I recently had my 1999 Ford Winstare towed to a Ford dealer for front driver side fender,bumper and headlight repair and replace after an accident. The damage was minor and the car starded and ran fine after the fender damgage. The dealer towed the car into the dealership for the repairs. One week later the car was ready for pickup. When my wife went to pick up the car, it would not start. They said the battery was dead and they wanted to sell her a new batery. I said no because the battery was only one and a half year old. They jump started the car and she drove it home. On the way home the A/C quit, ABS, airbag and check engin light came on. When she turned the car off the battery was dead. I had the battery charged and checked and the battery was fine. I re-installed battery and the next day she drove to work. By noon the battery was dead again. Bottom line is the dealer said I could return the car and they would run a diagnotic test but I would have to pay the $85.00 cost if it was not related to the fender repair. If it was an alternator I would have to pay for that too. I decided to have the alternator tested at the local parts store for free and sure enough the alternator was bad. I just find it hard to beleive what a coinsidence that the alternator would all of the sudden go bad while sitting at the dealership getting body work. The alternator was fine until they took it to there shop. So needless to say, I’m upset that they will not accept any responsability for this and I am having to pay for a new alternator. It just does not seem fair and I’m madder that heck. What is the likelyhood that the alternator just happened to fail while in their possesion? I noticed they had sprayed the motor with that liquid that makes your motor look all new and clean. They sprayed a lot of it because it even puddled in come cavities. Could this have caused the failier if they sprayed it in the alternator?


Doubtful the dealer was responsable for the failure. Even if they were it would be hard to prove. I syggest a new alternator with a lifetime guarantee.


When the dead battery was jumped and the vehicle was started and driven, the alternator was asked to recharge the dead battery. Doing this can overtax the alternator causing it to overheat causing damage to the alternator. The alternator is not a battery charger. It’s designed to maintain the charge on a good battery. Here’s what’s included with every replacement alternator I install.



Normally I would say that the alternator failure would not be caused by this accident or the bodywork.

I have no idea what substance they used to spray the engine down with but I would say that it’s at least possible this liquid could have caused an alt. problem; depending on what it is and how much of it wound up inside the alternator.
Maybe this liquid conducts electrical power and shorted the alternator out. (just theory)

I would ask them what this stuff is exactly and go from there.

Tester is dead-on correct about the alt. not being a battery charger. I kind of like that tag!


While I agree with tester…trying to charge a dead battery can kill an Alternator…The question I have is how did the battery die in the first place. Sounds like someone never disconnected the battery when working on the car. Probably left a door open that left a light on that drained the battery. A perfectly good battery shouldn’t go into a repair place and come out dead.


My thanks to Tester. I when to the Ford dealer that repaired my Windstar armed with a copy of the Tag “This Alternator Is NOT A BATTERY CHARGER”. After a discussion with the shop manager, I managed to get him to agree to pay for one half of the new alternator. Surprised me. I really just went there to get the anger off my chest. I did’nt really think they would accept any responsibility. I think he may just have offered to pay me a little something just so I would go-away. That’s ok. Something is better than nothing or just sitting at home stewing. Thanks again.


While I’d agree that charging a dead battery can kill an alternator, it seems like it usually culls the weak ones from the alternator herd, so to speak. The ones that likely would have crapped out on you pretty soon anyway. The problem with something like this is that there’s no way of ever really knowing if it’s coincidence or if the shop did something to damage it. My luck usually runs to horrible, sanity-questioning coincidences like these, so I’d probably give the shop the benefit of the doubt.

But yeah, why was the battery dead upon leaving the shop? Possibly they should chip in for a battery—running a lead-acid battery totally dead is DEFINITELY not good for it.

I’ve never had an alternator die from charging a dead battery, but I’ve killed one jump starting someone else’s vehicle.


I’ve seen brand-new batteries DIE after they were fully discharged. Never able to hold a charge again. It’s not that uncommon.


Tester, et. al.,
How much amperage can a discharged battery ACCEPT during recharging at, say, 14 1/2 volts? Is there not an upper value? How much amperage can a healthy alternator output? 100+ amps, right? Isn’t there current limiting in the alternator circuitry?
With all the electric motors (and butt warmers) turned off, a car’s electric system draws a few amps, yes? With all the electical things turned on, the amperage draw can go to high values, and even a healthy alternator can’t keep up with demand; but, do you KNOW if that kills alternators?

So, reason with me, even better, TEST PROOF, that charging a discharged battery might kill a healthy alternator.


I wouldn’t say that charging a totally dead battery will necessarily kill an alternator, but it does make the alternator work very hard for an extended period, and this can be the death knell for one that’s nearing its golden years. Running a car’s electrical accessories at full blast all the time probably isn’t great for one either.

My personal opinion is that in colder weather it would cause less harm, while in warmer weather the already hot alternator just can’t cool down as well, especially with high under hood temps. Heat kills. The same applies to batteries—I’ve had more batteries die on me in summer than winter.