Bad alternator + power steering pump at the same time?

saturn
sl

#1

Hello!

I purchased a 2002 Saturn SL2 from a coworker fairly recently, and I have been driving it for a while now. I have already covered a few maintenance items myself. Took it to a long trip, no problems. The car drives fine, but there is still one thing that is still bothering me.

The car sounds like an electric vehicle as you accelerate or rev the engine in neutral or park. The noise comes from the passenger side area in the front of the vehicle. It doesn’t bother me that much as it is not too loud,
and it kinda makes the car feel like a go kart, which is fun. You can’t hear the noise above 45+ mph or in the freeway, but then I thought the noise it was making might not be normal.

I bought a stethoscope just for this, but couldn’t figure out exactly where the noise was coming from. As I opened the throttle, I could hear the noise was louder in both the power steering pump and the alternator using the stethoscope. The power steering pump sits right above the alternator in this car, so I don’t know if it is both parts that are bad or just one of them. What are the symptoms of either part failing?

Power steering doesn’t make that loud whining/grinding type of noise when you turn the steering wheel. Power steering fluid is not leaking from the rack or anywhere else, but the fluid itself is dark. Turning the steering wheel makes a “rubbing” noise in the area around the steering wheel itself but there is no binding or anything, it feels normal.

I already replaced the drive belt and both the idler pulley and the tensioner because both were visibly wobbling and felt gritty when spinning them. I spinned by hand both the alternator and the power steering pulleys and they seemed fine.

Any help is appreciated. Thanks!


#2

the noise in alt and p/s pump sounds the same? its not hard to drain p/s fluid and put in new fluid. it does help with steering whine issues. try that first before you go after alt.


#3

Yep, exactly the same.

I can drain the PS fluid but I am not sure what kind of fluid the car use. I see people in the Saturn forums using either ATF or PS fluid in their Saturns, which is strange to me. The manual only specifies Saturn Power Steering fluid. I bought some Prestone Power Steering fluid but I am not sure.

For the transaxle fluid for example; the manual says to use Saturn ATF fluid, but Dexron III can be used instead if Saturn fluid is not available. So I am guessing in the case of Saturn Power Steering fluid, regular Power Steering fluid can be used?

Also… Can the alternator be tested in an auto parts store?


#4

Saturn Power Steering fluid is GM power steering fluid which is the same as Prestone power steering fluid. ATF works, too. The pumps whine like a 3 year old when the fluid gets nasty but also when the pump is on its way out. The hardest part in changing one is breaking the fluid lines free.

Alternators can whine as well before they fail but I’d change the PS fluid first and see how that helps, if any. If I remember correctly (I owned a '93 SC2) removing the alternator is a bit of a pain. The alternator noise is a bearing issue, not usually an electrical one, so feeling for smooth rotation should tell you if its on the way out.


#5

Where I live, Advance Auto Parts will wheel their test machine right out to the car, but it will be an electrical test only. These guys are not mechanics and probably can’t tell you if the bearing needs replacement.


#6

I just had the alternator tested with the alternator in the vehicle. They told me in the autoparts store that it was fine and might be tge bearing. Weird… The bearing seemed to be smooth when I was replacing the drive belt.

If it is the alternator bearing, will the noise get progressively worse over time before finally locking up?


#7

You can, but I wouldn’t. If you open the return line at the rack, most all of it will come out and then you can refill with ATF or PS fluid.

Then that points to the alternator, IMHO.


#8

I just had the alternator tested with the alternator in the vehicle. They told me in the autoparts store that it was fine and might be the bearing. Weird… The bearing seemed to be smooth when I was replacing the drive belt.

If it is the alternator bearing, will the noise get progressively worse over time before finally locking up?


#9

They tested the alternators output, they are not going to diagnose the noise for you. You may have to let someone with more experience diagnose the noise.


#10

When I replaced the drive belt, idler and tensioner, I turned all the pulleys by hand. The alternator and PS pump pulleys didn’t feel rough, nor they were making any weird noises. :thinking:

Guess my next step will be to remove the belt and run the engine. :roll_eyes:

I found a 2000 Saturn SL2 from “GetAround” (not sure how GetAround approved such an old vehicle) so I rented the car for an hour to compare.

Both car drives exactly the same and makes the same whining noise in the same area. :thinking: Can it be possible that this whine is “normal”? :crazy_face:


#11

I owned a Ford Tempo in the late 80’s and the p/s pump was whining pretty bad. It was normal behavior for this car and most Ford products of this era.I learned to live with it.


#12

That’s the reason why I rented that Saturn. It was only $7 for an hour. Same gen, same engine etc. :grinning:

If the noise is normal I can live with it since it is not too bad, and I kinda like it. You can’t hear it at all above 45+ mph. I was worried it was not normal.

Unless… both cars have the same problem :crazy_face: