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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 5 Series > E39 (1997 - 2003)

E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 06-10-2010, 03:28 PM
capntang capntang is offline
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Charging System Problem

This has been going on for about two weeks, and I'm still not exactly sure what the problem is.

I can charge the battery using a battery charger and the car runs fine for a day or two with the radio going and everything. I even made a 4 hour trip at night last week with the lights and wipers on the whole way, and the car ran fine. The battery is a three year old Interstate, and the local Interstate dealer says it tests fine. Autozone and Advanced both told me that the alternator needed to be replaced, but O'Reilly said it tested fine and that the battery was the problem.

I just went to NAPA to pick up an alternator, and they talked me out of it. They told me to check the tensioner pulley first.

I just hate to buy an alternator if the alternator isn't the problem. I guess the best solution would be to remove the alternator and take it in for bench testing, but that's a little difficult since I'm stuck out of town with the car.
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  #2  
Old 06-10-2010, 04:12 PM
edjack edjack is online now
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The easiest way to test the alt is with a DMM. If you don't have one, get one at Radio Shack.

The battery should read at least 12.5 V before starting up for the day. After the engine is running, and at 1000 RPM, the battery voltage s/b at least 13.5+. If there is no change in voltage after the engine is running, the alt is not putting out any current. This could be as simple as worn out brushes.

The tensioners are spring-loaded (or hydraulic), and require no adjustment.

If the alt is not working, you may need to put a charger on the battery overnight until you get home to fix it.
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  #3  
Old 06-10-2010, 08:13 PM
capntang capntang is offline
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I've checked it with a multimeter. I get ~12.5v before starting after it's been on the charger. It drops to ~9v during cranking, increases to ~13.5v just after the engine starts, then gradually drops back down to 12.5v or less over the next minute or so.

One of the stores told me I had a parasitic draw and that it was killing the battery. I hooked the DMM between the battery and the ground and found a 3 amp draw immediately after turning off the car. After 5 minutes or so, that dropped down to a few milliamps. As far as I can tell, that's pretty normal.

Sounds like it's probably the alternator, but I'd love to be sure before I drop $300 on a non-returnable part.
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  #4  
Old 06-10-2010, 08:41 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Look into "FSR" issue first.

BTW, rebuilt Alternator at Autozone etc uses Chinbese bearings etc.

The best way to restore to factory Alternator is here:
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho....php?p=5233519

Last edited by cn90; 06-10-2010 at 08:42 PM.
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  #5  
Old 06-10-2010, 08:58 PM
edjack edjack is online now
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No, you need to check the battery voltage w/o charging overnight. Might be the FSU.
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  #6  
Old 06-10-2010, 09:33 PM
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540 M-Sport 540 M-Sport is offline
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Never buy rebuilt parts from chain stores...they are done cheaply, with poor quality parts, in spite of their "lifetime" warranty. My buddy gave up after his third starter in two years and bought a Bosch rebuilt one, and it lasted for many years, until he sold the car.

Bosch 120 amp alternators for a 530 are less than $200 online. These are rebuilt by Bosch and include a one year free replacement warranty and 24 month roadside assistance program and free towing. Check a few online retailers.

http://www.autohausaz.com/search/pro...2-31-7-501-599
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Last edited by 540 M-Sport; 06-10-2010 at 09:36 PM.
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  #7  
Old 06-10-2010, 10:18 PM
capntang capntang is offline
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The one from NAPA is an actual Bosch rebuild, and they can have it next-day. If I order it online, it'll take at least a week to get to me unless I pay for upgraded shipping. The extra shipping would pretty much negate the savings of ordering it online.

Rebuilding it myself would normally be a very appealing option, but I have to be back in town by mid next week for work. I doubt I could pull that off by then.

It's sitting in the garage for now, no charger. I'll check the battery voltage tomorrow, but I don't think it's the FSU. I don't hear any fan noises after turning off the car, and I don't think it would explain the <12.5v while the car is running.
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  #8  
Old 06-11-2010, 07:34 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Actually NAPA sells "Bosch Rebuilt" but the truth is the bearings inside are the cheap Chinese bearings. Trust me, I have done enough research on this.
Most rebuilders in the US put in cheap Chinese bearing.

If you want a quality rebuild suing OEM part, then you have to do it yourself. I listed everything you need to know in the link in thread #4 above.
Supplier is Smith Co. in Greely, Colorado (OEM Bosch "Koyo" bearing, HUCO regulator, Rear bearing...use Nachi 6203-2RS, search for VXB bearing $6) . Here you go again:

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho....php?p=5233519

Last edited by cn90; 06-11-2010 at 07:47 AM.
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  #9  
Old 06-11-2010, 04:00 PM
capntang capntang is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
Actually NAPA sells "Bosch Rebuilt" but the truth is the bearings inside are the cheap Chinese bearings. Trust me, I have done enough research on this.
Most rebuilders in the US put in cheap Chinese bearing.

If you want a quality rebuild suing OEM part, then you have to do it yourself. I listed everything you need to know in the link in thread #4 above.
Supplier is Smith Co. in Greely, Colorado (OEM Bosch "Koyo" bearing, HUCO regulator, Rear bearing...use Nachi 6203-2RS, search for VXB bearing $6) . Here you go again:

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho....php?p=5233519

Are you saying that it's not actually rebuilt by Bosch, or that Bosch rebuilds are absolute crap and the only way to get a decent replacement alternator is to rebuild it yourself?

Again, I'd love to rebuild this one ... but I have to have this fixed by next Tuesday.
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  #10  
Old 06-11-2010, 06:48 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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The Original Bosch Alternator comes from Germany or UK during the car production.
It was built to very tight specifications:
- Koyo bearing (Koyo is one of the best bearing mfg in the world)
- Regulator is also OEM Bosch.

When an alternator goes bad, you send it in as core.
Then the bad alternator is sent to a few rebuilders in the US.
A good rebuilder will install new:
- bearings x2
- regulator/brush
- smoothen the slip rings
- repaint the casing so it looks good (at home you don't have to do this step).

The problem is:
- Sometimes the bearing is replaced, sometimes not.
- In 99% of the cases, the bearing comes from China. No offense vs China but bearing from China can be hit and miss, some Chinese bearings are good, some are no good (bearing barely lasts 10K miles). Search other forums, sometimes people go through 3-4 alternators before they get a good one.
- Sadly, as we speak, rebuilt Bosch alternator is not the same as rebuilt Bosch alternator during the 1980's and 1990s.
The penetration of Cheap Chinese bearing ($5 for Chinese bearing vs $10-15 for good Japanese bearing) allows these rebuilders who behave like British Petroleum where margin of profit is more important than the QUALITY of the work.

So the bottom line with Bosch rebuilt alternators: take your chance and don't expect perfection out of it. Gone are the days of good Bosch rebuilt products.

On the other hand, rebuilding an alternator is actually very easy like doing an oil change. All you need are quality parts, and all those parts are now sold by Smith Electric Co in Greely after I personally spoke to them and convince them to carry OEM bearings and regulator on ebay so all of us can buy from them and do the rebuild ourselves.

Last edited by cn90; 06-11-2010 at 06:50 PM.
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  #11  
Old 06-12-2010, 10:24 AM
capntang capntang is offline
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Again, I'd love to rebuild this one, but I don't think that's really an option given the circumstances. I need the car back on the road by Tuesday/Wednesday, and I doubt I could have the parts delivered by then. I'm also not at home with access to my own garage and my own tools. I have very limited tools available where I am. While I appreciate the suggestion, do you really see that as a viable option in this case?

The more I think about it, the stranger it seems that the alternator is dead and the battery warning light is not illuminated...
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  #12  
Old 06-12-2010, 11:20 AM
capntang capntang is offline
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cn90,

I also noticed that you've recommended Alternator Pros in the past for rebuilt alternators. Are there rebuilds better than the Bosch factory rebuilds from NAPA? They are about $100 cheaper with no core charge and next day shipping included. Might be an option, and I'd get to keep my OEM alternator for future rebuilding if need be.
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  #13  
Old 06-12-2010, 06:38 PM
capntang capntang is offline
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Well, I took the time this afternoon to get the alternator off, and I got stuck. Managed to get the belt and all the bolts loose without removing the fan and shroud, which I was hoping to avoid.

Anyone know a good way to pry the thing loose from the bracket? Both bolts are out and the alternator is completely disconnected, but it just pivots around the lower mount.
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  #14  
Old 06-12-2010, 07:09 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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- Pivot it back and forth then pull firmly, it will come out.
- During- re-installation, use a small screw driver to align it back.

Since you are stuck use any Bosch Alternator from local supplier, you will probably be fine.
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  #15  
Old 06-14-2010, 10:17 AM
capntang capntang is offline
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Finally got the alternator off yesterday, but spent the weekend fishing and diving instead of trying to fix the car.

Took the alt by Autozone to have it bench tested, and it passed. It did sound like the bearings were making some noise, and that's all the guy mentioned. Could bad bearings cause the alternator to test OK but not charge the battery properly?
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  #16  
Old 06-14-2010, 10:36 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Bad bearing: noisy operation, nothing to do with charging.

Quote:
Originally Posted by capntang View Post
...the alternator to test OK but not charge the battery properly?
BTW, you can test the alternator in the car, no need to remove it for testing!

If the alternator tests OK, which means it produces enough electrical current, so the fact that your battery is not holding charge, it means:
a. battery old and on the way out.
b. somehow the current does not get to the battery.

Open the trunk and check all connections:
1. Ground cable:
- at battery
- at chassis

2. Red cable:
- at battery
- at distribution junction box
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  #17  
Old 06-14-2010, 08:46 PM
capntang capntang is offline
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I did have the alternator tested in the car ... four or five times. Consensus was the alternator was toast. I took it by two more shops today and had it bench tested twice more. It tested fine all three times while out of the car.

The Interstate battery tested fine as well according to the Interstate dealer. I'm going to take it to another dealer and have it tested again tomorrow.

I guess it could be the wiring, but all the grounds looked fine. I didn't check the connection at the dist block, though.

I really hate electrical problems.
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  #18  
Old 06-14-2010, 09:00 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Search the forum for "FSR".

you led people to believe the alternator may be bad but you did NOT specify the exact symptoms!
What is the symptom?
Battery discharged in the morning?
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  #19  
Old 06-15-2010, 06:18 AM
capntang capntang is offline
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No, battery discharged after driving the car for a while. The battery also isn't being charged by the alternator. It holds a charge overnight.

I posted some symptoms and DMM readings earlier in the thread.
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  #20  
Old 06-15-2010, 06:27 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Then to diagnose bad cabling: get very long alligator clips or wiring.
1. Disconnect both battery terminals.
2. Disconnect the red cable behind the alternator.

3. Using an ohmmeter, measure the resistance between the alternator's red cable and the trunk red cable, it should be 0 Ohms.
4. Using an ohmmeter, measure the resistance between the passenger side ground cable (suspension tower) and the trunk chassis, it should be 0 Ohms.
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  #21  
Old 06-15-2010, 11:54 AM
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540 M-Sport 540 M-Sport is offline
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Alternators can test fine, but once warmed up and hot, the voltage regulator can fail. Once cold, they are fine again. If you have an "iffy" alternator, ask them if they can run it on the bench for at least 20 minutes or more. A friend had this problem, and it was tested repeatedly and told it was fine, until one shop ran it for 15 or 20 minutes, then it failed the voltage test.
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  #22  
Old 06-16-2010, 02:08 PM
capntang capntang is offline
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Thanks for the help, guys. Looks like I'm good to go.

Picked up a rebuilt alternator and spent all afternoon trying to get the lower bolt to line up. Finally got it bolted up and got the belt back on. Took the battery off the charger and reinstalled it. Cranked the car up and found it putting out 13.5-13.7v according to the OBC (~14v according to my multimeter).

I guess it was the alternator after all.

I have to deal with the power steering leak immediately as well. It's gotten pretty bad. Looks like I'll be driving home and doing the valve cover gasket, VANOS seals, and PS hoses this weekend.
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