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1997 Volkswagen Passat

Recently my car has been doing some weird things. After driving it for about an hour, I get a sound from the engine compartment that sounds like a vacuum cleaner. It’s fairly loud, but it’s mostly just noticeable from the outside. The car continues to run, but if I turn it off, it doesn’t restart (does not even crank). Last night I was driving at about 55 MPH and all the electronics went off and then came back on. In other words, the radio restarted and all the lights turned off and back on. The headlights turned off, but they did not come back on no matter what. Any ideas?

Pick up a “mechanic’s stethescope” at a local tool store (usually about $10). When the vacuum cleaner noise starts, let the engine run and touch the probe end to the alternator housing. Be careful in there, there’s stuff spinning…don;t get the probe caught up.

Your description is typical of an alternator going bad. Sometime soon I’d expect the “charge” light to come on.

Or, have a shop take a look at it.

Post back with the results.

“Be careful in there, there’s stuff spinning…don;t get the probe caught up.”
+1

And, be very careful if you have long hair, or are wearing anything that can hang down like a necklace or a necktie. While it sounds bizarre, there have been cases of people being seriously injured when their long hair (or other object) was snagged by a spinning belt.