Four alternators in four years

I have a 1992 Nissan Stanza, 2.4 L 4 cy. engine, automatic, 191K on the odometer that keeps burning out alternators. It has blown 4 alternators in the last 4 years. It could be just crappy alternators, but can anyone suggest anything that could be causing a perfectly good alternator to prematurely fail?

There were no warning lights on the dashboard. The serpentine belt wasn’t making any noise. The only oddity I can find in the electrical system is that several time recently when I went to close the power windows the power door locks also locked. The controls are in the same panel on the driver’s door, but I know I didn’t hit the wrong switch by mistake.

You have a short in the wiring harness where it feeds through the relief holes between the body and the door. The hsort is due to chafing and/or breaking up of the elderly insulation. Repairing this will require removing the inner door panel, opening the wiring bundle, a schematic, expertise with a multimeter, and some splices.

Is this why you’ve been changing alternators? If so, you’ve been so unnecessarily.

If not, then what are the charging system symptoms and what has been the mode of failures of the alternators?

If the reason you’ve been replacing alternators is because the battery isn’t staying charged, it could be that you have a high resistance short to ground in the aforementioned wiring harness.

The first alternator was the original and it died in 2006. The second died in 2009. The third died in two weeks ago and the fourth one is still living. The last two were under warrantee.

My original post was done when alternator # 4 was being installed. Since then, the car has developed a slight miss at about 55 mph and higher. And last week it did the worst thing a car can do – it left my wife stranded. It stalled at a stop sign and didn’t restart. The starter didn’t even crank. There were no dash lights, either. Then, forty-five minutes after it died, it started right up. This could be a bad ignition switch, bad starter relay or anything else, but could a short in the wiring in the door panel also explain this behavior?

What were the symptoms that caused you to replace the alternators? Was it that the battery was not charging? Did anyone bench test the removed alternators?

When the car stalled on your wife, what exactly did it do when the key was turned? Did it click? Was it dead silence?

A bad switch is a possibility but it’s also possible that the door problem is the source of most of your problems if it has an intermitant high resistance short to ground. The door lock is always “hot”, meaning it is always energized even when the key is out of the ignition. If it has a high resistance short to ground it could be allowing the battery to drain faster than the alternator can charge it, and/or allowing the battery to drain as the car sits, and give the same symptoms as a bad alternator. That’s why I’m wondering if the alternators were bench tested after removal. It can also cause the fusable link to melt, which can cause intermittant symptoms…I’ve seen a blown lonk do this.

While I suspect that the door wiring is suspect in most of the symptoms, it’s also possible that you have more than one problem and that’s complicating the internet diagnosis. But I’d definitely consider that door wiring as a prime suspect.

I don’t know if the shop bench-tested the alternators that were removed.

Dead silence was the response from the car. Dead silence was also the response from my wife. Well, she alternated between dead silence and yelling “I’m not driving this car again!”

Thanks for your suggestions. I’m going to tear up the door and look at the wiring myself, since I have nothing to lose, because it looks like a new car is in my future. If I fix it, I’ll be able to sell it.

Based on the dying and no dashboard warning lamps (which is what I assume you mean by dash lights) this often points to one of several things.
A faulty ignition switch. (electrical, not key and tumbler)
Problem in a fusible link. They should look like this.

Look inside at the wire across the terminals very closely. If the wire is distorted in any way or if you can see what appears to be a globule of solder on one end that link could be faulty. When power is passing through it an iffy connection can get hot and break down.

Odds are the problem is not repeated alternator failures; it’s something in the power source.

A tip for checking an alternator and keep in mind this is not definitive but it works very well. Turn the key to the RUN position and touch the tip of a screwdriver to the alternator pulley. If you feel a magnetic attraction by the alt. pulley the alternator is likely good. If not, then it’s either bad or there is a problem in the field circuit wiring. (The field wiring runs through the dashboard alternator warning lamp. Bulb burns out and no alt. charge also)