It has to be my alternator, right?

mmx6mmx6 Member Posts: 18
edited March 2014 in Nissan
Hi, my mechanic installed a rebuilt alternator on my car back in December (after my original one died), and starting a month or two later, a series of annoying problems has been phasing in (and out) to this day. First, my power locks developed a mind of their own, unlocking with the car parked and triggering my horn. I noticed they also unlocked while driving; the problem eventually, um, evoloved into self-locking as well. The power lock switch stopped working for a time, then restored on its own. A second problem is my windshield wipers sometimes getting stuck at the top of the stroke in intermittent mode. And finally, starting yesterday (now that six months have passed) my passenger side window has been rendered inept. Since all of these are electrically related, and I had my alternator changed fairly recently (and I have reasons to question my mechanic's integrity), this would be the most likely culprit, right?
My car is a 95 Nissan 200SX (Sentra) SE-R.


  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,390
    but it could be that the mechanic,when he replaced it, accidentally messed something else up in the wiring harness. Still, I doubt it. An alternator has like maybe two wires going into it at the most, so there's really not a whole lot to mess up, if you're just replacing one.

    Usually, when an alternator is failing, you'll notice that your headlights aren't as bright as they used to be, and neither are your interior lights. Power stuff like windows and seats will take longer to adjust, as the alternator just isn't putting out enough juice to power all that stuff. The car starts relying on the battery more, and ultimately kills it.

    Whenever I've had a power window motor go out, it was usually just the motor itself failing, and not something else causing it. One time though, the little plastic gear inside broke, so the motor would still operate, just wouldn't turn anything.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I'd say the problems are unrelated, the reason being that these individual components share circuits but the other components on the circuit did not fail.

    I agree with Andre, this isn't alternator related UNLESS...(long shot) it's the wrong alternator entirely and, as Andre says, the wiring harness has been damaged. It seems very unlikely.

    Old car blues I think, typical for an 8 year old car.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    plenty of reasons for parts to wear out, get dirty and intermittent, or flat out fail based on 8 years old. replacing something else, prying rocks out of a tire and the window falls into the door the next day, and so on all look like coincidences from aging to me.

    and I've been seeing enough coincidences from aging lately to know one :-D

    on the other hand, there are some politicians I'd like to blame everything on, so if you want, we can blame this on ( ) as well ;)
  • giant56giant56 Member Posts: 9
    I let my 03 Sentra LE sit for 4 to 5 days. My wife tried starting it and the engine would not turn. I did notice that when I released the emergency brake, the dashboard indicator for it was still lit. The stereo worked fine also. On the fourth try it finally started and has been fine since. It is scheduled for an oil change tomorrow, so i will ask the service technician to check it out. Any ideas as to what happened please respond and thanx in advance
  • mmx6mmx6 Member Posts: 18
    Well thanks for the input then. Guess it's just a bunch of simultaneous koinkidinks.
  • vivian24vivian24 Member Posts: 3
    I have experienced a sudden drop in power while driving. I attribute part of that to the extreme temperatures we are experiencing here in Arizona lately. I am considering replacing the oxygen sensor. Already replaced has been fuel tank, fuel filter, plugs, oil change. I would appreciate any feedback here or my email address of [email protected] Thank you very much.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    also, I would be shocked and surprised if a 1979 had an oxygen sensor. those came in with computer controlled engines, and 79 is about 12-15 years too early for that.

    I suspect you have also been given estimates on such classic "services" as rotating the tail light bulbs, shimming the bill, and greasing the palm. because I fail to see why replacing a fuel tank should even be in the mixture unless it's leaking puddles. sounds like you have a parts slinger out there who has not diagnosed the problem, or who isn't aware of carburetors and vacuum controls.

    there are three things you have got to have to get driving... air, fuel, and spark. any one of the three goes intermittent under load, you have problems of the "can't get out of its own way" type. curiously enough, all three items have, in carbureted cars from that era, vacuum motor control of some aspect of their operation. the diaphragms in vacuum "dashpots" develop cracks and pinholes, and misbehave over time. you are way, way overdue for failed dashpots.

    I fixed a lot of my issues in older cars by replacing all vacuum hoses, ONE AT A TIME with a run test before going on to the next, then testing all vacuum motors to be sure they held one. if you don't have/don't want to buy a handheld vacuum pump (maybe 30-35 bucks, I got mine two weeks ago finally in a brake service kit for $50), take the hose off the back of each dashpot... push in the actuator... put a wet thumb over the hose connection on the dashpot and let go of the actuator. if it doesn't stay put at least 20 seconds, replace the dashpot. distributor vacuum advance motors don't test well this way, draw a "engine off" mark on the control rod next to the advance motor, and see if that pulls in when you start the engine. if it doesn't, replace that dashpot too.

    also use a screw to plug the vacuum hose to the heater controls inside the car body before moving on... a dead dashpot or a hose kicked off one of them will also cause an engine vacuum problem that can make a car real droopy.

    also clean and adjust the carb.

    then if you are having further issues, get the car on a service scope and have any weak spark issues (coil, points, capacitor, cap, wires) addressed.
  • tblazer503tblazer503 Member Posts: 620
    got a keyless entry on that model? or an alarm?

    If you do, it is probably acting up. that would explain the horn, locks, etc. a new one should be about $100 or so. the wipers? change the motor. =o)

    hope this helps some.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    // delayed // my browser died at home, and it was time to head to work anyway.

    the things that have been done right so far include the fuel filter replacement... and the plugs replacement was a start. on a carburetor car, a tune-up also needs to include the ignition points, either dressed and gapped or replaced. by virtue of the car's age, if you don't know when the cap, condenser, and plug wires were changed last, do them now as well.

    the air filter should be changed with plugs at a minimum, and if you don't have a shiny-clean carburetor throat, that needs to be cleaned with solvent. check to be sure the carb cover screws are tight (light torque, this is into aluminum) and the carb is screwed tight on its base. since carb cleaner attacks vacuum hoses (maybe why I had to replace mine often?), that should be done early in the process to not mung the new hoses.

    older engines need a lot more fiddled with in tune-ups that the computerized engines avoid.
  • mmx6mmx6 Member Posts: 18
    I have keyless entry, but it has nothing to do with that. The car locks and unlocks freely throughout the day on its own. And guess what, the window fixed itself. How can all of these unrelated electrical problems just cut in and out and my problem NOT be my alternator?
  • tblazer503tblazer503 Member Posts: 620
    all I am saying is that when computer components go bad, they sometimes get sparatic, like the alarm that starts going off w/ temperature changes, or the fuel pump that intermittently cuts out towards the end of it's life.

    Easy way to check would be to remove the fuse from the keyless entry for a day or two and see if it still acts up. It is troublesome, but your power locks are still functional, and that should give you a go/no go on the keyless entry being the culprit. I have had alarms do this from a bad relay in the unit that was not holding correctly(from what I could figure)...

    Of course, it could very well be the alternator, try changing it again and see if the problems continue. if they do, then it is your alternator, if not(and you didn't have a warranty), you spent money you didn't need to.

    good luck
  • mjohns7861mjohns7861 Member Posts: 41
    Just replaced my battery on my Chevy Malibu 99 LS two weeks ago and the battery light on my dash keeps coming on about 5 minutes after I turn the ignition. What could this be? Alternator? Have not picked up any other symptons other than the battery light coming on.

  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    as is low idle, finicky computer, advanced stages of decomposition, international plots, etc.

    you need to have a battery/alternator test done with a testset by a mechanic to see whether you have alternator problems, or something else. while he's fiddling with the machine with the hood open, he should notice if there are problems with the drive belt that need to be corrected before he can diagnose the rest of the system.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Probably a cranky alternator, yes, but do check the fan belt tension.
  • mswit310mswit310 Member Posts: 1
    I have recently experienced multiple problems with my semi-new car. It is a 2001 with about 60,000 miles. I take very good care of the car.

    I have only had the car for about a year and already had to put a huge amount of money into it. I have tried to contact Nissan headquarters since it does not seem right that a newer car had so many problems.

    My car broke down twice, so I took it in to the dealership thinking there were recalls. The crank and cam sensors were under warrantee, but that did not fix the problem. Basically, I had to replace 4 oxygen sensors, and the air filtration system. The other problem is that the entire bottom of my car was rusted making the repair alot more difficult. Even though they managed to fix the car without destroying the exhaust system, I still feel that that problem will only just worsen, causing another huge investment in a few months/years.

    Do you think these problems are normal to a fairly new car? Even my mechanic said this was ridiculous for a new car. I looked on and found no major problems (ie. lemon, flood). I just don't think this is fair and has really reduced my image of the car. Has anyone experience similar problems? Or should I keep fighting to find the root of the problem?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    mswit--this really isn't the right topic for the question, so you might want to find one for Nissan problems in particular, or start your own topic.

  • mjohns7861mjohns7861 Member Posts: 41
    Car died on me today. Homeless man and a co-worker driving by helped me push my '99 Malibu to curb on a busy intersection.

    Under duress, decided to get my car towed to Chevy dealership rather than a independent shop. Mistake. $506 for a new alternator! $349 for the part and rest on labor. Unbelievable! Is this going rate? Think I got ripped off based on other people I have talked to. Are alternator's this expensive? The salesman touted the lifetime warranty I was getting repeatedly.

  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    ford alternators in the present generation include a regulator that is tied to the engine computer. if you hammer the gas pedal, and the computer can't load-shed enough by shutting down the a/c and downshifting the tranny to meet the revs, it will start cutting back the alternator output as well to shed load.

    that is not going to be a $39.95 rebuilt, particularly when you consider I have about as big an alternator as ford offers in my trailering package.

    have not priced one, my meds do > NOT < include 2-ounce valium pills. for now, I'm enjoying the unlimited power... ;)

    remember, it's only a lifetime warranty if you also die when you realize the replacement part died......
  • vidtechvidtech Member Posts: 212
    i believe my alternator is on its last breath on my 86 t bird.the alternator lite has started coming on only when in gear waiting at a light but goes out when the engine speed is there a chance that the regulator could do this?i would appreciate any comments.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I would check your battery (load test and fluid level) and battery cables and fan belt tension before doing anything else.

    How old is that battery. Over 4 years, it's time anyway.
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