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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 09-13-2011, 10:26 PM
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LaCrosse540i6 LaCrosse540i6 is offline
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Alternator replacement with deflection pulley surprise.

So starting last week I got the usual low battery issues (warning lights, radio cutting out, etc..). My first instinct was to check the battery, and being 5 years old I decided to replace it regardless.

Soon after I replaced the battery I started getting the same issues. So after I jumped my car I checked my voltage through my OBC. It started at around 12v and worked it's way down to about 9v at that point it started dying. So basically, from what I understand my alternator is just not charging at all.

Alright, now with the first part of the story out of the way, I am now working on taking my alternator out.

I take out the aux fan and the first thing I see is this pulley laying on top of the underbelly sheild.



At first I just assumed this was a part from a past project seeing as how my belt was intact and the car had just been running perfectly. It didn't take me long to find out where the pulley had actually come from.





There had been no belt screeching, no hiccups, or anything of the sort that would have alerted me to this pulley being gone. The groove on the belt matches the inside of the bearing, which leads me to believe the belt has been riding on this for quite sometime.

Now, this is where I am thoroughly confused. How could the pulley shear off and keep the belt on track? How is the belt riding on this without any noise?

Any insight would be very welcome.
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  #2  
Old 09-13-2011, 11:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaCrosse540i6 View Post


There had been no belt screeching, no hiccups, or anything of the sort that would have alerted me to this pulley being gone. The groove on the belt matches the inside of the bearing, which leads me to believe the belt has been riding on this for quite sometime.

Now, this is where I am thoroughly confused. How could the pulley shear off and keep the belt on track? How is the belt riding on this without any noise?

Any insight would be very welcome.
Now, THAT is some weird shiznit !
If you look at how the pulley is designed, the bolt hole is eccentric, which allows you to change the tension on the belt by rotating the pulley to the appropriate position, then tightening the bolt. It appears that the pulley was in the most "relaxed" position, therefore not having a whole lot of effect on the belt. Still pretty farkin` weird, though....
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Old 09-14-2011, 12:08 AM
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My thoughts exactly.

I can't help but wonder if this would have any affect on my alternator, or if it's purely coincidental.
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Old 09-14-2011, 06:18 AM
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Time to go to Vegas man, because you are one lucky dude! Alternator pulley may have been slipping resulting in your lack of charge. You might want to replace everything belt related and see what happens. You may still have to replace the alternator, but you may get lucky too. Hopefully the alternator is OK!
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Old 09-14-2011, 06:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaCrosse540i6 View Post
My thoughts exactly.

I can't help but wonder if this would have any affect on my alternator, or if it's purely coincidental.
It will absolutely have an effect on your alt's output. First thing to check when the alt is not doing it's job is belt tension.
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Old 09-14-2011, 06:44 AM
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Although it's probably a given that you are going to replace the belt, I'd point out that the cracking in the belt rims is a clear sign it's time to replace that belt. It shows clearly in the 3rd photo you posted, below the pulley bearing.
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Old 09-14-2011, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Scott ZHP View Post
It will absolutely have an effect on your alt's output. First thing to check when the alt is not doing it's job is belt tension.
Yup, basically you're running a major underdrive pulley setup with that pulley missing.

Agree on the Vegas suggestion, or at least buy some lottery tickets.
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Old 09-14-2011, 09:08 PM
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Thanks for the replies fellas.

I ordered a new pulley and belt, I'll have my alternator tested while everything is apart and then go from there.
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Old 09-14-2011, 10:21 PM
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If I were you, I'd take a good, long and hard look at every other belt, idler and tensioner in there, and for each try to really convince yourself why you SHOULDN'T replace it. The belt was really shot to sh!t. The dead pulley is well and truly that. There's an awfully high probability that the others aren't too healthy either.
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Old 09-14-2011, 11:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaCrosse540i6 View Post
I can't help but wonder if this would have any affect on my alternator
On the E39, we've seen sporadic exploded idler pulleys.

Here's a picture, for example, of one that also took out the waterpump pulley:
- Pictorial look at typical E39 cooling system failure modes (1)



Quote:
Originally Posted by LaCrosse540i6 View Post
I'll have my alternator tested while everything is apart and then go from there.
This alternator test thread may come in handy for the OP:
- DIY how to test a BMW battery & alternator

Quote:
Originally Posted by jcourcoul View Post
take a good, long and hard look at every other belt, idler and tensioner in there
+1

- Recommended parts list for a complete belt drive system overhaul (1)

If it helps, here are my DIY instructions that I wrote up for my M54 belt drive and alternator overhaul:
- Removal instructions for the alternator & drive belt system of a 2002 525i
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Old 09-14-2011, 11:04 PM
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In post #165 of this M54 alternator thread, is another example of the idler roller just gone on an E46:
- E46 (1999 - 2006) > Another Possibility of a P00128

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  #12  
Old 09-14-2011, 11:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcourcoul View Post
If I were you, I'd take a good, long and hard look at every other belt, idler and tensioner in there, and for each try to really convince yourself why you SHOULDN'T replace it. The belt was really shot to sh!t. The dead pulley is well and truly that. There's an awfully high probability that the others aren't too healthy either.
I agree.

The problem is this morning my e36's ignition switch failed (how about that luck?).

As much as I would like to replace all of the pulleys and belts, I need this car back on the road ASAP.
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Old 09-15-2011, 06:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaCrosse540i6 View Post
I agree.

The problem is this morning my e36's ignition switch failed (how about that luck?).

As much as I would like to replace all of the pulleys and belts, I need this car back on the road ASAP.
No offense meant, but this reminds me of the classic Dirty Harry movies of old, where Callahan looks down the barrel of his BIG gun at the perp and asks: "Are you feeling lucky, punk?"

If you get a high speed pulley or belt failure, from past 'Fest experiences we know that most of the times you lose the mechanical fan (yeah, we saw the threaded shaft on the waterpump so we know it is an auto tranny), the expansion tank, maybe a hose or two and the rest of the engine if you don't stop real quick. And then, the car will NOT get back on the road ASAP.

Are you feeling lucky?
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:31 AM
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Takes only a few more minutes to replace everything! You do not want to go back in there! Do it once, do it right.
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Old 09-15-2011, 07:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcourcoul View Post
If you get a high speed pulley or belt failure, from past 'Fest experiences we know that most of the times you lose the mechanical fan (yeah, we saw the threaded shaft on the waterpump so we know it is an auto tranny), the expansion tank, maybe a hose or two and the rest of the engine if you don't stop real quick. And then, the car will NOT get back on the road ASAP.

Are you feeling lucky?
No offense taken.

As far as I know all M54's have the threaded shaft on the water pump. As you can see mine has some significant rust, as I do not have a mechanical fan.

I plan to overhaul everything, waterpump, hydrualic tensioner, etc, as soon as I get both of my cars back on the road, but I do appreciate and understand the concern.
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Old 09-17-2011, 11:24 AM
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Alright, so everything is back in place. I replaced my alternator as it tested out bad, but I am still not charging.

I'm beginning to think I have a short. Any Ideas?
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Old 09-17-2011, 04:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaCrosse540i6 View Post
Alright, so everything is back in place. I replaced my alternator as it tested out bad, but I am still not charging.

I'm beginning to think I have a short. Any Ideas?
Could be the replacement alternator is bad. Unusual, but not unheard of, and I have had it happen to me with both alternators and starters in the past.
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Old 09-17-2011, 05:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SJBimmer View Post
Could be the replacement alternator is bad
We have had a few people report, at least on the E39 side of the house, M54 engines with bad replacement alternators (mostly, it seems, from Autozone). For example:
- Urgent - Red Battery Light

However, the only way to know for sure, is to test it.

To that end, I just spent a few hours clarifying the battery & alternator test procedures for the bestlinks.

If you can, would the OP kindly run through the E46-relevant steps of interest to him to see if it helps him and, for us, to see if/where we made any mistakes (so all benefit from the results).

Here's the thread:
- How to test the battery & alternator

But, here's a short summary (sans pictures):

Quote:
WARNINGS:
  • ALWAYS charge a BMW E39 battery OUT of the vehicle!
  • NEVER disconnect a battery while the engine is running!
  • Try to wait at least 16 minutes (with the trunk open) before removing the battery (just wait for the trunk light to go out)
    • Always charge the battery before running the tests below (otherwise, a battery that is simply discharged will test bad)
    • Remove surface charge before running open-circuit tests below (otherwise, a battery will appear healthier than it really is)
  • ALWAYS install the vent tube properly!
Suggested method of removing the battery:
  1. Remove key, unlock all four doors, and exit the vehicle
  2. Open the trunk (note the the trunk light will come on and stay on)
  3. Wait at least sixteen minutes (or at least until the trunk light goes out)
    • See: How to disconnect the battery to prevent the 16-minute BMW transport mode from disabling the remote key and other items (1)
  4. Without opening any doors, disconnect the battery terminals
    • First disconnect the negative terminal (10mm socket wrench)
    • Then disconnect the positive terminal (10mm socket wrench)
  5. Remove the E39 battery hold-down metal plate crossing the battery
  6. Note: Some say, if you need to 'reset' electrical components such as a DICE Silverline, once the battery is removed from the vehicle, to short the positive and negative terminals with a wrench for five minutes to "allow excess stored charge to bleed off".
How to measure voltage:
  • Most people use a digital multimeter (although an analog multimeter will work as well - but - the Bentleys specifically say to use a digital multimeter).
  • IMHO, the Bentleys are confusing in describing when to load and when not to load the battery!
    • I "think" the following applies:
      • Battery open-circuit tests: Bleed surface charge as described (e.g., let the battery sit for 2 to 3 hours after charging and before testing)
      • Battery under load tests: Load the battery as described (e.g., turn the high beams on for 15 seconds before testing & leave the load on while testing)
      • Alternator output tests: Load the alternator, as described (e.g., wait 15 seconds, turn on lights, fan, wiper, & rear defroster & leave the load on while testing)
  • If you don't have a digital voltmeter, one can unlock the E39 instrument cluster to read closed-circuit battery voltage on your instrument display:
    • Hold down the right button (about 10 seconds) until test 01 shows
    • Press the left button once to get the results of test 1 (your VIN)
    • Add up the last five VIN digits, e.g., GZ12345 = 1+2+3+4+5=15
    • Press the right button once to go to any LOCK=ON display
      • Note: This is different (simpler) than the instructions which say to go to test #19 (but going to test #19 will also work just as well)
    • Press the left button repeatedly until it displays that number (15 in this example)
    • With that number displayed (e.g., 15), now press the right button once (this should unlock the display)
    • To see alternator output, press the right button repeatedly until you see test #09 on the display
    • Press the left button to view the results (e.g., 13.7 volts at idle)
      • Note: You can leave the display in this position while driving but when you turn the car off, you'll have to perform the unlock procedure anew.
How to remove surface charge for open-circuit voltage tests:
  • Note: Bleed surface charge before testing open-circuit battery voltage only if you feel surface charge has accumulated.
    • If the car has been driven or the battery has recently been charged, surface charges will sway voltage readings
  • To remove excess surface charge
    • Allow the battery to sit for 2 to 3 hours before testing
    • Or, turn the high beams on for 5 minutes & then wait 5 minutes more with the ignition off before testing
    • Or, apply a 15 second load of 1/2 the battery's cold-cranking amperage & then wait 5 minutes before testing
How to load the battery for so-called closed-circuit tests:
  • Note: Apparently, you test the battery voltage while under this load! (correct me if I'm wrong!)
  • Always fully charge the battery first (as a discharged battery will always test bad)
    • Apply a 15 amp load for fifteen seconds before testing (turn the high beams on for 1 minute with the ignition off)
    • Or, apply a 200 amp load for one minute (as stipulated in the Bentleys ... where you get a 200 amp load, I don't know)
  • Test the closed-circuit voltage while the battery is still under this load!
    • Note: I'm assuming you test under the load (and not after the load is released); but the Bentleys are confusing to me on this point!
How to load the alternator at engine idle for alternator output tests:
  • Note: Alternator output should be tested with the engine idling under the following four loads after at least 15 seconds of idling (for the alternator to ramp up):
    • Turn the high beams on
    • And, turn the rear defroster on
    • And, turn the fan on (full force, I guess)
    • And, turn the wipers on (to the regular setting, I guess)
  • These loads should be left on while the alternator output tests are being performed.
AutoZone free test:
  1. Drive (if you can) to Autozone.
    • If you can't drive, you can bring the battery or alternator to them for testing
    • HINT: If you do drive, put jumper cables and/or a spare fully-charged battery in the trunk (just in case)
  2. Once at Autozone, ask the parts guy to test your vehicle.
  3. They will hook their instrument directly to the battery to run the following three tests:
    • Battery:
      • With the key out of the ignition ...
      • They will apply a light load to bleed off excess charge
      • They will test the open-circuit voltage of the battery
      • They will enter the cold cranking amperage of your battery
      • They will apply an appropriate load (based on the CCA value)
      • They will test the closed-circuit-after-load voltage of the battery
    • Alternator:
      • They will ask you to start your vehicle
      • They will NOT ask you to turn anything else on (at least they didn't ask me today)
      • They will test the alternator using three tests
        • Amperage output
        • Diode integrity
        • Lamp integrity (i.e., ability to light the dashboard warning circuit)
    • Starting System:
      • They will ask you to restart your vehicle
      • Their instrument will make before/after measurements to test your starting circuit
Home DIY:
  1. Visually check the battery and cables for tightness, corrosion, or physical damage
    • Be mindful of the explosive charge on the battery positive cable.
    • See: How the battery disconnect explosive charge works in an accident (1)
  2. Note the date stamped into the negative terminal of a BMW battery (or labeled on the outside of an aftermarket battery). Five years is about the right time that you would start to expect sudden failures.
  3. Note the color of the BMW battery specific gravity indicator
    • Green === adequate charge
    • Black === inadequate charge
    • Yellow === defective
  4. The battery needs to be in the 'fully charged state' to properly test the open and closed circuit voltage readings, after loading.
    • Charge the battery on a battery charger of 6 amperes or less, for a few hours (never exceed 16.5 volts charging voltage!).
  5. Open-circuit voltage quick test:
    • Note: Bleed off excess surface charge as explained above.
    • >= 12.6V@80F === fully charged (Note: May be up to 13.8V.)
    • >= 12.4V@80F === 75% charged
    • >= 12.2V@80F === 50% charged
    • >= 12.0V@80F === 25% charged
    • <= 11.7V@80F === fully discharged
    • Note: If the open-circuit fully-charged voltage is less than 12.4 volts, recharge the battery & retest.
  6. Closed-circuit voltage quick test:
    • Note: Load the battery for this so-called closed circuit test, as explained above & test the voltage while still under that load!
    • > 9.6V@80F === OK
    • > 9.5V@60F ===OK
    • > 9.3V@40F ===OK
    • > 8.9V@20F ===OK
    • > 8.5V@0F ===OK
  7. Charging system quick test:
    • With the ignition idling for at least 15 seconds (and with the high beam, rear-window defroster, interior fan, & wipers on), check the voltage in the following FOUR locations (they should all read the same to ground):
      • with the ignition off, across the battery
      • with the ignition off, across the engine-bay (+) and (-) terminals (see pictures posted prior)
      • with the ignition off, on I6 E39s, pull back the rubber cover to check at the alternator #30 B+ post (see diagrams posted prior)
      • with the ignition off, disconnect the alternator harness connector, and then, with the ignition on, check at the alternator #15 field pin to ground (see diagrams posted prior)
    • Battery voltage should be >= 12.6V@80F with the ignition subsequently turned off after a one-minute load and between 13.5v and 14.5v with the engine idling & the following four loads (high beam, rear defroster, interior fan, & wipers)
      • WARNING: Never disconnect the battery while the engine is running!
  8. If any tests above fail, you may wish to check wiring & fuses.
    • See: Where to find E39 fuse boxes (1) (2) (WDS) (WDS.ru) & how to find the front passenger seat undercarpet fuse panel (1)
  9. Check charge circuit lamp
    • Locate the blue wire coming from terminal 61E of the alternator harness connector (see diagrams prior posted)
    • With a piercing test lead and with the alternator harness connected, pierce that blue wire with your positive test lead
    • Then turn the ignition key to the on position
      • The charge lamp should light on the dashboard
      • And you should see <= 1.5 vdc on your meter
    • Now start the engine
      • The charge lamp should go out on the dashboard
      • And you should see >= 8.0 vdc on your meter
  10. Check the electrolyte level & specific gravity:
    • Load the battery with 15 amperes for 1 minute (turn on the headlights with the engine not running)
    • Shut off the ignition & remove the key
    • Open the trunk & allow the car to sit for at least 16 minutes
    • Check the electrolyte level
      • Remove the battery from the vehicle
      • Remove the E39 steel hold-down strap
      • Remove the two stickers on top of the BMW battery
      • Unscrew all six cell caps
      • Electrolyte level should be to the fill line which is 1/4 inch or 5mm above the top of the plates at the very bottom of the internal black plastic depth indicator
      • Top off with distilled H2O, if necessary
    • Check the specific gravity:
      • Check the electrolyte temperature with a thermometer.
      • Place a hydrometer into each cell & write down the values
        • 1.265@80F === OK
        • < 1.265@80F === DISCHARGED
        • Note: Add 0.004 to the hydrometer reading for every 10F above 80F & subtract 0.004 for every 10F below 80F
      • If the average specific gravity for all six cells is below 1.225, remove the battery from the vehicle and recharge & test again.
Ways for a battery to 'die':
  • Over time, the electrolyte, which is constantly replenished by electricity from the alternator, is chemically depleted, causing very gradual loss of stored charge.
  • The 'paste' on the plates crumbles off, over time, and eventually shorts out the electrical plates, one by one, each diminishing the capacity until you go below the thresholds below.
  • Overcharging can heat up the plates, buckling them, and causing the paste on the grids to fall off the grids.
  • Each time a battery runs down so far that it won't start the car, it loses a small percentage of its capacity, due to insoluble compounds being formed in the depletion process.
  • Disuse causes the chemicals in the paste to form insoluble compounds which slowly decreases the ability of the battery to be chemically & electrically recharged.
  • Physical damage causes leakage of electrolyte.
  • Oxidation on the terminals causes high resistance to electron flow, causing the battery to 'appear' weaker than it is.
  • Cold weather slows down chemical reactions, exacerbating any of the problems listed above (and, if the battery is discharged, the fluid can literally freeze, the ice causing physical damage)
  • The vent, if not connected, and if blocked, can cause chemical and physical damage.
  • Prolonged overcharging can cause electrolyte to evaporate, causing the fluid level to lower below the plates, which causes insoluble compounds to form on the area of the plates not immersed in electrolyte.
What battery to buy & how to change it properly:
  • OEM specs are Group 49, 720 CCA, vented
    • BMW 61.21.8.381.762
    • USA 729905-10
    • EN 12V 90Ah 720A
    • SAE 160 RC 720 CCA.
  • Aftermarket batteries:
    • Duralast 49-DL <=== this is the most often recommended!
    • NAPA #7549
    • Deka 649MF
    • Interstate MTP-93
  • Make sure you get a vent tube kit!
    • See also: What battery (1) & what battery maintenance (1) & battery electrolyte (1) & battery replacement DIY (1) (2) (3) & how NOT to change the battery (1) (2) (3)
  • Note: Some people choose batteries, for some strange reason, by marketing warranty ...
    • If you're one of those, see this: Whether or not a replacement-part lifetime warranty make sense (1)

Last edited by bluebee; 09-17-2011 at 05:30 PM.
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  #19  
Old 09-17-2011, 05:29 PM
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I'll tell you what else you may want to check very carefully: all the components in contact with the serpentine belt, especially the water pump and power steering pump and all its hoses. I had a water pump intermittently start squealing then all of a sudden freeze up. The belt melted onto the pulley. I would check the function of each component without the belt on and then again with everything assembled.
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Old 09-17-2011, 08:02 PM
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LaCrosse540i6 LaCrosse540i6 is offline
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Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
We have had a few people report, at least on the E39 side of the house, M54 engines with bad replacement alternators (mostly, it seems, from Autozone).
Thanks bluebee.

Actually I did buy the alternator from Autozone, but they tested the new one along side my old one and it passed (not to say something couldn't have happened from that point).

I will be going back to Autozone either tomorrow or Monday and I will make sure to post my findings.
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Old 09-19-2011, 11:01 PM
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LaCrosse540i6 LaCrosse540i6 is offline
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So I thought I would take another look at the alternator to make sure everything had been connectly properly.

Alternator harness - check
Alternator power cable nut - check
Alternator power cable - about that....

Apparently I tightened the nut without the cable attached. Must've slipped off before I got the nut on. I checked my voltage via my OBC after I reattached the cable and I'm now +/- 14.5v. Success!

Sorry bluebee, there was no interesting underlying cause for my electrical issues. Just my poor attention to detail. Nevertheless I thought I should follow up.
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Old 09-20-2011, 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by LaCrosse540i6 View Post
So I thought I would take another look at the alternator to make sure everything had been connectly properly.

Alternator harness - check
Alternator power cable nut - check
Alternator power cable - about that....

Apparently I tightened the nut without the cable attached. Must've slipped off before I got the nut on. I checked my voltage via my OBC after I reattached the cable and I'm now +/- 14.5v. Success!

Sorry bluebee, there was no interesting underlying cause for my electrical issues. Just my poor attention to detail. Nevertheless I thought I should follow up.
Glad you got it working! Now you are ready for those crazy Wisconsin winters. I worked in Grafton one winter many years ago. The second coldest place I have ever been, after the South side of Chicago working in a steel mill, called ironically, Wisconsin steel.
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Old 09-23-2011, 07:14 PM
helo11 helo11 is offline
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I just found this same issue while replacing my CCV, belt looks good on mine thought must have caught it soon enough. Just found the pulley sitting on the skid plate when I took it off because I dropped a tool When I replace the pulley how do I know if it's tense enough?
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Old 09-24-2011, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by helo11 View Post
I just found this same issue while replacing my CCV, belt looks good on mine thought must have caught it soon enough. Just found the pulley sitting on the skid plate when I took it off because I dropped a tool When I replace the pulley how do I know if it's tense enough?
When you replace the pulley carefully inspect all the other pulleys and tensioner assembly for wear and damage. You should have proper tension if the breaker bar and socket connected to the tensioner requires significant force to pull it back enough to replace the belt. I don't know what the torque reading is supposed to be, but it's fairly high. Once you've done it on a car with a good tensioner, you'll remember how much force it requires.
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Old 03-09-2013, 04:08 PM
jgold47 jgold47 is offline
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Originally Posted by catso View Post
When you replace the pulley carefully inspect all the other pulleys and tensioner assembly for wear and damage. You should have proper tension if the breaker bar and socket connected to the tensioner requires significant force to pull it back enough to replace the belt. I don't know what the torque reading is supposed to be, but it's fairly high. Once you've done it on a car with a good tensioner, you'll remember how much force it requires.
hah - just found this on my e36 while doing a CAI install...

So just an idler pulley and belts then?
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