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1989 Subie overcharging battery?

Car specifics - 1989 Subaru GL Wagon with well over 200k miles on it and up to now has been just the usual “old lady of the car industry” problems.

Tonight - heading for work (I live 5miles out of town and the temp was about 7 F) half way there all the little red lights came on like it does when you start car and I noticed a strange icky smell. Headlights did not dim, heater did not hesitate. With much prayer and urging made it into town to closest populated spot - the grocery store and turned off the car. Suspicious, I tried and it immediately started without hesitation - but still continued to have all guage lights showing bright red.

BUT - the battery had popped off the left side cap and it appeared to have “spewed” some. This battery is only 1 year old, and I haven’t had any electrical problems of any kind. Went into the store and while waiting for a ride home (after 6pm and all mechanics are tucked safely under their hoods) a friend of mine mentioned the alternator might have been overcharging the battery.

Now, I’ve had the car 2 years and the voltmeter has always read between 14 and 16 with only the radio running, in winter it shows between 12 and 14 with heater, radio running.

Is this a battery or alternator problem, and does this car have a separate voltage regulator? Since my car is about to have a Christmas instead of me or my family - I don’t want to get ripped off! :frowning:

You probably need a new alternator, especially considering the mileage. There aren’t very many cars with separate voltage regulators any more, and even in the 80s this was true. The regulator is built into the alternator.

You can have the alternator tested by a mechanic or at just about any auto parts store. At this point I suggest you have the battery tested, too. It may have been damaged by the over-charge.

Left car all night at store and this afternoon it started right up. Took it to mechanic and he said battery dead and alternator charging at 8 amp. $150 + core in my area to get a rebuilt - did I mention I live in a small town? Is it possible just the brushes need replacing?

Since I don’t have the cash to spend, going to have to try to take it off myself (or find a friend who knows a bit). Weekends are work ends here - and I’m doomed without a car. Trying to find a repair manual on line I can view and print the part I need - but no luck so far, they’re only selling them. Do have original owners manual on it though. Mechanic said put battery on trickle charger and just run it that way until I can get a new/rebuilt alternator.

Also - belt system shows double belts but only one is on there. Second belt would run the same loop as the one that is on - would second belt help? Yes - I’m grabbing at straws. o.0

Many auto parts stores will install the battery you buy. You can buy a battery anywhere for between $40 and %80. The $140 for a battery, I don’t understand. Does that include gift-wrapping? The auto parts store, which installs the battery, can do a battery / alternator test.
More info on the alternator:

I paid roughly $150 for a rebuilt alternator recently for my '96 Subaru, so the price is not out of line. If there’s a starter/alternator repair shop in your area they might be willing to rebuild yours for you, but I’m not sure it’s really any less expensive, and you’d have to let the car sit while they worked on it.

Buying a rebuilt unit from a parts store will get you back on the road the same day. I suggest a new belt to go with the new alternator. It’s worth the extra few dollars.

The alternator is not hard to replace assuming you have some basic tools, and falls easily within the do-it-yourself category. Just remember to disconnect the negative battery cable before you start.

The trickle charger idea may work for a while, but it’s not a permanent solution. You need a new battery and a new alternator. There really isn’t a way around it. Good luck.

It has an internal regulator and the fact you’ve never had alternator or battery problems in the past is irrelevant.
If your vcltmeter has been showing 12 something volts in the past with the engine running then you’ve had problems for a while. Depending on the load being applied to the electrical system you should usually see 13+ volts at a minimum and a running engine with no lighting or A/C on should be around 14 volts all of the time.

The problem with the battery does sound like an overcharging situation and at well over 200k miles it’s had a good life. The battery should also be properly tested as it’s possible an overcharging alternator could have cooked the battery.

“Left car all night at store and this afternoon it started right up. Took it to mechanic and he said battery dead and alternator charging at 8 amp.”

The battery can’t be “dead” or the car would not have started. An alternator charging at 8 amps sounds pretty normal especially if the battery was low…Stop guessing what is wrong and find out what REALLY is wrong. Any Checker or Auto-Zone will check your battery and alternator for free…

Normally the alternator charged at 14 + so it’s dropping was probably my first sign. And yes - I wondered how the battery could be dead and still start the car, keep it running and still get me home! Hence - figured it must still be getting charged some.

Went to the local Ag parts store instead of NAPA - they can get me a reman for $70 + core. And yes - I went to them because they were highly recommended. Because I’m in a small town (4k people) almost anything like that has to be ordered. It will come in Tuesday.

Thank goodness the alternator is easy to get to and remove. I’ve done a lot of minor auto repairs on my own cars - so not totally intimidated. More a case of having the arm strength to turn the bolts. That’s why I knew often times it’s simply the brushes that need replacing. But you’re right - at over 200k miles it’s due to get another one instead of “nickle/diming” myself trying to rebuild my own.

The battery is only one year old - hoping I haven’t fried it too. Consider this strange but solved.

On a side note - BIG THANK YOU to hellkit for link - I’ve been looking everywhere for something like that!!

For everyone else - my town is 130 miles from the closest city of size… hence the cost is so high as we have little choices. Not everyone is willing to spend time searching on the net for parts or answers. The cheapest battery in my area - $80 + the old one. Add $20 if you don’t have the old one.

The battery I recently bought for my '96 Legacy cost roughly $70. I like to buy batteries with lots of CCA (Cold Cranking Amps), and I’m willing to pay for it.

Considering your situation, I guess $80 isn’t so bad. Living away from everything has its rewards and its costs. It’s all about balance.

How long do you plan to keep driving this car? It’s now 20 years old. It won’t last forever, you know.

Till the engine blows - and then just might get it rebuilt. There is nothing wrong but age, and it gets an average of 48 mpg and is normally super reliable. It will take me anywhere and do almost anything I ask of it. My previous car was a chevy wagon with 175k miles on it. Unfortunately a SUV decided it just had to make that left turn across traffic without regard for oncoming. Probably could have just replaced the left front quarter panel, but it was definately showing it’s age.

Consider me the “retirement” buyer of vehicles. :stuck_out_tongue:

And that $80 battery is the el cheapo you pay $40 for in larger cities. The battery in my car cost $120. o.0

I’m glad that it worked out. Thanks for the feedback, even after you got it fixed. If you look at the other posts, you’ll see few feedbacks. We is live, not canned!

You’re welcome. Not fixed yet, but will be when alternator comes in. Just gotta survive the work-end. Physically the car is very sound and I see no reason to give up on it over something that can go wrong on any car. I will admit though - while it will plow through 3 foot drifts with an attitude, It takes one look at a 4 footer and says no - lol.