My friend's Aspire estimate almost made him expire



Hi all,

My friend has a 1994 Ford Aspire (4D Hatchback) with 138,000 miles on it. He started a new job in which he has to drive 35 miles RT every morning and has noticed his car making a noise that sounds to me like either a loose belt of bad bearings. He took the car to a local Tire Service/Lube joint and came back with an estimate for $2000 in repairs. The blue book on this car is $850 and the service people never even took the car out to address the original concern.

My friend reports the following:

1. When he starts the car, he hears a chirping from the engine.

2. The chirping is prominant in low gears and tends to go away in higher gears

3. The chirping goes away when in motion if he depresses the clutch

4. He found that when he started the car with the lights on, he heard the chirping, but if he turned his lights off, the chirping went away.

My theory is a loose belt on the alternator, though the chirping is loud enough that it could be bad bearings on the alternator. I say alternator because of 4) above.

Does this make sense?


Stuart in Sebastopol, CA.


Alternator would have been my first guess too.

The best first step is to put your (or his) head under the hood when he starts the car. Perhaps the sorce of the noise will be obvious. One trick is to touch various components with a metal rod (CAREFULLY…you don’t want to accidently stick the rod into the fan or something like that). The vibration will typically migrate up the rod when you touch the source and you may feel it…or at the least the tone will change.

Another good step is to remove the serpentine belt and try turning and wobbling various pulleys. You may find the bad component that way.

lastly, it might be the serpentine belt tensioner itself.


My first thought was either an alternator bearing or a bearing in a belt tensioner or belt pulley, and that is a good theory. However, one detail that does not fit that scenario is: “The chirping goes away when in motion if he depresses the clutch”.

Anyone else?


Realize part will be expensive for this car as it is quite unique and few left on the road. Basically Ford likely supplies the parts.

However I would take it to an independent (trusty) shop and see what they say.


Are you thinking the throwout bearing?

OP, do you know if this is the original clutch?


Yup. The throwout bearing is what comes to mind.
Of course, that diagnosis does not correspond to some of the other details, such as, “when he started the car with the lights on, he heard the chirping, but if he turned his lights off, the chirping went away”.

Maybe this little old car has multiple problems, despite the relatively low odometer mileage.


You may be right.


The symptoms could be either a throwout bearing or alternator but turning on the lights would not affect the throwout bearing. Putting in the clutch would drop the engine to idle with no load on the engine. My vote is belt, tensioner, or alternator.


Thanks all for your feedback! My friend took his Aspire into a local mechanic - the kind low key place with a couple of lazy dogs in the yard as opposed to the slick fancy place he went to first that had some premium diagnostic equipment - and drove away after a couple of minutes and $15. It was the tension on the belt on the alternator. Tightening the belt did the trick. It is likely that all of the $2000 worth of diagnostic advice is valid, but way overkill for the problem at hand.


It’s very common for the ‘good-ole-boy’ mechanics to do right where the slick and polished try to take you for a ride. Those cappuccino machines and fancy furniture are expensive.


The first place realized rent was do on his garage in a high rent district. That explains the $2000.00