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Discussion Starter #1
Good evening everyone,

My van sits in the driveway most days while I drive my 12-year-old Prius because of operating costs. With the brutally cold weather I decide to take the van, figuring it was less likely to leave me stranded. Or not.



Fortunately I was a mile from the dealer when it happened. I'm now in a loaner Cherokee while they figure it out. I'm guessing the alternator didn't like the cold...this has been the most unreliable vehicle I think I've owned. Nothing major, just constant minor glitches. This is the second one that would have left me stranded if I didn't get it to the dealer ASAP. Kiiinda frustrated. :|
 

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I have owned a LOT of vehicles.
In my experience, alternators (and starters) go out randomly, unpredictably.
 

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Good evening everyone,

My van sits in the driveway most days while I drive my 12-year-old Prius because of operating costs. With the brutally cold weather I decide to take the van, figuring it was less likely to leave me stranded. Or not.



Fortunately I was a mile from the dealer when it happened. I'm now in a loaner Cherokee while they figure it out. I'm guessing the alternator didn't like the cold...this has been the most unreliable vehicle I think I've owned. Nothing major, just constant minor glitches. This is the second one that would have left me stranded if I didn't get it to the dealer ASAP. Kiiinda frustrated. :|
While it may be the alternator, you might want to also check the build date of your van. My OEM battery (non ESS) was a 2 year battery and at about 28 months and 33,000 miles or so managed to throw some codes so the dealer checked the battery and it failed the test before it left me stranded. (They did replace the battery under the three year factory warranty somehow.)

I'm not surprised that the extreme cold would be enough to finish off your battery. It will be interesting to see if your van's alternator has a problem. Why do you think it is the alternator vs just a dead battery? You actually got the red battery symbol. I've wondered where it was supposed to show up. I'm still trying to figure out that gauge and if it can help prevent a problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
While it may be the alternator, you might want to also check the build date of your van. My OEM battery (non ESS) was a 2 year battery and at about 28 months and 33,000 miles or so managed to throw some codes so the dealer checked the battery and it failed the test before it left me stranded. (They did replace the battery under the three year factory warranty somehow.)
I've seen failing batteries cause some mysterious electrical issues, but nothing quite like this. I've also seen batteries fail in only a few years; the battery in my Escape only made it three years. They can also last a long time, though...I just replaced the factory 12v battery in my 2006 Prius two months ago.

I'm not surprised that the extreme cold would be enough to finish off your battery. It will be interesting to see if your van's alternator has a problem. Why do you think it is the alternator vs just a dead battery? You actually got the red battery symbol. I've wondered where it was supposed to show up. I'm still trying to figure out that gauge and if it can help prevent a problem.
I'm fairly sure it's an alternator because of the symptoms. Over the years I've diagnosed and repaired at least a half-dozen alternators, and the symptoms were all like this. The car starts and runs fine, but the alternator doesn't make any power, which causes voltage to drop as the battery powers the car. After about a half-hour of running, the battery starts to fail and systems will shut down eventually leaving you dead in the water.

My van started up just fine, and ran well for over 100 miles yesterday on a few different trips. It was in the middle of a short trip across town that I got a "Charging System Failure" message and battery light. I scroll to the battery voltage and see what I posted above, which indicates the alternator wasn't making power. I drive right to the dealer, shut it off in the bay. It started perfectly fine at least twice more as they moved it up in the bay, then out to their lot after checking in, all the while with the warning light and message displayed.

Contrary to popular belief, cold weather doesn't kill batteries. Up here it's not uncommon for batteries to last 7-10 years or more, just like the one in my Prius. Cold will certainly reveal a weak battery, though.
 

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I've seen failing batteries cause some mysterious electrical issues, but nothing quite like this. I've also seen batteries fail in only a few years; the battery in my Escape only made it three years. They can also last a long time, though...I just replaced the factory 12v battery in my 2006 Prius two months ago.



I'm fairly sure it's an alternator because of the symptoms. Over the years I've diagnosed and repaired at least a half-dozen alternators, and the symptoms were all like this. The car starts and runs fine, but the alternator doesn't make any power, which causes voltage to drop as the battery powers the car. After about a half-hour of running, the battery starts to fail and systems will shut down eventually leaving you dead in the water.

My van started up just fine, and ran well for over 100 miles yesterday on a few different trips. It was in the middle of a short trip across town that I got a "Charging System Failure" message and battery light. I scroll to the battery voltage and see what I posted above, which indicates the alternator wasn't making power. I drive right to the dealer, shut it off in the bay. It started perfectly fine at least twice more as they moved it up in the bay, then out to their lot after checking in, all the while with the warning light and message displayed.

Contrary to popular belief, cold weather doesn't kill batteries. Up here it's not uncommon for batteries to last 7-10 years or more, just like the one in my Prius. Cold will certainly reveal a weak battery, though.
Was the 11.2 volts with the van running? Hope they get it sorted out quickly and you post the diagnosis.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Was the 11.2 volts with the van running? Hope they get it sorted out quickly and you post the diagnosis.
Yep, that was with the van running and idling in gear. I couldn’t get over 11.3v from when it failed to when I shut it down at the dealer. Pretty typical of a failed alternator in my opinion, it went out like flipping off a switch, It never strayed below 14v before this point.
 

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I'm fairly sure it's an alternator because of the symptoms. Over the years I've diagnosed and repaired at least a half-dozen alternators, and the symptoms were all like this. The car starts and runs fine, but the alternator doesn't make any power, which causes voltage to drop as the battery powers the car. After about a half-hour of running, the battery starts to fail and systems will shut down eventually leaving you dead in the water.

My van started up just fine, and ran well for over 100 miles yesterday on a few different trips. It was in the middle of a short trip across town that I got a "Charging System Failure" message and battery light. I scroll to the battery voltage and see what I posted above, which indicates the alternator wasn't making power. I drive right to the dealer, shut it off in the bay. It started perfectly fine at least twice more as they moved it up in the bay, then out to their lot after checking in, all the while with the warning light and message displayed.
I appreciate the explanation. I'm glad that the van had a message about the charging system with the battery light. It seems like someone else recently had an alternator problem. Thanks for posting.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I don’t have an update, they haven’t called me yet. They told me they may be able to get to it this afternoon, but they weren’t certain. Which is fine, they gave me a pretty nice loaner, and I always enjoy something different for a bit. As frustrated as I am with my van, they are probably more eager to get their loaner back then I am to get my van.

That will change over the weekend, though. I miss my power doors!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yup, it is confirmed to be a failed alternator. I dodged a bullet, I've got 104 miles left on the factory warranty. They have it ordered, but it looks like they won't get it in until the middle of next week.

I can't complain, they gave me a brand-new Cherokee Trailhawk with 100 miles on the odometer as a loaner. I've got to say Chrysler has the nicest loaner fleet I've ever seen, all of the Fords I've ever gotten loaners in years past have been subcompacts. It's a shame I spent so many miles behind the wheel of a Chrysler loaner, though…
 

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Yup, it is confirmed to be a failed alternator. I dodged a bullet, I've got 104 miles left on the factory warranty. They have it ordered, but it looks like they won't get it in until the middle of next week.

I can't complain, they gave me a brand-new Cherokee Trailhawk with 100 miles on the odometer as a loaner. I've got to say Chrysler has the nicest loaner fleet I've ever seen, all of the Fords I've ever gotten loaners in years past have been subcompacts. It's a shame I spent so many miles behind the wheel of a Chrysler loaner, though…
Really glad that this happened under warranty. Wonder what the cost would be without the warranty???
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Really glad that this happened under warranty. Wonder what the cost would be without the warranty???
I ran some numbers with book labor rates from Alldata. $660 MSRP on the alternator plus 2.3 hours labor. Depending on the exact labor rate, the dealer would charge me just north of $1,000 after sales tax.

Is the kind of job I would certainly do myself, unfortunately at the moment I’m fighting with some health issues and my hands are not up for it at the moment. I certainly got lucky with the warranty. And location, this would’ve been bad in the middle of nowhere at that temperature.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Or maybe I wouldn’t do it myself. Shop manual calls for the removal of the A/C compressor, which isn’t something I could do without equipment to evacuate and recharge the system.
 

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Or maybe I wouldn’t do it myself. Shop manual calls for the removal of the A/C compressor, which isn’t something I could do without equipment to evacuate and recharge the system.
Removal of the A/C compressor will take that work away from many DIY folks :frown2:
And best of luck with your hand issues. That is a hindrance for me as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Just a quick follow-up, it's still in the shop. The alternator arrived yesterday, but they haven't had time to get to it. I'm not complaining though, and I told him to take their time… The Jeep Cherokee I have is a loner is much better in snow, and this last week has been the snowiest week of the season.

I expect to get it back tomorrow, though… We shall see.
 

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Just a quick follow-up, it's still in the shop. The alternator arrived yesterday, but they haven't had time to get to it. I'm not complaining though, and I told him to take their time… The Jeep Cherokee I have is a loner is much better in snow, and this last week has been the snowiest week of the season.

I expect to get it back tomorrow, though… We shall see.
...a mixed blessing :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Good evening guys,

I finally got my van back, and all seems to be well after the alternatr replacement. There wasn't much detail in the remarks, but the alternator was replaced and I can see from the wrench marks they did remove the A/C lines. I roll over 36,000 miles today, I have to admit I question the idea of keeping this thing.

It is been the least dependable vehicle I have ever owned, and I'm concerned about A/C reliability after the system was opened. Those repairs aren't cheap, and I have no way of testing the system for another few months until it warms up, which is long past when the warranty is up. This is the second repair that would have left me stranded on the side of the road had I not noticed the failure.
 

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