Did I get ripped off? 07 Equinox alternator repair

I have a 2007 Chevy Equinox, front-wheel drive. One morning, as I got in, it had no power whatsoever. I called AAA, they came and tested it, and the cold cranking amps were low. They also said the alternator appears to be good. They replaced the battery, and it worked for a few days. About a week later, it was dead again. AAA towed it to the local dealer. I told the dealer about the problem, and also told them the rear wiper recently stopped working, and I thought the two could be connected, possibly a short affecting both. They told me they tested the alternator and it had no output, so they wanted to replace it (at a cost of nearly $700). I told them to go ahead.

A few days later, the battery was once again dead. The dealer took it back, and determined that the rear wiper motor was periodically draining the battery. They disconnected the wiper at no charge, because I didn’t want to shell out another $200 so soon.

My question is, did I get ripped off? The AAA technician told us the alternator was good, but the dealer said they tested the alternator (I have seen no actual evidence this was doone). If the simplest explanation is always the best, then it would seem the wiper motor was the problem, and the alternator didn’t need to be done.

And if I was ripped off, what should I do about it? As an attorney, I know their record which says they tested the alternator would be good enough evidence to stand up in court, and the AAA technician did not keep a record of any tests he performed to cast doubt on that.

Unless you stipulated on the repair order that any defective parts were to be kept and turned over to you, the only real witness is long gone. It’s water under the bridge now, so to speak.

I don’t think that the dealer’s service department would just throw an alternator at the problem and call it solved. I would bet that they did test the alternator and found that it wasn’t producing enough current to charge the battery.
It is possible that the rear wiper motor was causing a current drain that ran down the battery. The alternator may have been overworked in recharging the battery and hence failed.
How did the AAA technician determine that the alternator was good? Did he have test equipment that he hooked to your car when he made the service call?

@TwinTurbo: I suppose so. But there’s also the leverage of future business which they may want to keep.

@Triedaq: He did have test equpment that he hooked up, the standard thing those AAA guys always have to test the electrical system. I don’t know for certain whether it accurately tests the alternator, though. The theory about the overworked alternator makes sense.

At this point all we can do is speculate but if the dealership’s mechanic was honest and qualified he may have taken his best SWAG in hopes of correcting the problem. I have often faced that same scenario and connected a shop volt meter to the alternator output and driven with all normal accessories on noting the voltage when stopped and idling in Drive. If the voltage crept below 12.8 with a battery that could withstand a heavy carbon pile load the alternator would be replaced and the road test repeated and if idling voltage remained above 12.8 at idle I assumed that the problem was corrected and was usually correct… But not always.

Thanks guys. I guess I’ll just live with it and believe they did what was right . . . but next time they want to do something expensive, I’ll have them show me the problem. I’m not particularly mechanically inclined, but I know when something looks right.

FullMetalAttorney–your experience with the rear wiper motor drawing current reminds me of my experience this past December. Our church choir was doing a cantata and I had a CD recording of the work. I was playing the CD as I ran errands. When I pulled into the garage at home, I decided to listen to the end of one selection. I turned the key back one notch to accessory position and finished the movement. I then ejected the CD, but didn’t turn off the key. The rear wiper was on interval. I left the keys in the car as I had always done when I park in my own garage. At any rate, the next morning, the battery was down and the car wouldn’t start. The rear wiper had run on interval all night.

I commented that cars ought to go back to vacuum wipers and the problem wouldn’t have happened. Mrs. Triedaq said that I should always take the keys out of the car, because the key can only be removed in the “off” position. We disagree on this–I would rather leave the key in the car when it is in the garage since if there were to be a fire at the house (we have an attached garage) I could get the car out quickly without having to look for the keys. She claims that it would be more difficult for someone to steal the car if they broke into the garage. I leave the keys in the car I drive and she removes and locks the car that she drives.
At any rate, vacuum wipers would solve my problem. The interval feature is also much simpler with vacuum wipers–the wipers only go across the windshield during the interval when you release the accelerator pedal.

I wouldnt count on Vacuum Controlled Wipers coming back to vehicles…vacuum controlled things on a vehicle is a thing of the past. As for leaving the keys in the car over night…I dont really understand your theory on that one. I would have to agree with your wife on that one… I would just put a key hook somewhere in you house and hang up your key first thing when you walk in the house. Then you know exactly where it is if your house starts on fire and wont have to “search for your keys”

It’s convenient for me to have the key in the car because my workbench is in the front of the garage ahead of the car. Since our garage door is always down and locked when the car is in the garage, I think it would take a determined thief to get in and steal the car.
Fourteen years ago, I went out to the garage and a little black kitten went scurrying across the floor. Since our garage door is always closed whether the car is in the garage or not, we figured that the only way the kitten could have gotten into the garage was to have ridden in under the hood of the car. We had returned home about half an hour before I discovered the kitten. I managed to trap the kitten and Mrs. Triedaq thought the kitten was starved, so she fed her. We still have the cat.
I don’t want vacuum wipers again–I owned six vehicles with vacuum wipers–a 1947 Pontiac a 1954 Buick, a 1955 Pontiac, a 1950 Chevrolet pickup truck, a 1965 Rambler, and a 1968 AMC Javelin. My dad had a 1940 Chrysler with electric wipers and I never understood why 28 years later vacuum wipers were still being used.

Without knowing how it was tested there is no way of knowing what happened. An alternator can fail at any time and stay failed permanently, it may fail intermittently, and it may not operate properly on an intermittent basis due to a fault in the chassis wiring which will not allow the fields to energize in the alt.
(Iffy little bulb in the dashboard battery indicator light is an example of that.)

There could also be a parasitic voltage draw running the battery down. This can be a full time fault or intermittent.
The odds of the rear wiper having anything to do with this problem would be slim and none IMO.

Personally, I’d take anything AAA said with a grain of salt. AAA is much like Carfax, at least in my opinion.
They thrive on the theory that having their name attached to something means they’re the final word on something being reliable, done properly, or what have you. They’ll dole that nameplate out to anybody who shells out a fee.

Your thoughts about keeping the key in the car might be more convenient…but it has already failed you. Which is why this discussion was made. So if its convenient enough to you to go out and have your car not start because of it…then thats your choice…but at that point…your wife who takes her keys out and locks her doors will probably be the one at the end of the house fire with her car safely sitting outside the garage unharmed and yours will be burned with the house due to having a dead battery. Why not just take the keys out of the ignition and put them in the cup holder?

blejpsw–In my vehicle, a 2011 Sienna minivan, the doors, after a period of a few minutes, lock themselves automatically when the key is removed. I would be locked out of the car if I left the keys in a cupholder instead of the ignition. I’ve had a driver’s license and have been driving for 54 years, and this is the first time I ever left something on and ran down the battery. Two hours on my 8 amp battery charger brought it all back to life. I worked for a mechanic that always left the keys in the car while in the garage–even his own vehicles. He did have a fire and got everything out except for the car that was on jack stands with the transmission removed.
I grew up in the country and we rarely took the keys out of a vehicle and never had a problem. We left the house unlocked so that the neighbor could come in and check on things while we were gone. They did the same thing. Years later, when I had my own place in the country, I had a pickup truck but didn’t have a tractor. My neighbor had a tractor, but no pickup truck. I always left the key in the truck so he could use it when he needed it and I could similarly go borrow his tractor. Old habits die hard and it is hard for me to become “citified”.

Regarding keys left in vehicles, opinions vary, apparently. I have left the keys in my vehicles when parked at home since I began driving 45 years ago. The keys are in all three vehicles now as I look at them out the window. I had no doubt that they would still be there this morning. If I am away from home the key remains in the vehicle but I lock the doors.

Triedaq…I grew up in the country as well and am in NO WAY a city boy. Question on your comment though…Doesnt your sienna have a smart key? Which means if the key fab is left in the vehicle it is impossible to lock the doors? I guess they do also come without smart keys…But if it has one your vehicle will not lock because it can sense that the key is still in the vehicle even if not in the ignition. Do you have two key fabs? If you do then try it out. Put one key fab in the vehicle and shut all the doors, then try to lock the van with the other key fab…or if you only have one fab then take the key off of it and try to manually lock the doors from the outside.

blejosw–Neither our 2011 Sienna nor our 2003 4Runner have a smart key. However, I think it is the 4Runner that locks the doors after exiting the vehicle and taking the key out of the ignition switch. I may have confused our two vehicles. Out of curiosity, I’ll try your suggestion.
On a side note, I got a frantic call from my wife about a year ago. She was at her office and had a doctor’s appointment. She said she couldn’t open the door of the 4Runner with either the key fob or the key. I zipped over to take her to her doctor’s appointment, but there was no sign of her or the 4Runner. What happened was that after she called me, she discovered she was trying to get into a car that looked like ours but belonged to someone else. After this incident, she no longer teased me about the time I thought my car was stolen. Until a month ago, I had a very distinctive looking 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon 4-4-2 that I purchased new. I came out from work one afternoon and the car wasn’t in the parking lot where I park. I called the campus police to report the problem. When I described the car and its age, the officer’s comment was “You’re kidding. Are you sure you didn’t park it someplace else?” I thought for a moment and then remembered that I had gone to a meeting on the other side of campus and driven the car since it was raining. When the meeting ended, the rain was over and I was talking with some friends and just walked back with them. At any rate being a country boy and having the onset of geezeritis, I do well to find the key even when it is in the ignition.

Couple injections: On your Toyota’s locking, you can lock the car with the key inside, but it takes a different key. Ask me how I know that.

On keys left in: When I parked my truck in the garage, I always left the windows down or cracked some, and the key in the ignition. There are a couple reasons (for me), actually…1) In an emergency, I can just get in and go…door be damned, the wife and I are outta there…and 2) If a serious thief gets in, take the truck and just go. Leave me, the rest of my stuff, and my wife alone. I consider it good insurance. I’d rather buy a new vehicle than hospital time.

Alas, He always sleeps outside now. Poor truck…


Triedaq…I know your probably not looking for more suggestions on your car. But another thing you might not already know is…If you dont like the fact that the car locks automatically after being shut off for a few minutes…it can be changed. You just have to bring it to a dealership, they hook it up to the toyota laptop and change the locking preferences in the car. I used to make these changes all the time for people and most of the time if they were in for an oil change or something we would just do it for free. Im sure that even if you went there without any service being done and just asked them to do it they would do it for free. It takes about 5 mins. Most people hate that the car doors lock as soon as you take the vehicle out of park. So that is the change I mostly made in the toyotas.

Chaissos and blejosw–thank you for the information. I’ll take any suggestions on my car that are offered. It sometimes takes me 15 years to figure out all the features on a car–this is up from 15 minutes when I was younger. The Toyota dealer from whom I bought the Sienna has been quite accomodating. I was considered a loyal Toyota owner when I bought the Sienna as we already owned a 4Runner (purchased from a different dealer) so I was given 30,000 miles or 2 years of free maintenance. The only expense I have had in 25,000 miles of driving is that I had a nail in a tire and the repair cost me $15.
I didn’t change the door locking system on the 4Runner because my grand daughter was a only a year old when we bought it. Even though she always rode in a car seat, I didn’t want the door to come open. She is now 9 1/2, so I could probably disable the feature. I’ll leave the system as it is on the Sienna because I often have college students on board and a couple of them have reverted to their childhood.
I did try to pair my cellphone with the audio system via bluetooth in the Sienna. I read both manuals but it didn’t seem to work. The service writer did the job in 2 minutes for free. She did admit to me that before working for Toyota, she had worked for Verizon.