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Is it my alternator..?

I have a 13 year-old VW with low mileage (about 87,000). I replaced the battery a couple of years ago, and once the compressor died I decided I could live without A/C since I live in Wisconsin.

Last summer I went to turn it over, found the speed- and tachometers went a little haywire and the check engine light came on. After trying a few more times, the engine did start but then sputtered and gave out.

I had the car towed, but by the time I got to a shop the tow driver said the check engine light was off and he was able to drive it into the garage.

The garage flushed the fuel line and checked the computer, all seemed fine. Then a few weeks later my wife said it wouldn’t start (I was working out of town). By the time I returned it was clear the battery was dead, even the keyless entry and internal light didn’t work.

My father in law, who knows cars fairly well, thinks my alternator needs to be replaced. I’m now at the point with this car that if it needs major repair I might let it go, but if it can be repaired for a reasonable price it should have some years of life yet. The KBB value is about $2,500.

I’m having the car towed to a shop on Tuesday, they’ll run a diagnostic and tell me what’s needed to get it back up and running.

Any insights? It’s our second car, we can get by without it. I don’t know where my willingness to save it ends but I know that it does have a price. All opinions are welcome and will be very helpful!

It could certainly be the alternator. It’s easy to test. Some places will even test it for free. An alternator is not a major repair, either. and is considered a wear item in that it’s not unusual for an old one to need replacement.

If the diagnosis is not related to the charging system or the wiring for the charging system, don’t pay anything and get the car out of there. You most likely had a problem when the car died on you last summer. Flushing the fuel line (new to me, but…) might have actually done some good if the car ran normally afterward. But maybe the garage had to jump start the car or just charge the battery to get it running.
If so, they don’t make alternators like they used to. Either a jump or a rapid charge can damage a diode or two (of four) in your alternator. I think your father in law is right, you have a new battery and it’s not getting charged.

A new alternator isn’t a major repair. On a 13 year old car stuff like an alternator is quite likely to fail. Stuff gets old and fails. If you can’t handle some repairs then you can’t drive a 13 year old car.

Time for a a new car for you. Not a used 5 year old car, because that will need repairs too. You need a new, new car.

An alternator is not a good reason to unload a car, especially on one with comparatively low mileage.
The KBB value may be a bit “optimistic” on a 13 year old Golf so don’t count on that 2500 dollar figure.

(Where’s the timing belt on this car? Has that particular service ever been performed? If not, you should be out buying Lotto tickets.)