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Discussion Starter #21
I just got this quote from my local volvo parts supplier:

Your vehicle already has the 160 amp alternator fitted.
Alternator 36050267 £354.54 (The voltage regulator and pulley are included)
Exchange surcharge £100.00 (Refunded on return of the old unit)

Does this look like a decent deal - and is it normal to do exchange surcharge??
 

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Do not throw a new alternator into the car until you know the cause.

It could simply be a weak / old battery.

You need to gather more evidence before spending big money.
1. Charge the battery for 24 hours
2. Drive the car for a few days and observe behaviour
3. Use a multimeter and check alternator output voltage. Above 14V when engine is above 1000 RPM indicates the alternator is working fine. Normal charge voltage is 14.4V but it can vary a bit by temperature
4. Use VIDA and do the alternator quick test, that also does temperature compensation tests and tells you if the alternator is within specifications

Only after the above, where you are absolutely certain the alternators is fault, should you buy a new alternator.

Normally batteries fail more often than alternators, and as they are cheaper than alternators, fitting a new battery when the old one is >6 years old, or is showing signs of age, is a good idea.

I replaced my originally factory battery when it was 10 years old.


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Discussion Starter #23
Do not throw a new alternator into the car until you know the cause.

It could simply be a weak / old battery.

You need to gather more evidence before spending big money.
1. Charge the battery for 24 hours
2. Drive the car for a few days and observe behaviour
3. Use a multimeter and check alternator output voltage. Above 14V when engine is above 1000 RPM indicates the alternator is working fine. Normal charge voltage is 14.4V but it can vary a bit by temperature
4. Use VIDA and do the alternator quick test, that also does temperature compensation tests and tells you if the alternator is within specifications

Only after the above, where you are absolutely certain the alternators is fault, should you buy a new alternator.

Normally batteries fail more often than alternators, and as they are cheaper than alternators, fitting a new battery when the old one is >6 years old, or is showing signs of age, is a good idea.

I replaced my originally factory battery when it was 10 years old.


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My battery is only 1yr old - it's an extra capacity version 100AH 900CCA - and I've been looking after it - plugged into charger to charge to full usually once per week (or once every two week at the most).

When car ignition on and idling, battery terminals read 14.2 V. Theoretically this indicates a good alternator, right? Which make it even more puzzling for me.

I've just bought a cigarette lighter voltage monitor - will keep an eye on the battery when driving now.

I could not find the alternator test option on my VIDA nor the voltage counter reset - maybe my car model is too old being 2004 XC90?
 

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I just tried to look at VIDA - these options are not available to my car - there is no option to monitor the battery or alt. Maybe my car model is too old (2004 XC90 T6) and these are more recent features?
That's possible, or it could have a function in a different parent category, like ECM. I poked around until I found it on the '13 S60, since I knew for certain that it was there with BMS and recalled the CEM association. What I posted is for the '09 XC90. It's reasonable to expect some battery and charging software capability in VIDA since the vehicle software posts faults. There could also be different software capabilities with DICE connected, which it was not when I did it.
 

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If this is a 16 year old original alternator and you're still having a charging issue after putting in a new battery, might consider changing out the alternator. 140A or 160A fitment is the same, I'll guess with the T6 they went with the 160A.

One option might be to install just a new regulator to buy some time, I replaced mine in the '05 (5 cylinder, 140A) a few years ago. Regulator is Volvo PN 8637851, Bosch PN F00MA45211, it's the same part for both alternators. *Other PNs may also be applicable (F00M145311, F00M45212).

See link for my experience- (2) XC90 2.5T 140a alternator regulator brush wear/replacement | SwedeSpeed - Volvo Performance Forum

edit 121620- add link, *
 

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Discussion Starter #26
That's possible, or it could have a function in a different parent category, like ECM. I poked around until I found it on the '13 S60, since I knew for certain that it was there with BMS and recalled the CEM association. What I posted is for the '09 XC90. It's reasonable to expect some battery and charging software capability in VIDA since the vehicle software posts faults. There could also be different software capabilities with DICE connected, which it was not when I did it.
I'm going to poke around VIDA tomorrow morning - been raining again like mad this afternoon - but I managed to replace the alarm siren when it was bright and sunny this morning - really satisfying to hear the siren working!!
 

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Discussion Starter #27
If this is a 16 year old original alternator and you're still having a charging issue after putting in a new battery, might consider changing out the alternator. 140A or 160A fitment is the same, I'll guess with the T6 they went with the 160A.

One option might be to install just a new regulator to buy some time, I replaced mine in the '05 (5 cylinder, 140A) a few years ago. Regulator is Volvo PN 8637851, Bosch PN F00MA45211, it's the same part for both alternators. *Other PNs may also be applicable (F00M145311, F00M45212).

See link for my experience- (2) XC90 2.5T 140a alternator regulator brush wear/replacement | SwedeSpeed - Volvo Performance Forum

edit 121620- add link, *
Thank you for sharing this. I had a look around on ebay and OEM reg cost £160!! Given my dealer quoted £350 for the alt + volt reg + pulley - I may just go with that package, considering I'll need to go through the hassle of removing the alt to replace the reg.

I once watched a video - a guy replace his volt reg on first gen XC90 T6 with a 'compatible' Bosch (not the OEM version which Bosch also made for Volvo) - and it didn't work out as the voltage was too high. So he had to buy an OEM volt reg and redo the job - it is horrendous to take out the alt from T6 - or frankly speaking to take out anything from T6!!

I omitted to mention my 2004 T6 only had 83K miles on it to date. In theory the alt and volt reg should be OK for this mileage - right?

Before I got the car 3 years ago I never touched a wrench - slowly I've done small jobs to build up confidence. I actually bought timing belt / water pump kit and serp belt kit together - ended up spending 9hrs just for the serp belt and tensioner job (success at last). Hence I've been 'saving' that timing belt / water pump kit for a special occasion! I've since also added thermostat to this big job, and even prepared a brass coolant nipple assembly in case the infamous plastic nipple snaps. I almost want to add replacing the alt to this big job as well - but suspect this may be too ambitious to do so many things in one go. Taking things apart for the T6 is a real nightmare hence my thinking of doing more stuff in one go.
 

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I'm going to poke around VIDA tomorrow morning - been raining again like mad this afternoon - but I managed to replace the alarm siren when it was bright and sunny this morning - really satisfying to hear the siren working!!
Alternator tests are in the CEM I believe.


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Discussion Starter #29
Alternator tests are in the CEM I believe.


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I spent a good 20mins looking everywhere in VIDA but could not see alt test or low battery counter reset functions - very strange - I looked into every 'green' module including ECM and CEM and even TCM just in case!

I charged the battery to full yesterday noon. This morning I plugged in VIDA without the battery charger, and with ignition at position II - VIDA showed battery volt was 12.11v. After 20mins of draining battery while playing with VIDA, VIDA showed battery volt was 12.04~12.11 (fluctuating). I then started the engine and with engine idling without revving the engine -VIDA showed battery volt jumped within 1~2 seconds to 14.5 ish volt and stablised there. I then revved the engine a bit with the transmission in Park, and the 14.5 volt reading on VIDA barely changed.

Does the above suggest a normal/functioning alt, regulator and battery? Are there other tests I could do with VIDA given I can't find the alt test function?
 

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Discussion Starter #31
Dealer reckons alt test is one of those features only enabled with a subscription! Volvo Car USA, LLC. Bookstore

My clone VIDA and DiCE (4 colour lights type) have been working great so far - never realised they lack some of the features...!
 

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Dealer reckons alt test is one of those features only enabled with a subscription! Volvo Car USA, LLC. Bookstore

My clone VIDA and DiCE (4 colour lights type) have been working great so far - never realised they lack some of the features...!
I think the dealer reckons wrong, VIDA reflects different info for different year models.
If you look at the screenshot posted above in post #11, and you duplicate the tabs:
Select Vehicle in Profile
Select Diagnostics tab
Select Vehicle Communication sub-tab
Highlight CEM in the network diagram
Select the Advanced tab below the map
Tic the "+" next to the CEM heading in the panel below the diagram'
Verify that the options shown in the above screenshot are the same, or not.
To reiterate, the options in the exact same screen for my '09 XC90 and SWMBO's '13 S70 are quite different. The S60 has an actual Battery monitoring system with a heap of activations and options. The XC90 just has what's shown in #11.

VIDA displays vehicle specific info. Here's a side by side, same exact tab selections, with the '09 to the left
114316
 

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Discussion Starter #33
I think the dealer reckons wrong, VIDA reflects different info for different year models.
If you look at the screenshot posted above in post #11, and you duplicate the tabs:
Select Vehicle in Profile
Select Diagnostics tab
Select Vehicle Communication sub-tab
Highlight CEM in the network diagram
Select the Advanced tab below the map
Tic the "+" next to the CEM heading in the panel below the diagram'
Verify that the options shown in the above screenshot are the same, or not.
To reiterate, the options in the exact same screen for my '09 XC90 and SWMBO's '13 S70 are quite different. The S60 has an actual Battery monitoring system with a heap of activations and options. The XC90 just has what's shown in #11.

VIDA displays vehicle specific info. Here's a side by side, same exact tab selections, with the '09 to the left
View attachment 114316
I should have taken screenshots of VIDA when connected to the car - I actually saw just 2 options under 'Advanced' - Resetting factory settings, and Reading off the alarm cause.

I think you may be right that it's not a matter of subscription - but my car may be too old to have these features
 

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I'm going to charge the damn battery each and every time before setting off a trip from now on -
If the battery is strong enough to start the engine, then you should be fine. The charging system should be able to produce enough power to run the entire car plus recharge the battery. If it isn't then that's your problem, not the state of charge before you leave.
 

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Discussion Starter #35 (Edited)
If the battery is strong enough to start the engine, then you should be fine. The charging system should be able to produce enough power to run the entire car plus recharge the battery. If it isn't then that's your problem, not the state of charge before you leave.
I'd agree with you John - old school saying is the battery's main job is to provide enough cranking amps to start the engine - which my battery does fine - even if the 'low battery' warning was displayed before the start of my problematic trip earlier this week - it started the engine absolutely fine.

I do suspect it's the alternator, or perhaps another part of the charging system that I'm not knowledgeable enough to suspect - my hypothesis of faulty alternator (or other part of charging system) is based on exactly the same pre-conditions of my car on all 3 occasions this problem happened:

1) Low battery message displayed at the start of the trip (n.b. no trouble starting the engine)
2) Car had all appliances plugged in / drawing amps - sat nav, dashcam, A/C or heating on (low fan setting), and DLR (or headlights on at night)
3) Car sat in walking-speed-slow-traffic for extended time - at least 30~60mins
4) For the most recent experience, I noticed the dashcam turned itself off (99% sure due to low battery) about 30mins before the car lost all electric power
5) The strange thing is, car only lost all electric power while in traffic jam once - for the other two occurrences, car actually drove normally at 30~50mph speed for about 30mins (when you'd expect it could charge up the battery a bit) then suddenly the ABS/airbag/brake failure lights went on and the car lost all electric power
6) Once this problem happened, I then switched off ignition - but unable to switch it back on immediately (ignition did not respond when I turned the key) - I had to wait for about 15 plus seconds, then it would start again. I did this multiple times, and never did the 'low battery' light came on. But from this point onwards the problem would occur again in just a couple of minutes time.

The worst experience was at night time when the car lost all electric power after 2.5hrs long journey in heavy traffic, and when I was just about to park at the destination. It's scary as other vehicles could not see me with no lights on... I then left the car parked for 1hr while visiting a friend, and on my way back I anticipated this problem would recur and I even had the breakdown helpline number ready on my phone - but it was a smooth drive home and the journey was much quicker (1.5hrs) - and that problem never occurred again - well, until almost 1 yr later - this week!

So my hypothesis is - with a battery holding decent charge, during heavy traffic (done 1hr plus in heavy traffic with full battery many times and car was fine) - the alternator has trouble powering all systems and amps are drawn from the battery instead. But with a low battery, during heavy traffic the alternator cannot generate enough power and the battery cannot back it up either - hence the lose of power of all electric systems.

I suspect my alternator works OK during normal driving but not at low rpm in prolonged heavy traffic
 

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leoxdeng;
Just to be clear; in your first post you cited three failure incidents, each more than 12 months apart. Is that accurate, or is there a greater frequency?
 

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Discussion Starter #37
leoxdeng;
Just to be clear; in your first post you cited three failure incidents, each more than 12 months apart. Is that accurate, or is there a greater frequency?
Yes that’s accurate. I drive the car at least twice per month. I also charge the battery usually once per week If the car hasn’t been driven for 7 days.

For the most recent occurrence earlier this week - the car hasn’t been driven for 8 days (and the last trip 8 days ago was a short trip) - I actually wanted to charge the battery but it was raining heavily every day and my car sat on the drive..
 

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Discussion Starter #38
Found this relevant string on Quora - and think the case described below closely match my scenario:


Lemme tell you a little story, about a man named Jed ( If you know what that means, you’re really old, like me).
Anyways, Let’s start with defining “battery dies”.. There’s “dies” as in that it discharges beyond the point where it’s got enough power to run the car.. That’s referred to as both dead, and as flat. Then there’s the “other
dead.. as in won’t hold a charge.
If the battery dies while you’re driving, because the alternator has stopped working, things get progressively worse, until you grind to a halt on the side of the road. First, you’ll notice that the lights are dimmer, the fan for the cabin ventilation runs slower, etc.. Then, as the parasitic load from the electrical system drains it further, you won’t have enough power to run the spark plugs, or injectors. The car will stop running right, it’ll start chugging, and all the idiot lights on the dash will light up like an old school pinball machine. Then comes the part where you coast to the side of the road, hit the 4 way flashers ( which will be dim and slow) and you get on your cell phone and call for a tow. A boost won’t do you any good.. The car will start, and then stall as soon as the jumper cables are disconnected.
The other scenario..
Well, batteries don’t just “die” they get sick first, and then sicker and sicker, just most people don’t notice the signs. Slowly, over time, the car turns over slower when starting, the headlights dim more when sitting at a light, etc.
Would the car die with a progressively weakening battery, but a healthy alternator? Well, yes, but usually only under a particular set of circumstances,, You have JUST enough battery to get the car started, you drive to the corner, and hit the drive through for a coffee. But the drive through is moving slowly, and you’ve got the headlights on, butt heaters, read window defogger, stereo turned up, and the wipers on, and the fan on high. After about ten minutes or so.. It’ll start chugging, and stall within a minute, if you don’t shut off all electrical loads, shift to neutral, and rev the engine. Getting stuck in a traffic jam in the summer with the AC on max would have the same result.
Virtually no cars have the alternator output to equal a full electrical load at idle RPM. The battery exists both to provide starting power and to buffer electrical demands when the alternator isn’t spinning fast enough to keep up to demand.
Dying batteries produce a HUGE load on the alternator, hence the phenomenon of them both needing to be replaced together. The battery got worse and worse, and trashed the alternator.

Full post -https://www.quora.com/What-happens-if-the-car-battery-dies-while-driving

Also found this good post -https://mechanics.stackexchange.com/questions/3307/rpm-and-duration-to-recharge-a-battery

So it appears my car’s battery and alt may both be working OK - just that the odd combination of low battery at start + running all appliances plus AC/ heating and DLR + long traffic jam, depleted my battery charge while engine was at idle rpm and that was not sufficient for the alt to produce amp to meet the load
 

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I spent a good 20mins looking everywhere in VIDA but could not see alt test or low battery counter reset functions - very strange - I looked into every 'green' module including ECM and CEM and even TCM just in case!

I charged the battery to full yesterday noon. This morning I plugged in VIDA without the battery charger, and with ignition at position II - VIDA showed battery volt was 12.11v. After 20mins of draining battery while playing with VIDA, VIDA showed battery volt was 12.04~12.11 (fluctuating). I then started the engine and with engine idling without revving the engine -VIDA showed battery volt jumped within 1~2 seconds to 14.5 ish volt and stablised there. I then revved the engine a bit with the transmission in Park, and the 14.5 volt reading on VIDA barely changed.

Does the above suggest a normal/functioning alt, regulator and battery? Are there other tests I could do with VIDA given I can't find the alt test function?
14.5 V is a totally normal, healthy alternator charging voltage. Identical to mine. The fact that it went to 14.5V straight away, and in idle, is good. It shows a normal alternator. Mine is the same.

12.11V with VIDA connected and no engine running is fairly typical, but maybe low. The car uses a lot of electrical power and can be easily drawing 10A to 15A when the engine is not running.

The missing measurement which is more meaningful is the battery charge voltage after it has been fully charged by a charger and then left to sit overnight and nothing in the vehicle has been turned on. To measure this, charge your battery with a charger until the charger says it is full. Open the bonnet, Let the car sit, locked and everything off, overnight. The next day measure the battery resting voltage without unlocking the car or turning anything on. Unlocking the car wakes up a lot of modules and they start consuming power and this immediately pits a load on the battery. We don’t want that.

The no.load, fully charged voltage of a battery should be 12.8 to 12.9 V, read this document for a good explanation: http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/2154717/pdf/faq.pdf

The other good indication is a battery tester. A lot of car parts shops sell them, and some will even have one available to use to test your battery for free to see if they can sell you a new battery. These battery testers measure the internal resistance of the battery with a high load for a short (in milliseconds) time, and show clearly battery health.

And of course, make sure your battery connections are corrosion free and tight before you do any diagnosis.


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So it appears my car’s battery and alt may both be working OK - just that the odd combination of low battery at start + running all appliances plus AC/ heating and DLR + long traffic jam, depleted my battery charge while engine was at idle rpm and that was not sufficient for the alt to produce amp to meet the load
I had exactly this scenario once with a Toyota Corolla, less than 1 year old, round 30 years ago. After a week of driving to work in cold wet weather, in the dark, with slow traffic, I pulled into a gas station to fill up after. 30min drive, and then the car wouldn’t start again.

Reason: the continuous slow driving over a week, with all heavy-use appliances turned on: lights, wipers, heater fan, rear window demister - caused a situation where the electrical load of the car was so high that very little output was left from the alternator to charge the battery. Each day, with starting and running the car, even though I drove an hour a day, I was not putting enough charge back into the battery to recover what I was using, as the starter motor itself uses a huge amount of power for a short period of time. The net result was the battery was getting weaker and weaker every day.
I solved the problem very simply: I charged the battery with a battery charger, and became aware that such driving habits were not good for the battery. I altered my driving habits, ensuring I turned off the demister as soon as possible and ran the fan at low speeds, and also charged the battery every now and then to keep it healthy, especially in Winter.

Now, 30 years later, with a 2009 XC90, in the year of Corona, I am very pleased I fitted a CTEK Battery Sense, which continuously measures my battery voltage and reports back a state of charge to my phone via Bluetooth when I am in range. I can watch my battery voltage on a graph and can see the following:
If my XC90 is used daily, and driven for at least 60min each drive, the battery will stay at nearly 100%. It may drop 1% or 2% but will then recover when charging.
If I do not drive the car for a week, the battery charge will drop from 100% to 80% gradually over a week, and then sit around 80% for a while before dropping slowly lower. Due to Corona and home office, my driving is often just once a week and only 5km to the supermarket and then 5km home again, nowhere near enough to recover the energy used to start the car.
I will observe my battery charge slowly depleting over time.
When I see my battery drops below 70% I put on the battery charger overnight and top it up. Especially in Winter when a healthy battery is a must, a regular charge for a car used infrequently makes a big difference.

So I suggest to you to invest in a CTEK Battery Sense and use it. They do not cost much, and the continuous battery monitoring combined with your driving habits will give you a very clear picture after a week as to where your problem lies.


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