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Alternator R&R procedure (looong)
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Posted by Noel [Email] (more from Noel) on Sat, 7 Aug 2010 15:39:07 Share Post by Email
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I did this job a few weeks back and wrote it up. Just tweaked it and wanted to share it. No pictures, but I think it's pretty clear.

Scott, please put it up in Procedures. Everyone else, please add to it with your own tricks.

Alternator R&R (this is for a CS-series car. The job was done on a '96 CSE)

This is a job most people really don't look forward to, and with good reason. It's awkward, you have to remove a bunch of things that are in the way and it takes a lot longer than it should. After all, on lots of cars the alternator is readily accessible, but on the 9K its buried underneath the upper engine mount and above the power steering pump. And you get to remove the fender liners and serpentine belt. All fun stuff.

So here goes. I don't have any pix, but most of this is pretty obvious as you get in there.

Begin by disconnecting the battery.
Then, start the disassembly up top. This is to give you some of the access you'll need, and minimizes risk of damage to some sensitive bits and your arms, too. And if you're lucky or especially dexterous, maybe a way to pull the alternator out.
Remove the upper engine mount (the dogbone bracket).
Remove the MAP sensor and hose
Disconnect the ground cable that attaches to the top of the motor mount bracket
Remove the vac hose to the fuel pressure regulator.
Slide the PS fluid reservoir off its bracket and tuck it out of the way, like maybe behind the oil fill pipe. Be gentle: the hoses may be a tad fragile where they connect to the reservoir.

On top of the black plastic cap on the back of the alternator there are two nuts, one 13mm that holds on the main power line from the battery and a smaller (8 or 9 mm) that is the ground. Undo these and disconnect the wires. Tuck the wires out of the way.

Next, jack the car, support it on a good stand and chock at least two wheels.
Remove the RF wheel, the wheel arch edge trim and both the front and rear fender liners. (8mm and 10mm nuts and bolts)
Get out whatever tool you prefer for holding the serp belt tensioner in a compressed position.

Use a 19mm socket on a breaker bar with a cheater pipe to SLOWLY compress the tensioner (Pull toward the firewall--remember it's a left handed thread) and put the tool in place to hold it. Remove the serp belt from the alternator and PS pulleys. (This may be a good time to R&R the idler and tensioner pulleys if you haven't done them in a while.) I did mine while I was there.

Be sure to do a diagram or shoot a digital photo so you can remember the routing for the belt.

Next, go after the PS pump and bracket. While it looks like you can get the alternator out without removing the PS pump, it just doesn't work. The alternator ALMOST comes out, and it might with enough wiggling and angling, but I couldn't do it. It can supposedly come out the top, some say by jacking up the engine, but I didn't go that way. I found that the brake line on the firewall and the two vacuum nipples on threaded fittings on the RF end of the intake manifold were in the way. I think the nipples could be removed, but I wasn't feeling lucky about removing a threaded fitting in aluminum that had been in one place for 14 years, so decided to take it out the bottom and the side. (With planning, the nipples could probably be hit with PB Blaster and maybe some heat and come out OK, but I had visions of them breaking off and didn't want to go there. YMMV.

So anyway…
The PS pump pulley has holes in it so you can access the two 13mm bolts that hold it to the bracket. The top one goes into a threaded part of the bracket but the bottom one has a nut on the inboard end. You need a shortish 13mm wrench to hold the nut.

This gets the pump loose, but you still need to get at the bracket which is just an aluminum casting. This is held to the engine block with four 13mm bolts. Two are under the PS pump and easily accessed, the other two are further up. They aren't bad to get at with the pump out of the way. You'll just lie the pump down so it rests on the subframe in front of the sway bar, etc.

So on to the alternator. It is held on by two 8mm Allen headed bolts. You'll need a right angle hex key on the upper one due to tight spaces, but a 8mm hex drive on a ratchet or breaker bar will work on the lower one. There is interference with the right angle hex key and some sheet metal on the top one. I used linesman pliers and a pointy pair of vice grips to bend the sheet metal slightly to give me more room. You don't have to bend the metal much. This bend makes pulling the alternator much easier.

These 8mm bolts will be tight, and the threads are on the far ends, so PB Blaster is not necessarily all that helpful except maybe on the top one. Gentle use of a cheater pipe on the hex key for the upper one, and a cheater or breaker bar on the lower one makes it easier to crack them loose.

The upper bolt won't really come out all the way due to the clearance noted above, but the bracket where it goes is slotted. All you need to do is get it loose so the alternator can pivot backwards. The lower bolt comes out and needs to be removed. Loosen it up but don't remove it yet.

With the top bolt loose, break the alternator free of its location. A long screwdriver or pry bar may be needed, but it should come free easily and pivot backwards toward the firewall. If you haven't already done them, you can now get to the upper two bolts on the PS pump bracket.

DISCLAIMER: I removed the bottom bolt on the alternator and when I pivoted it back I just lowered it down, resting it on the PS hoses and against the firewall. This gave great access to the upper two 13mm bolts on the PS bracket. Remove those and then extract the bracket.

With the alternator not connected to anything, you get to twist, wiggle, cuss, pinch your fingers, etc., as you pull it out past the PS pump, sheetmetal and the spring and strut. It comes out just fine, but you may have to try a few times to get it oriented the right way. What makes it awkward is that it weights 10 pounds and you are holding it in one hand, while doing all the twisting and the mounting tabs and pulley catch on things. It's just a tight fit. Be patient.

Now work backwards with the new alternator. Put it in and gently rest it on the PS hoses, against the firewall, etc., or do like I did and hang it off the oil fill pipe with a short bungee.

Reattach the PS pump bracket, and here's a place to be careful. On my car, some of the threads for the bottom outside bolt were stripped out. I'd had the bracket replaced once before when it cracked at the idler pulley and I think the tech who did it must have over-torqued the steel bolt that goes into the aluminum front cover of the engine.
I bought a new bolt at the hardware store (13mm head, 8mm shaft with 1.25mm threads, 60mm long) that went deeper into the hole and this held fine. The alternatives were (a) to re-tap the hole, which would probably mean going up a shaft diameter to 9mm and buying a different bolt. Or (b) Dremel out a notch in the front cover so I coulod fit a nut on the end of a bolt through the hole. Neither is all that hard to do, but would be kinda awkward. Just tossing this out so beware that this could happen.

Now put the PS pump on. It is a tight fit to get the pump back into the bracket. It really JUST fits, and lining up the holes for the bolts can be a little frustrating. Take a moment to examine the pump. Mine failed on a trip, just 1,000 miles later. Maybe taking it int and out upset the pump, but if I had inspected the pump I might have noticed some play in the shaft that resulted in a leak that had to be dealt with on the road (Thank You, Road Tested Saabs!)

Now for the alternator, which is another really tight fit at the bottom pivot point. DO NOT FORCE anything here. The alternator is mounting to an aluminum casting (the PS bracket) and you don't want to crack/break the aluminum. I used a soft headed hammer to GENTLY tap the alternator into place, along with some gentle prodding with a 12" screwdriver. You have to do some pushing and pulling to get it into place and the bottom blot through the hole. I got the bottom close, and moved it back and forth and it went in. Once the bottom one is in, pivot the alternator up into place and put in the top bolt. Put this bolt through the alternator first so it lines up with the slot on the bracket and so you'll be able to tighten the top bolt. Having bent the sheetmetal when you took the top bolt out makes tightening up the top one easier. Once it's in place tighten up the bottom one too.

Re-route the serp belt over the alternator and PS pump pulleys, take the tension off the tensioner and remove the tool.

Up top, replace and reconnect:
The alternator wires
MAP sensor and vac hose
FPR hose
Upper engine mount
PS reservoir

Fire up the engine and make sure the belt is running nicely over all the pulleys. If it is, shut down, put the fender liners back on, close it all up with the fender trim.

Turn it all on again, do a reset on your ACC (if necessary), reprogram your radio stations, and go for a drive to make sure the alternator is doing its job.

A final thought. Clean up all the bolts you remove, then put either anti-seize or high temp grease on them when reinstalling. I use a wire wheel on my bench grinder or my cordless drill. This helps ensure they will go in smoothly and some out again if necessary. This is just the way I have always worked, but in doing this job I discovered my #1 indy does the same. All the bolts for the PS pump were greased from when he replaced the PS bracket a few years back when the idler pulley mount died.

And if you have suggestions or corrections to this, please copy the text, make the changes, and repost, letting Scott know it's an update.

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