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Nissan Maxima 1996 Alternator Replacement

I have a 1996 Nissan Maxima that seems to have a dying alternator. I’ve concluded it’s the alternator because when I was driving it last night, I noticed the headlights would go dim for a period of time (10-30 seconds), and then the system would “recover.”

The battery is going dead once in a while, but not every time I drive it. It happened once this week.

The charge light never comes on.

My question may be kind of odd. In the California model, these cars came with a 110AH alternator; all other states got the 125AH alternator.

Can I put a 125AH alternator in this car, or can that mess up other parts of the car?

What is the reason Nissan did it this way?

In the past, when I had similar issues with other cars, I’ve simply changed the voltage regulator, with success. An easy 10 minute job. On this car, as with many newer cars, the regulator is actually part of the alternator, and you have to take the alternator apart to get to the regulator. For me, when I take things like alternators and starters apart, that’s it, it’s not going back together. So I don’t think changing the regulator is an option on this car.

You should be able to install the 125 AH alternator with no problems. I suggest you have the battery and the charging system tested before you spend money on a new alternator. Maybe the battery is the problem, or it could be both. Most parts stores will do this testing free.

I don’t know if this makes sense or not…

I put the battery on a charger, and it held the charge quite well. Wouldn’t that almost eliminate the battery as the source of problems? It’s about 2 years into a 7 year warranty (out of the “free replacement” timeframe, though).

When I noticed the dim-headlight episode last night, that’s when the wheels started turning in my head…

I’d bet that California needed the 110 Ah alternator for emissions purposes. That is, a 110 Ah alternator would require less energy to rotate than the 125 Ah, thus subtracting less energy from the engine’s output, thus maintaining overall performance of the vehicle given the engine’s higher emissions constraints. All the lower number means is, it takes the alternator more TIME to recharge the battery. The voltage output would be the same however, so I would not worry about damaging any electrical components. And I doubt you’ll notice any change in performance, unless you’re timing yourself on the quarter mile.

I could be wrong here, that’s just my take on it.

I put the battery on a charger, and it held the charge quite well.

I’m not sure how you can tell the status of a battery simply by putting a charger on it. The best was it to perform a load test with a carbon pile or other resistance-type of load meter which will give you a general (usually pretty good) idea of battery status. A cap. check is another way of checking the status of the battery. Go to schuks or auto zone, they will check everything for free so you won’t be buying parts unnecessarily.

Yeah, after a little more research, I found that the connector plug was different on the two alternators. I think I can make the 125 “work”, and it’d be pointless to do so. On parts like alternators and starters, I’ve always found that if I put a wrecking yard or a rebuilt one in, I’m out within 2 years, replacing the part again. Starters and alternators are no fun to replace on a Maxima, so I ordered a new one. $175 delivered was about the best I could do.

Thanks for your comment. I’ll let you know how the repair goes (probably after next weekend).

If the battery is only two years old, it may be fine. As I said before, have the battery and the charging system TESTED, then you will know for sure where the problem is.

Stop guessing and find out for sure.

If the connections are different, stick with the original-equipment alternator. The extra amperage won’t make any difference in the real world, and it’s certainly not worth trying to change the connections.

I put a new battery in the car. The old one was 3-1/2 years old, which is probably close to being par for an 84 month battery… Oh well.

The fix worked. I bought it from a large department store chain because, frankly, I’ve had better luck with them than the one that I took out.

It’s been a week now, and the car is back to normal.

I’m happy.

The problem very well could be inside the alternator but the could also be something wrong with the wiring to it.