Alternators....which one should I get?

silvernubirasilvernubira Member Posts: 59
edited March 2014 in Honda
I will be replacing the alternator on my 1988 Accord when the front axles are removed. I can get an alternator for about $80 or all the way to more than $200.

If I get the cheap one, am I asking for trouble?
Or if I pay $200 will I be getting an alternator which is almost as good as the one that came with the car?

Any comments and suggestions are appreciated.


  • zueslewiszueslewis Member Posts: 2,353
    and the only difference is the warranty, whether it's one-year or lifetime. The lifetime warranty sounds great, but never covers labor. Either way, if it fails, you out the labor.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    It might be just as good, but if it comes from one of the big retail discount chains (you know who you are) I think the chances of an earlier failure or a DOA in the box are greater.

    Buy what you can afford and like he says, read and compare warranties.

    And don't tighten the belt too much (overtighten) and don't use the new alternator to charge up a completely dead battery. Keep the box and all receipts, and put on a new belt. Check the tension in a week or so.
  • bretfrazbretfraz Member Posts: 2,021
    Remanufactured alternators can be troublesome (I went thru 3 some years back) so if you can afford brand new, buy that one.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    and that is one of the reasons why some rebuilders have a decent reputation, and some don't. another is whether they do anything with the cores, or just take a quick test and slap rotors and stators together no matter what they look like. another difference is whether chimps or techs do the work.

    this can make minor differences in the cost of a reman. in the price range you quoted, I would think it would be $80-110 or so among the rebuilds, and $200 for new.

    there are no 150,000 mile old parts in a new alternator.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Have you ever seen how some of these rebuilders work? They save up a bunch of the same alternator, disassemble them all and put them all in a big pile. Then pick out part A from Alternator 6, and part B from Alternator 112, and so on and so on. It's not like one complete alternator is rebuilt and stays together with the same basic parts or even case.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    and the cheap guys probably don't even insulation test the coils. have had friends who get rebuilts and it looks like they filed the coils to get 'em in the case, major insulation problems on the edges.

    the only alternator issue I have had in lo these 32 years of car ownership, I had an independent mechanic rebuild my own unit. harder to find these guys now than it used to be, but there are still police garage and former dealership mechanics who set up there own shops and buy good parts, do good work, and some of them even have space on the bench for one more car this week.

    I don't have one up here, but so far, dealer repairs have been up to standard. got a good parts place just down the road for when I have to start busting knuckles on this car, not a chain-ripoff joint where if the box is the same size, the part ought to fit as well.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    A good mechanic wouldn't dream of putting a rebuilt alternator on a car.

    He would carefully rebuild the old one. he would replace anything worn and bench test it before reinstalling it.

    Afraid most of those guys are gone.

    And a "lifetime" warranty means nothing as far as quality gos. The people who sell these are banking on the odds the person will sell the car before it fails or will forget about the warranty, lose the receipt etc.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    In the old days a mechanic wasn't faced with the economic reality he is now. What's the hourly rate to keep a shop open today, consideing rent or mortgage payments, business tax, heat, hydro, capital investment, equipment repair, advertising, payroll? That's the current reality. Get it in, get it fixed, get it out 'cause it's taking up shop space and my man's time. As to the "lifetime warranty", yep, you nailed it.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    Yeah, I am well aware of the economic reasons.

    Still, most "technicians" today have probably never had an alternator apart.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I can still remember replacing the alternator on my Saab turbo. As you know, the engine on the older ones faces "backward", to the fire wall. You can imagine what it's like getting the belts off and accessing the alternator under the AC unit.

    I worked on it for hours and hours, only to find that the rebuilt they gave me was no good. I had even replaced the mount bushings and the belt just to make sure it was thoroughly done.

    Parts store's response? "Oh, sorry, here's another one".

    PS: Bought a brand new one for $300.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Still, most "technicians" today have probably never had an alternator apart.

    That is why a lot of us are still mechanics.
  • tbonertboner Member Posts: 402
    To have the new one tested as well.

    This does two things:

    a) it obviously checks the "new" alternator

    b) it may tell you that the guy at the parts store didn't test your alternator correctly if he can't get any alternator, new or rebuilt to test good.

    I had b happen once, so I took my alternator back home and just went with the new battery in installed the day before. This was much easier than the SAAB listed above, as it was a GM car with the alternator right on the top of the engine 8^)


  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    I hear you, brother...

    Somewhere along the way, the term "mechanic" got replaced with the term "technician".

    I still call them "mechanics".

    Shifty, I'll bet you turned the air blue when your "rebuilt" alternator didn't work!

    What a pain that must have been!
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    I would only buy a new unit, and I also have it bench tested before I leave the store. The reman units are usually just "fixed" ones, meaning they only replace the bad parts clean it up and slap it in a box. So if a diode goes out they don't replace anything else, so the likely hood of a bad or short lived alternator is fairly high, like if the bearings lock up 10 days after you put it in.

    Another thing I really believe in is if it's not bad don't fix it!! If you have not had any problems out of the thing why mess with it, sometimes you end up causing more problems than you started with.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    That all depends on where you buy reman alternators or starters.
    Can you justify to a customer a $300 alternator when a reman is $80?
    The reman units I purchase are more than if I purchased them from a parts house, but they are quality remans. Brushes, diodes, regulator and bearings are all replaced. If the armature is not within specs, it is junked. Usually, the cost of a reman unit is 60% of the cost of a new one from the supplier I use.
    If it is an oddball alternator, then I will pay parts and labor on having the unit rebuilt.
    I have been dealing with the same shop for almost 20 years.

    Any time you purchase an alternator or starter, other than OEM, you may be looking at a problem. Even OEM can sometimes be problems.
    When it comes to whether I buy new or rebuilt, I use one place and only one place for reman units and only OEM for new units and have rarely had any problems.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    I have had a better experience going to Honda directly for the reman alternator - they cost more than the local parts store, but the local parts store are junk, and the reman Honda went another five years/80K before I sold the buy new would have been more than $300 even then, if memory serves.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    Means different things to different people!

    I agree, there are excellent remanufactured parts on the market. Just know your supplier!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    That's the trick. If you aren't a shop, just an individual, it is hard to make these kinds of contacts. I went with a new one because I had so much time invested already. I couldn't bear the thought of a second failure with yet another "unknown" rebuilder.

    "Rebuilt" isn't a hard term to understand, but it is a hard term to apply to what most people call "rebuilt" these days.

    In theory at least, "rebuilt" means everything is brought back to factory spec, NOT to a combination of factory spec AND permissable wear spec (that is "overhaul").

    I doubt if my defective alternator was even tested individually. I bet with some of the mass "rebuilders" they just spot test them off the line.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    You do realize that the dealers use aftermarket rebuilders for their reman units?
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    know who they use, but I know Honda and Toyota remans bought from the dealer have held up longer than the cars I put them in, usually three years/50K or more.

    I understood from the parts guy at Toyota that they had Denso doing the remanufacturing for them, and since that is the brand of alternator they use for the original ones they put in (for Japan-built cars), I would say that is acceptable to me. Either way, I go by results. I have only ever put parts store alternators in cars I was intending to sell right away. That is because the first one I ever bought lasted a year, as did its replacement, and the parts guy at the Kragen (Pep Boys? I don't remember) said that was "about average". It may come out cheaper in the end, but it is a lot less hassle the other way.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    ... so let's see, then, whichever parts outfit sells rebuilts that will strand your butt in Dysfunction Junction again a year from now accepts that as average.

    sounds like on general principle, I should avoid both the outfits to be sure I never get a so-called guaranteed rebuilt from the bad one.

    in fact, I bet we could get a real horror factory going on all the chain parts houses that buy cheap to sell cheap and the parts fail.

    maybe we should make one last run to get our own bearing presses, and do all our own rebuilding in a corner of the dining room.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Laugh about a press, but actually, I have a press at home.
    After paying for having wristpins pressed in and out of pistons at the cost of $13 per piston, I figured it out and it doesn't take too many small blocks to pay for a press. I now buy alternator bearings for GM alternators by the box, along with brushes and diodes. These are for my personal vehicles, since I only own GM vehicles. [it's a preferance thing]
    While some folks may not see a need for certain tools and will often shy away from the cost, you have to look at the long term investment. After dozens of alternators, pistons and axle bearings, the press has easily paid for itself.
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    An alternator rebuild isn't rocket science. You don't really need a 'mechanic' or a 'technican' to do this.

    And if you have a hammer and an assortment of sockets, I'll bet on of them will fit the bearing and a few taps with the hammer will remove the old one and reseat the new one fine.

    The real problem is that when you buy bearings, brushes, diodes, and alternator, your cost for these will be about what the cost is for a remanufactored one. The reman's buy these parts by the thousands, and that is how they make their money.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    You are correct on the re-manned units. Some are quality ones, but I bet you go to a shop that directly does alternator and starter work. I have a friend that works for a shop nearby and they do nothing but rebuild alternators and starters. He says most of the ones they do are made up from a bunch of mixed up parts so nothing is really a matched set. If it is for someone he knows he personally keeps all the stuff together and tests the remaining parts and replaceable parts replaced. The average Joe does not have our contacts so he/she goes to the chain stores. A lot of them give you 2 and sometimes 3 choices. I have 3 in my area and they all use the same vendor.

    Option one is a 1 year warranty reman and according to the vendor directly(I called) they just fix the burned up part and clean and re assemble.

    Option two complete rebuild but the parts are all in bins tested for defects like Shifty said, but not all of the parts are from the same alternator, all replaceable parts are replaced like diodes, bearings and brushes, the rest of the stuff is tested and re used. These units usually carry 3-5 year warranty depending on the store.

    Option three is a compltely new unit, all parts are new including the case and these carry a lifetime warranty.

    Now I am a GM guy also so I go to a GM parts dealer or the GM SPO(dealer parts warehouse) for a Delco. re built unit that is re worked by Delphi-the original makers of the alternator. I work for GM so I get them direct from the warehouse that the dealer does for 15% above dealer cost. If all that goes out on a alternator is the bearing I just swap out the bearing like you do. Most people are scared to take something like that apart to try to fix it, but they know how to get it off the car and put it back, so they go to the chain store and get one from there.

    I guess what I mean is that a new aftermarket alternator is usually better than a re worked one. In any event I have it tested no matter where I buy if they have the equipment.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    A hammer and socket to rebuild?
    And if you have a hammer and an assortment of sockets, I'll bet on of them will fit the bearing and a few taps with the hammer will remove the old one and reseat the new one fine.

    Yep, when you have early bearing failure in the alternators, then you only have one person to blame.

    The real problem is that when you buy bearings, brushes, diodes, and alternator, your cost for these will be about what the cost is for a remanufactored one.

    Brushes, about $5
    Bearings, about $4 each
    diodes, shouldn't be more than a couple bucks each.
    Regulator, for GM vehicles, about $18.
    Not even cose to the cost of a new alternator.
    But to say you can rebuild an alternator with a hammer and socket is only replacing parts, not rebuilding.
    Do you turn the armature? If so, do you have a lathe? If not, then it ain't being done right and will not last as well as if it were done right.
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    When's the last time you've seen a need to turn an armature? If it needs turned, that means the old brushes wore down and chewed it up. Throw that one away.

    And if you don't knock bearings out with a hammer how do you do it? With a press? What do you use to actually press aganist the bearing? Probably a socket. An assortment of sockets give you a wide size range to find something that fits well.

    I'm not talking about working on a space shuttle, this is an automoble alternator for gosh sakes.

    Now, it the alternator is a real mess to remove and re-install, this would be a time to use a new alternator. But for me, this would also depend on how long I intended to keep the car.

    The prices you quote come up just to about what I paid for a rebuilt GM alternator a few weeks ago, $29. Like I said, the price of parts will be what a total rebuild may cost. I did not say they total what a NEW one would cost.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    Where did you get an alternator for $29?!! I have NEVER seen one that was re built to any type of reliability for that price. My friend the works in a alternator and starter shop and to get a re built costs around $45 average, and that is one that is fixed to run again only replacing the bearings and any other bad parts.

    As far as using a press to remove and install bearings is the correct way it's done. If you have a press then you also have the correct tooling to do the job correctly using arbors, NOT sockets. There is a huge difference between using a press and using a hammer. With the hammer you are applying high shock to the bearing itself and if your socket is not positioned properly you WILL damage the bearing wether it is right away or 3 months later, it will happen. The press will not apply any type of shock to the bearing and the arbor will not shift causing no damage what so ever.

    You ALWAYS turn the armature for 2 reasons. Number one it trues everything back up getting rid of any low/high spots. Number two is to provide a proper surface for the brushes break in correctly ensuring a long service life.

    Bottom line is - Yes a backyard mechanic can re build an alternator. Will it last as long as one that a professional re built, no. You and your hammer and socket set can keep on hacking an alternator back together every two or three months.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    jgmilberg covered alot of it, but I will reply to your comments.
    And if you don't knock bearings out with a hammer how do you do it? With a press? What do you use to actually press aganist the bearing? Probably a socket.

    Yes, I use a press. No, I do not use a socket.
    Your sockets may be cheap enough to pound on, but mine are not.
    I have seal and bushing drivers to install the bearings correctly. And believe it or not, the bearing and seal driver kit is a whopping $60 [sarcasm] or a lower priced kit will run about $30.

    A rebuilt GM alternator for $29. Now that is something you can count on. Ha ha.

    As I said, I use one shop for rebuilt alternators for customer's cars. I know the work they do and the quality. For my own alternators, I take the armature to their shop and use their lathe. If the armature isn't turned, then I won't install it.
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    Autozone. Big discount chain where I live. For about an additional 10%, they will warranty almost everything they sell for life if you have a real fear about their quality.

    It is the basic, internal regulator Delco 55 or 65 amp alternator. A Type 10SI? Put it on a tractor. $29 after core exchange.

    Craftsman sockets. I break it, they give me a new one. And don't tell me about the 'abuse' disclaimer. I've never broke a Craftsman, but I'm sure they just give you another one.

    And come on guys, the GM alternators have small rear needle bearings. Light taps with a hammer will push them out. I haven't done hundreds, I'm not a mechanic, I've just tried to do some of my own work to keep my repair cost down. But I've never had a purchased or self rebuilt starter or alternator fail as long as I've had the vehicle.

    And haven't you guys read any of the message topic 'Cheap Repairs I've Make When Young and Broke' (or something like that)? Driving bearings out with a socket don't compare to some of the things that were described in that topic.....
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    they jimmy in a couple Norelco razors and run 'em backwards for the DC while growing those cool soul patches....
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Yeah, lifetime warranty, means you spend a lifetime replacing it.
    Chain stores are fine, but you get what you pay for.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I must confess I have cracked open Craftsman sockets, even in 3/4" drive. I only use them for light work now.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    Well I too have busted my share of craftsman sockets, and let me tell you when it breaks you probably will not have another of the same type and size to finish the job unless you pack up your stuff and take it back to get another one. Now that will take on average of 45 minutes to get there get the new one and get back. If you want to pound on your sockets go right ahead, but when you need it and it breaks you are up a creek. Snap-On and Mac tools for me, craftsman are for light duty use IMO.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    I do use Craftsman, but As I've said before, Armstrong is my choice of hand tools. I have yet to break one of their tools and when you are jumping on a 2 1/4" wrench with a 6' cheater on it, you are really pushing your luck. LOL!
    Of course I have the assortment of Snap-On and Mac. The only reason I buy Snap-On is because they have some specialty tools that no one else carries.
    I always have extra sets of socket. Breaking one 40 miles in the middle of nowhere is not a good thing. LOL!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    Funny, I spent almost 20 years in the tool business and I think I might have heard of or seen one Armstrong tool in my life. are they even in business now?
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712

    The same company that makes Matco, Craftsman and Allen tools makes Armstrong.

    Armstrong is their Industrial line of tools.

    Armstrong's site They are a Danaher company.

    Armstrong is quite popular where I live.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    Well they sure aren't popular in the west coast.

    Danaher private brands a lot of their product.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    You sure about that?
    You see, I'm in Oregon and the last time I checked, it was on the west coast and yes, they are very popular in Oregon. I may be wrong, Oregon may have floated away from the west coast.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    of course, they are not the first place all Joe Sixpacks go to ;)

    seriously, if you want parts and tools the pros use, just for something different, look for NAPA and PARTS PLUS locations, and check them out.

    there are local parts distributors who use the same sources these guys do, but they don't always boast about it. I have been quite happy with these two outfits.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    I'm one state north of you but as a former regional manager for one of the big tool companies I have literally been in thousands of shops over those 20 years. I can honestly say the Armstrong name is one I've rarely and I do mean rarely heard.

    More in heavy equipment shops I guess but I've been in more of those than I can count too.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Well, that could be.
    In Longview, most of the industrial supply stores sell Armstrong. In fact, that is where I purchase quite a few of my tools. Armstrong is readily available in Portland, Longview and on the coast.
    NAPA usually carries SK tools, I usually see Armstrong tools in the industrial stores.
    I deal with heavy mechanics from all over Oregon and SW Washington and most of them have some Armstrong tools in their supply of tools.
    It may be that we are an odd breed that have these tools, don't know. I do know that they are readily available and good tools. But then again, I don't deal too much with the tool sales people that come by in trucks.
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