Created on: March 12, 2013 Last Updated: March 18, 2013
You don't need special skills to change the alternator in your vehicle, but you do need to know how to prevent damage to components during the process and guarantee that the charging system in your car will operate as it should. Depending on your particular vehicle, you can change the alternator in a few easy steps or follow a more involved process. Still, you can replace your vehicle's alternator at home using a few common tools you may already have.
Removing the alternator
Before you start, disconnect the negative terminal from the battery using a wrench. This will prevent a potential short circuit from damaging electrical or electronic components as you work on your alternator. Now, check whether you have enough room to remove the alternator from the top of the engine compartment. This will depend on the distribution of accessories around the engine.
Don't feel discouraged if you don't see a way to remove the alternator from the top. You'll probably have to work through the bottom of the engine compartment. See if you need to remove a splash shield from under the engine compartment. Use a floor jack to raise your vehicle and support it safely on jack stands. Then, block the rear wheels and engage the parking brake before crawling under the car. Once you remove the shield, reach for the alternator's mounting bolts and bracket.
Start loosening the adjusting, pivot and/or holding alternator's bolts. This will let you remove the drive belt if your alternator has one.
Vehicle models with a serpentine belt offer a more friendly way to remove—and reinstall—the belt. To remove it, rotate the spring-loaded belt tensioner against the spring force (by placing a wrench or socket wrench on the tensioner's bolt). This will release belt tension, allowing you to slip the belt off the alternator's pulleys. Then, slowly let the tensioner pulley spring back into place.
After removing the drive or serpentine belt, unplug all electrical connections from the alternator's back. Note which connection/wire connects where, so that you install each one back in the correct place. Then, remove the bolts and alternator from your vehicle.
Installing the alternator
To install the alternator, follow the same removal process in reverse order. If your alternator has a drive belt, though, you'll need to manually adjust the belt tension while installing it. Do it before tightening the locking and pivot bolts that secure the alternator in place.
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