My power steering went out and my battery light came on in my 2001 Subaru Outback Sedan (which is apparently really a Legacy according to its VIN). A friend said it was the alternator and that I should check if a wire “came loose” since that “happens a lot”. I don’t know where to check? I get as far as opening the hood, but then what? Also, how far can I drive without the alternator working? I got the car home, about a 5 mile drive. Haven’t started it since.
If the power steering went out and the battery light is on you might want to check for a broken serpentine belt that drives the power steering and alternator.
There’s a belt that drives the alternator and the power steering pump. Since both stopped working the most likely scenario is that the belt broke or came off its pulleys. A separate belt drives the AC compressor.
Open the hood and see if there are two drive belts or if one is missing. The alternator is located on top of the engine at the front of the car, right in the middle. It’s very easy to see when you open the hood. The power steering pump is on the passenger side, next to the alternator.
Wires don’t usually ‘come loose’ from the alternator. They are fastened securely with nuts.
You shouldn’t drive without the alternator working, and it’s not safe to drive without power steering. Replacing the belt is neither difficult nor expensive.
Yup! I agree that this is most likely to be a broken serpentine belt. Since that belt supplies power to both the PS pump and to the alternator, that explains the simultaneous problems. Additionally, if that belt also supplies power to the A/C compressor, you will also notice that you do not get cold air from the dash vents.
As was said, your friend is wrong, wrong, wrong about wires frequently coming loose. The fact that he was not able to diagnose a broken belt–which is one of the absolute easiest problems to diagnose from afar–and that he seized on a rare, ultimately bogus diagnosis, tells me that you really can’t rely on him for automotive expertise.
As was also said, don’t even attempt to drive it any more until the belt is replaced. If you can’t have the belt replaced at home, then you will have to have the car flat-bedded (Subarus cannot be towed!!) to a mechanic.
WOW! Awesome replies! Thank you all so much! In my firend’s defense, SHE, is an IT person and just said these things off the top of her head. But these replies are the winners! Yes, I did notice the A/C also stop being cold! I’ll go out now and look at it. Also, thanks for the note about flat-bedding. I suppose it’s the all-wheel drive that necessitates that. I love my subie! Thanks for the info! If the belt is gone I’ll flatbed it to a shop. Now to find a good mechanic!
Thanks so much! great help!
Thanks Thanks Thanks!
thank you so much for responding so fast and to everyone else too!