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Freaky Dash Lighs, Car Won't Start -- Alternator?

2000 Ford Windstar was running fine. Then the ABS Break warning light comes on. Then, a few minutes later the blinkers don?t work. Then other lights on the dashboard come on. Pull over to the side of the road. Get a jump start. Drive to Wal-Mart. Blinkers quit working by the time I get there. Get a new battery. Car runs fine the next day. The second day, after running a lot of errands after work, ABS Break warning light comes on again. Turn signals do not work again. Headlights go out. After turning the car off, it will not start and the battery is dead again. After another jump start letting the cars stay hooked up for about 5 minutes to charge, van makes in 10 miles home just fine until I?m just pulling into the driveway when the infamous ABS Break lights come on again signaling that the battery is almost dead.

Is this the alternator? Should I just go ahead and replace the alternator or could this be come other mysterious electrical problem? I could replace the alternator myself, but if it?s some other problem I would have no idea how to diagnose this. Is there some way to test the alternator? I don?t want to go through all the expense of having a mechanic replace something that I could do, but I also hate to replace it and it be something else.

My current plan is to charge the battery at night on a charger and see if the car runs just fine with a fresh battery every morning. If so, does this mean it?s the alternator or, again, could some other, more obscure electrical component be bad?

Could be something as a bad alternator, or a bad voltage regulator, or a bad connection, or a bad belt, that is why it is important to properly diagnose a problem before throwing money at parts, unless you prefer to spend unneeded dollars and time.

I’d guess volt. regulator myself.

The voltage regulator is an internal part of the alternator.

You don’t mention the alternator or “battery” light being on. Is it always off? Does it come on when you turn the key to run and go off after you start the engine?

I doubt that it is the belt, you should hear it slipping and have problems with your power steering if it were.
It could be the alternator, the wiring, or the PCM. The alternator is the most likely, and the PCM is the least likely. You can guess at it and throw an alternator in, or there are some fairly simple tests that you can do with a multimeter and a service manual to determine what the problem is for sure.

Yes, it is :wink:

Charge the battery for at least 6 hours (if you are using a 6 amp charger) and go to Advance Auto Parts or Autozone and they will test your electrical system for free and be glad to sell you what you need.If you had gone there for a battery they would have checked for free to see if you needed one and they would have installed it free.

The alternator isn’t charging the battery for some reason, that’s for sure. There could be a problem external to the alternator or internally. You should be able to have it tested at a place like Autozone to see if the alternator itself is bad.

The battery or alternator light on the dashboard does not come on to my knowledge.

A friend told me that if you stick a screwdriver up next to the alternator it should have a strong magnetic pull if it’s working properly. I was not able to detect any magnetic pull on the alternator in the Windstar, but when I tested one in a Jeep Cherokee that was running fine it did have a magnetic pull. I guess I’m leaning toward a bad alternator being the problem.

I was not aware that Autozone could test an alternator. Maybee I’ll go there and see what they say.

Side note: With the battery being charged at night and just running to town and back daily, I have experienced no problems with the van whatsoever.

How big a screwdriver? How many Gb’s?

Actually, I’m funnin’ you a bit. Because an alternator has magnetic pull does not mean it’s providing sufficient voltage to the battery. And, frankly, the metal in the screwdriver will affect the pull also. There are even nonmagnetic screwdrivers for techs working in environments where magnetic tools might create a problem, and brass screwdrivers for techs working in areas where sparks might be dangerous. Be wary of these type on simple tests that provide no measurements.

And yeah, clearly your alternator needs to be tested. This is a clear a case as I’ve ever seen for a new alternator.

Appreciate everyones imput. Just to update: I have replaced the alternator just today. I read on the internet that with the car not running the battery should read around 12 volts on a volt meter, but read 14 or so volts with the car running with a good alternator. With a bad alternator, the battery will test at around 12 volts with the car running or not. This was the case with the Windstar, and after I replaced the alternator it now reads 12 volts stopped and 14 volts running. I presume the problem has been fixed and so I declare this thread officially ended. Will not post again unless the van dies on us again within the next week or so.

Thanks for the update. It may help the next person with this problem.