Friday, November 25, 2016

VW Alternator Antics

It's Been Awhile..

Haven't updated this thing in a while.  I have no real excuse other than the CW started airing their Superhero shows again, and I get home late sometimes. 

Hmm.  Stay up late banging out a blog post or park my big ass on the couch and catch up with what Supergirl, The Flash, The Green Arrow and the Legends of Tomorrow crew are up to?

Let's just say that my couch has a rather nice, Muttski shaped dent in it now.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker for a blonde in a red skirt and a cape, flying around and dispensing justice.  And don't get me started on the White Canary.

Nevertheless, this doesn't mean things haven't been going on in the old garage, it just means I've been too lazy to document it.

So, since I have some downtime due to the Thanksgiving Holiday, I guess some posts are in order.

You Have Failed me For The Last Time....

Usually, I write about the Miata, because I'm always qworking on it.  However this time it was my old faithful and reliable daily driver that decided to act up. Yes, "The Helmet", my stalwart, diesel powered steed, has decided it needed some attention.

Did It Always Make This Noise?

 So, there I was driving the Helmet around town to run some errands.  Pulled into a parking spot and noticed it made this horrible, growling noise whenever I turned the wheel.  It was loud enough that people passing by were giving me the "What a hoopty" look.

This would not do.

Well, What's Wrong Now?

Determined to fix whatever was wrong with the car, and get rid of the God awful noise, I started troubleshooting.

In the parking lot.  Of a Target.  On a Saturday Night.

Do I know how to party, or what? 

I turned the wheel a few more times, and was able to repeat the noise, but noticed that it went away whenever I gave it a bit more throttle.  It struck me as weird that the noise was affected by RPM.  I popped the hood and checked the power steering fluid level, and noted that it was VERY low.  Well there's my problem!!  Right?  Just top that sucker off and it's back to noise free high MPG shenanigans.

Thanks VW

The power steering fluid used in most MkIV VW products, is something that's not available in the automotive section of your typical Wal-Mart or Target.  After some hurried research on my phone in the parking lot, I found out from several online forums, that in no uncertain terms  to NOT use off the shelf stuff, and instead use a dealer approved fluid.

Great, would totally do that...if a dealership was open at 8pm on a Saturday. 

Feeling defeated, I got the car home and started looking around in the garage and found a box of extras that were included with the car when I bought it.
 Found a container of power steering fluid in my box of junk and topped off the reservoir.  I figured, problem solved.

I was wrong.

I cycled the steering from lock to lock to try and bleed the system, for about 10 minutes and only succeeded in making more noise, pissing off my neighbors and thoroughly disgusting myself for not having noticed the power steering fluid was low.

At this point I figured either the power steering pump or rack had nuked itself, and I was going to have to spend some money to replace both components.  I resolved to just drive the car and live with the cringe inducing noises it made, until I could replace the parts or it blew up. 

Noisy Cricket

I drove it for about a week, with the noise haunting me in every parking lot, or low speed turn.  The "hooptification" of my vehicle continued unabated, and I wasn't happy about it.

The noise would go away, whenever the RPM's climbed past idle, and to me that didn't sound like a bad steering rack or power steering pump. Plus, there was no sign of fluid or leakage anywhere that I could see.  If it was making that much noise, there had to be some serious contamination in the pump and rack.  Surely it should have started to leak somewhere, right?

So, once again the hood was popped with the engine running.  I wanted to see if I could spot any leaks, with the rack under pressure.  I didn't see any leaks, but I did see something else that was unusual.

Twerk, Twerk, Twerk..

With the engine running at idle, the spring loaded tensioner for the serpentine belt was rocking back and forth so hard, I thought it was going to fly off and whack me in the head.  I know that tensioners are expected to move slightly during operation, but this one looked like a cracked out hula dancer.

Once again, I searched on the forums and researched what could possibly cause the tensioner to act like that.  A post on TDIClub (The "Go To" Forum For VW TDI Owners) stated that not only was the tensioner not supposed to do that, but the cause of the tensioner shaking, could also account for the horrible hoopty inducing sounds my car was making.

Thanks Volkswagen...Again

According to some forum members, the tensioner issue and the noises, were possibly due to a bad pulley on the alternator.  The alternator used a one way clutch incorporated into the pulley, for some dumbassed reason.  If it seizes up, then the serpentine belt would load up under tension at low speeds, causing a noise somewhat akin to a power steering setup, shitting itself.

I blocked the armature of the alternator with a screwdriver, and loosened the belt.  Sure enough, the pulley was locked up.

Fortunately, the pulley was replaceable in the car.

Unfortunately, it required a special tool set to replace it, along with a new pulley.
Off to ID Parts to order what I needed. A new pulley, and a tool kit to remove and install the pulley in the car. 
 Check out Metal Nerd for all your specialty and oddball  tools and bits for VW's and other cars.

This Is What I Needed: Metal Nerd MN3400 Alternator Bit Set

Adapt, Improvise....Hit It With A Hammer

After a few days, everything showed up and I was ready to tackle this thing and "Make My VW Great Again."  

Loosened the serpentine belt again, with a 17mm Open End Wrench and a tensioner lock tool to hold the tensioner in place.  Moved the belt out of the way.

Consulted the directions on the Metal Nerd Tool Kit and got a breaker bar with a 12mm socket to hold the center bit in place and  used the 17mm wrench to turn the bit on the alternator pulley.  Held the breaker bar in place, while turning the wrench in a loosening (counter clockwise) direction and.....

*STRIP!!!* (DAMN IT!!)

  The splines inside the alternator shaft, were either already stripped out, or the tool stripped them out when I applied my God Like torque to the wrench .  Either way, it was hosed and the alternator was going to have to come out.


The alternator is pretty easy to remove. 2 13mm bolts hold it in place.  There is a electrical plug on the rear of the alternator, with a ring terminal held on by a 14mm nut with a lock washer.  There's also a clamp to hold the wiring in place, but it can be removed after the alternator bolts are removed to allow access to the 7mm nut holding the clamp in place.

With the alternator out, it was time to get "froggy" with the pulley.  Using the splined Metal Nerd bit and a 17mm socket, a electric impact gun was used to remove the old pulley.  The new pulley was threaded on along with a few tightening taps from the impact gun. A couple of "Ugga Uggas" if you want to get technical about it.

I Think That's Got It..

Reassembled everything, and I'm happy to report the tensioner doesn't shake anymore and the steering rack is quiet once again.

I've learned a few things from all this.

1.  Don't always assume the worst.  -  I was all ready to buy a new steering rack and a power steering pump, when the problem turned out to be a $39.95 (plus shipping) bearing, plus a $29.95 (plus shipping)  specialty tool kit. A little more troubleshooting and a clearer head, saved me some money and aggravation.

2.  VW Engineers Need A Kick In The Ass-  Seriously?  A special bit set to pull off a freaking pulley?  Was a bolt and lock washer too mainstream for you guys?

3.  I've Got Nothing-  I'm just glad the stupid thing isn't making the noise anymore.

And, I think the door sensor switch on the Driver;'s Side Front door is going out now.


Alpha, Mike, Foxtrot....


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