit 36 (Y/W) and SERVICE as required.

B2 CHECK VOLTAGE DROP IN I CIRCUIT

    NOTE: Voltage regulator must be connected to wiring harness for this test.

     

     

  • Measure voltage at wiring harness I terminal connector C154 , Circuit 904 (LG/R).

Is voltage greater than 1 V?

Yes No
GO to B3. SERVICE high resistance in Circuit 904 (LG/R).

B3 CHECK FOR POOR GROUNDS

  • Check for poor ground connections between voltage regulator and generator , generator and engine, or engine and battery .

Are all ground connections clean and tight?

Yes No
GO to B4 on 3.8L and 4.6L (2V). REPLACE generator on 4.6L (4V). CLEAN or SERVICE grounds as required.

B4 CHECK FOR FIELD CIRCUIT DRAIN

  • Turn ignition switch to OFF position.
  • Measure voltage at test point F on voltage regulator .

Is voltage at test point F equal to battery voltage?

Yes No
Generator is OK. REPLACE voltage regulator . GO to B5.

B5 CHECK FOR GROUNDED SLIP RING

  • Remove generator from vehicle.
  • Remove voltage regulator .
  • Measure resistance from each generator slip ring to the generator housing.

Is resistance from either slip ring to housing less than 200 ohms?

Yes No
If grease or dirt has accumulated near slip rings, CLEAN slip rings and RECHECK resistance. If still less than 200 ohms, REPLACE generator . REPLACE voltage regulator .

graphic

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Tim,
No problem on the late response at all. Hope the football game went well.

Im going to get on these tests tomorrow morning asap as Im helping a friend bring down his transmission tomorrow as well. The first thing Im going to check on is the battery light when the car is in run/engine off and run/engine on. Thanks again so much for the support and assistance.
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

I am looking forward to hear what you find.

 

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
After reading the above info, realized I was not testing the LG/R wire with the ignition on. After putting it in the on position, I was reading 1.34V. Should I continue this diagnostic list? Thanks again.
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

Go through the pinpoint test, it should either lead to a wiring issue or a faulty alternator. The alternator you put on should have came with a regulator, so you would not replace the regulator. Let me know how it turns out.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ill go through the pinpoint tests to see if whats the problem again.


One thing though, just putting they in the on position (without starting it over) several times while I testing fuses, made the alternator lukewarm to the touch. Every other engine component was ambient temperature so I found this very odd. What do you think?
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

Honestly it sounds like a defective alternator by what we have tested so far. Was the alternator replaced for this same issue?

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
This is still the original alternator Iv had for the last 2 years but I put on a brand new one just to test the alternator/voltage regulator and it did the exact same thing. Whenever I unplug the voltage regulator it stops making the whining sound and over heating. Is there any way to bypass or modify the signal causing this constant hight output?
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

Did the buld in the dash stay on with key on, engine off? Does it go off when the engine is started? What is the voltage on the violet/white wire with the connectors connected and the engine running? It should be battery voltage. Check these things and get back to me again.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
With key on/engine off, the bulb is on.
With key on/engine on, the bulb is off.

Key on/engine running, the yellow/white wire is 14.7V.
Key on/engine running, the light green/red wire is 14.23V

This is with no load.


EDIT: I did some quick data logging to see if the computer is getting what I was reading. Here are some pics. I guess not all PID's are in real time.

http://www.3.8mustang.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=135523&d=1222670704

http://www.3.8mustang.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=135524&d=1222670704
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

I am going back through everything to see if there is something we missed. According to your test results it should not be overcharging. If the alternator is putting out that much amperage either it is not getting to the battery, or the battery is faulty. If we have good voltage drop on all cables, the amperage should be getting to the battery. You might double check the ground cable on the engine. It is possible for the battery to not accept a charge also. It is strange that it would have the correct voltage with that much amperage going to it.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I checked the ground cable yesterday and there are no breaks or loose ends on it. Also replaced the battery terminals yesterday just in case. I just put this motor in about 3 months ago. Is there only one ground cable on the driver side motor to driver side fender well, or is there another one I am missing? Any other grounds? Thanks. Also like I asked earlier, is there a way to override this or modify the signal so that its not over working?
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

There should be a ground cable going to the engine from the battery, and a wire going to the fender. Are they both there? There is not really a way to change the signal going to the alternator, the yellow/white wire is the sensing wire. It shows the regulator what the battery voltage is. The regulator then determines how much the alternator will put out. You could run a wire from the battery positive to the Yellow/white wire at the alternator to see if it made a difference.

 

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Where does the ground going from the battery to the engine go to? The ground going from the engine to the left side fender seems to be in place and have continuity. Also connected below the ground (engine to fender) is a bracket. On my friends 00 3.8 mustang his bracket is where my engine to fender ground is connected and his engine to ground is where my bracket (for harness) is connected. Would this make any difference? I also found another bracket for the harness on the passenger side of the engine on the engine mount that was loose and went ahead and tightened that down but no difference as the alternator is heating up to a very high temperature. One thought though..would a high out put alternator be a quick fix since its not working as hard to produce the amps needed?
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

I cannot find a good picture or diagram and I honestly don't remember exactly where it goes. It shows to "LH front of engine". There should be two ground cables coming off of the battery, one of them goes to the fender, the other to the engine. A heavy duty alternator would not help, it would just charge too much also.

 

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
ok Ill triple check again but it all seems ok. Ive done some more research and its seems that everyone that has posted this problem, has NOT found the issue so it does not look promising. Also, I believe a 200A alternator puts out a lot more amps at idle making it work less than my 130A right now. Why would this not work? Sorry for all the questions but thanks for the support!


EDIT: So I changed the fuel pump today from stock to the svt focus 310lph one and she feels nice. Im going to drive it from the garage to the house today so I can at least look at it everyday.
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

Your alternator should not be putting out very much amperage to keep the battery charged period. Putting on a larger output alternator may reduce the percentage of load on the alternator, but it is not fixing the problem. I am still trying to figure out where the amperage is going. If it was going into the battery it would be boiling the battery, if it were not making it to the battery there has to be some high resistance somewhere creating some heat. Is there anything else aftermarket that could possibly be using this amperage while running?

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Well she made it home ok and the fuel pump is doing great. But the alternator is, of course, extremely hot.

Just to make sure my stereo and amp were not causing a problem, the head deck and amp are completely disconnected from everythinge. A/C is off and there is no other load that I can see/think of. Some background on the car:
Its a 98 but has a split port swap (99+ sytle heads and intakes) with good work done to the heads (porting, bowl work .600" springs)
It has a cam (212/216 .589/.591") but the I dont set the idle too low (about 700-800 rpm).
Ive done an automatic to manual swap which made me eliminate the rear 02's due to a conflict in the automatic harness and 5-speed harness. Therefore, I dont have the rear 02 harness plugged in the engine bay. (they were just cluttering up the bottom, but I plugged it back in the engine bay with no different results.
I use a 99+ T-5 transmission in which uses a magnet type of VSS as opposed to stock plastic gear on the tail shaft, so I use a speedcal(ibrator) to correct the signal so that th PCM can utilize the new type of sensor. (I unplugged this when testing the alternator so its not this unit. I have it powered from the cigarette lighter power.)
I have a 25% underdrive pulley on the crankshaft but have never seen any adverse from this as Ive had it installed for 8+ years with zero problems.
I recently replaced the shortblock (98 as well) since the old one spun a rod bearing but the top end consists of what was listed above.
All pcm tunes are done by a dyno tuner in the local area (about 90 miles away) and I used the sct xcal 2 for manipulating some parameters on the pcm (still limited software but its a great product)

I have an IR heat thermometer and will take some readings and post them but Im pretty sure that its going to be a little of the toasty side. Not sure where any of these amps are going to but the battery does seem to be fine.

Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

Did you ever confirm you have a negative battery cable going directly to the engine block? The car sounds like a great ride, congratulations.

 

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks. Its great when it actually runs right though :P

I did see the engine to fender ground but am not seeing the battery to engine ground unless its the one that goes to the started (ground not power wire). Would a redundant ground (if I manually ran a ground from the battery to the engine) messing with anything important?
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

If there is a ground cable from the battery to the starter bolt, then that should be good. Just make sure it is a good connection. You could definitely run a ground cable to the engine to eliminate that as a possiblilty.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Finally got a chance to run a nice gauge size wire from the battery ground to the engine and not really much has changed. I did remember to bring my infrared thermometer though. I drove it around the block and it was reading 177 degrees F. Once I let it idle for around 15-20 mins it red between 188-194 degrees F. The highest reading I got was 201 F but this was with the car just idling(no load, ie ac or headlights) so the internal fan was not pushing much air out of it. When I briefly reved it, the temp went back down to around 188ish degrees F. Valve cover surface temp was around 180 -182 F and rear radiator by fan surface temp was around 168 F. ( I think this is helping to cool the alternator as well). So what do you think? Are these temps within range? Thanks again.
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

Let me check some tomorrow and see what the temps are and I will get back with you. I am not in the shop right now.

 

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Sounds great, thanks a lot. Also, outside temps today were around 100 degrees F.
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

I checked the temp on a few alternators today. They were running around 140 degrees. Both were on vehicles with no issues and fully charged batteries. It is only about 60 degrees here today. So, I am not sure the alternator is actually overheating on you. It just does not add up that the alternator would be outputting that much amperage without overcharging the battery or losing current through a connection. Maybe you should have the output checked at another place. Make sure you ask them what the amperage is at idle with nothing on. We do not want to check the maximum output, we want to know what it is charging normally. We alreay know that disconnecting it makes it stop charging, we know the voltage checks and voltage drops are good, we know the battery voltage is good when it is running and the battery tested good. I am not sure where else to go except to double check the amperage output.

 

Thanks,

Tim

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I guess its not too bad. There was an outside temp difference of 40 degrees F and mine is running around 50 degrees hotter. I may drive it around to see what happens but Ill see if I can find a place to test AMP output at idle.
Expert:  Tim replied 5 years ago.
Customer

 

Let me know what you find out.

 

Tim

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