A story of luck

JP

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#1
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MAKE:Buick
MODEL: Lesabre
YEAR
:2001
MILES: 196kish
ENGINE
:3.8l
DESCRIBE ISSUE....Charging system failure...sort of.

Last weekend I replaced the lower and upper intake manifold gaskets with no apparent problems. Or so I thought. The check charging system light went on the other day. Then off for a couple days, then back on again. I suspect that I buggered something up when I worked on the manifold gaskets. I don't specifically remember attaching the wiring clip back on the alternator, but on a two second inspection don't see that I failed to re-attach it. Will investigate this evening. Meanwhile, a story for your entertainment:

This AM I'm in a rush...take the 2001 Buick to see if my brake work last night was sufficient. Voltage light on. Yeah, yeah, whatever.

2 miles down the road, the "check charging system" driver alert starts flashing. Uh-oh. A couple miles down the road, it goes into "battery saver mode" and starts shutting stuff off. It's humid, and the HVAC gets shut off.

...
OK, that's uncomfortable, but I can manage. Then the Traction control system gets shut off. Eh, it's not slippery out, I can manage.

Then I'm within three lights of work, and the gauges shut off.

Two lights, the engine starts to stumble. Did I mention it is raining?

The engine strains to get me to the light at the intersection, which lasts forever...Oh Please Oh Please Oh Please Oh Please Oh Please...then I get the green arrow...

Now at this point, I'm thinking it probably would have been better to have the car stall at the side of the road, not in the middle of the intersection, seeing as it is raining. That thought flashed through my mind as the engine was struggling to fire and get me through the intersection as the guy behind me is honking his horn...not knowing that I'm not purposely driving at a snail's pace.

So I wave politely at him, sort of a moot gesture, since there's no way I can communicate my car problems in a way he can understand.

But I made it through the intersection and into my work parking lot, next to the building, where I plan on recharging the battery for a (hopefully) less eventful trip home.

Luck or am I living right?

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nickb2

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#2
Luck mostly, however I do believe in karma. But karma does not interact with a defective charging system, only you can.

I once remember zinging through a stop light at full speed because the friction part of a front brake pad had gotten so thin and hot, the glue separated. Before I could pump the brakes enough, to late. Blew that stop light and almost got sideswiped. I said to myself "whew" close call.

That is what I call lucky and stupid, cus I could have killed somebody. Or myself. 700$ 92 volkswagen golf, and I never checked the brakes after I bought it. Dumb!!:confused:

Lesson learned.

Here is a wiring for the charging system for that lesabre.
Screenshot (87).png Screenshot (88).png
 

nickb2

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#3
If wiring to and from battery on this delta wound alternator are sound. And connections from D C B are good to PCM. Suspect alt or PCM .Replace the alternator or rebuild it. http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Buick-Lesabr...Alternator-Repair-Kit-2001-2002-/351178356891

Or swap with a known good one. If no go, damn! May be the PCM or the DIM.

Your field generator is "C" and the turn on is "B" and is PCM controlled. You could try a hack like with a chrysler and use an external regulator, but you must assure the diodes are rectifying first to save the alternator.

http://www.autozone.com/1/categories/buick-lesabre-alternator-diodes
 

JP

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I wasn't so lucky on the way home. Had a charger on the battery for a couple hours, then decided to make the run home. 2miles away, and everything started shutting off in sequence. It was sorta cool...in a sad sort of way. Called home, pinched a battery out of our spare car, and now it's sitting in the garage. I suspect that I buggered up a clip or connection. It's not the original alternator and was working fine until I took it off for the manifold service. I guess tomorrow is electrical day.
 

JP

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Oh, yes. BTW it set a P0620 code, which pretty much tells me what I already know. It was interesting to see all the codes that were set as the battery died, and to see the IP starting to light up like a Christmas tree before it too went dark. Dark....and quiet.
 

JP

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Why, here it is! IMAG0121.jpg



Can I nominate myself for the BAT Auto Forums "Captain Obvious" dumbest-mistake-whilst-reassembling-a-repair-job award?
 

nickb2

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#10
Well, I would certainly not call you dumb nor giving you an award for a mistake. A wrench here has a dictation in his profile.

It say's "mistake's are the name we give to experience" or something to that effect!

Bolt down that support bar. And check wiring for a pinched wire on that alt connector.

Oh, don't forget to plug it in!!;):bat: Haha, Thanx for the pics. I am confident you have just found your solution and if you got codes, you have access to a scanner, just erase them after checking wiring and proper connector repair. Use the wiring provided. If you don't have it. Just ask. I will provide it again.

Regards

Nickb2
 
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JP

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Good catch on the support bar nut. I decided to take a pix just before tightening up all the bolts and nuts. Also checked the wires, as the harness was mashed under the alternator. It seemed to me that the bolts were a little hard to tighten down at the time. Duh. Should've remembered that if something doesn't seem or feel right, it probably isn't. Like that time I put on the new oil filter without realizing that the gasket from the old one was still on the engine. It just didn't feel right when I tightened it down. Of course, it wasn't, judging by the oil spraying everywhere. I now check every gasket. Guess it's called "experience".

I guess there's a slight disadvantage to the "when you're done connecting all the connectors that you see, then you're done" theory of shade tree auto repair, lol. When I was mulling over the problem, I didn't remember reattaching the alternator connector, but since I didn't see it, it MUST have been connected, right? :confused:
 
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#12
While brushes last a lot longer with slip rings than with commutators, still wear out. On better alternators solder in the brush lead to restrict the maximum extension. When they wear, just don't make contact anymore. While others don't have brush limiting as its called, the brushes fall out of their holders, springs pop out, short out across the slips springs and burn out the voltage regulator.

Typical brush life is around the 100k mile limit, but way too many variables. No indication when they are ready to fail, so preventative maintenance is required. But no longer helpful today as replacement brushes are getting very difficult to find. Want you to buy a new vehicle because everything else is made this way.
 

nickb2

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#13
It seemed to me that the bolts were a little hard to tighten down at the time. Duh.
You know what Jp, it happened to me once when doing a front cover for these 3.8l's.

I had snagged the alt harness and torqued down the rest of the job. That mistake cost 6 hrs of wasted shop time on my dime. So I hauled ass on other job's to make up for shop time. That's life.

I found that when I replaced the front cover gasket and replacing the lower alt support bracket, I had pinched the harness. Same symptom as your having now. I was confused, my hands hurt like a bitch and the car would not charge. So I get you. I came home the next day and was whining to my GF that I was a dumb-ass.

Sometimes, when I hit a bump. I go smoke a cigarette (yeah, I know, they will kill me) and come back and regroup my thoughts. This is what I used to say to my apprentices.

Fall back, regroup and move forward.

This thread has been encouraging for me because, rarely do we see guy's like you that follow through. I don't know your age, but you have skills and don't let mistakes like that bring you down. Wait for a divorce and loose your house. That's a killer. LMAOF.

 

JP

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#14
I'm in my mid-50's and do enjoy working on cars and solving diagnostic problems....that is, it's enjoyable when it's not critical that I get it fixed under time pressure. In my real life I'm a veterinarian, and working cars is sort of a relief, as when you need a new part, you can replace it.

"...was whining to my GF that I was a dumb-ass." LOL. If you were married, she would have brought it up first, believe me. :)