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2005 Accord EX 4cyl
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I live in Ohio, but I'm originally from North Carolina. Last weekend, after work I started a trip down to NC, using headlights the entire way, heat on low, and the radio. I occasionally charged my phone & tablet as needed.

About 4.5 hours after I started, I was trying to accelerate back to cruising speed after slowing down a bit for traffic on the freeway. As I pushed on the pedal, I noticed the car actually hesitating / slowing down. I glanced down at the dash and saw the battery indicator lit. I saw an exit just ahead, so I pulled off and rolled into the gas station just off the exit. I parked, and engine still running, I plugged in the bluetooth OBDII reader to find the car reporting 11.8 volts. It was late enough at night that nothing was open, and I wasn't interested in getting stranded on the side of the road, so I stayed the night where I was.

BACKSTORY:
Two years ago, I was on my way from NC to Maryland to visit a friend. I'd stopped at a gas station, filled up, spent a few minutes inside the store, and when I came back out the battery light was lit. I didn't have the OBDII reader then, and it was early enough that I could get to an auto parts store. I hurried over there, where they said I had a bad alternator AND battery. I replaced the alternator at the store, while they had the battery on a charger. In the end, they said the battery would work well enough for now, but I should replace it ASAP. I got a battery soon after.

Having the same experience two years ago mentioned above, I wanted to be careful to avoid any problems (a lot more happened than what I described, but it's more on a personal level than technical/mechanical). The next morning I got someone to help me charge the car's battery, which was at 11.2 volts at this point. They got it to somewhere above 12 volts, and while still plugged into their car, I started mine. Let it charge just another minute, unplugged the jumper cable and it was at about 14.4 volts. Thanked them and headed to the nearest auto store.

At the auto store, they tested both battery and alternator, said I was good to go. Assured me that they didn't expect me to have any problems getting the rest of the way back to NC. I hit the road again, this time keeping Torque open on my phone so I could monitor the voltage. While driving through the city back to the freeway, the voltage varied from 12.5v - 14.3v, but once on the freeway, it stayed between 13.9v - 14.2v until I got another hour down the road (just an hour from home!!). On the freeway at cruising speed, the dash light came back on and the voltage dropped from 14-ish volts down to 12.something, and dropping a tenth of a volt every 30 seconds or so. Torque probably also audibly mentioned an error code that had posted. Concerned, I detoured to the nearest auto store.

First stop was AutoZone where the alternator was purchased. They said both alternator and battery were bad, but suggested I go get the battery replaced first, then come back. Went to Advance Auto (on the same street - how convenient!) where the battery was purchased, and they said the battery was just fine. What?? Okay, well this sounds like an alternator issue (in my head, anyway), so I'll go back and strip the alternator. At AutoZone, I got the tension tool from them, pulled the alternator out, gave it to them so they would give me a new one. First, they put it on their bench tester and said it is working fine. Even though they told me it was bad in the car. Questioned them, and the guy said maybe the belt was slipping, especially since there was so much black gunk on the alternator.

He had me go put the 2 year old alternator back in the car, and then he checked the belt. He said that it seems tight enough, but the surface of it is scuffed up which seems to indicate it's rubbing on something. The belt was replaced about 1 year ago, maybe more. When I'd replaced the alternator the first time, they recommended I replace the belt then, because it was pretty worn. After starting the car, revving it, etc he said it looks like everything's doing what it should, and I was back to 14 volts. He couldn't see anything rubbing for the belt, either.

Not really convinced, but also annoyed at this huge waste of time, it already being early afternoon, I decided to continue on my journey. I got to NC without any more problems, and later that day I went to my friend's house where we took another look at the car together. One thing my friend noticed when the engine revs is the tensioner pulley moves slightly. He went to his truck and watched as his engine was revved. All the different "wheels" the belt goes round stayed exactly where they were without budging at all. Back to my car, the tensioner pulley spring seems to be fairly strong, since it takes a good effort to pull it to remove the belt. He cleaned the battery terminals and clamps with a wire brush. We also tried running the car with AC on, fan on high speed, radio blasting, high beams, emergency flashers. Didn't think of using the rear defroster, but all the stuff we turned on, we got it down to about 13.6 volts, but nowhere near 12.5 volts. Something else: mentioned to my friend the "slipping belt" theory, and he said that the belt would squeak / chirp if it was, and I definitely didn't hear any of that.

My trip back to Ohio upon close of the weekend was uneventful. Again, it was night time, so the headlights, radio, etc were on. I kept an eye on voltage the whole way, and while it dips to somewhere around 12.5 volts in city traffic on occasion, it stays in the 14 volt range on the freeway. The battery light has not come back on since I stripped and replaced the alternator, so maybe I tightened / cleaned something that has corrected the issue?

Before this past weekend, I haven't had any need to monitor voltage regularly. After replacing the alternator 2 years ago, everything ran perfectly. Researching these forums, it seems that anything between 12.5 volts - 15 volts is reasonable, depending on the car/battery/etc, but outside that range is a concern. However, when the charging system dropped from 14 to 12.8 an hour away from NC, it seemed to be concerning enough to the computer that it lit the battery indicator on the dash. That pulley and belt are concerning, as well. The belt is still in good health - the scuff marks are just superficial at this point, though the old one had been quite eaten up.


Sorry for the looooong post, but I wanted to make sure you could see the history and actions taken. What are your thoughts on this? Should I go on and consider the issue resolved, or continue to track voltage every time I drive? In the two times I drove it since (Thursday & Friday - used a different car Monday - Wednesday), voltage was in its normal 14v range except on occasion in the 12.5+ range, again when driving slower than freeway speeds.

Thanks for any insight you can provide!
 

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Super Moderator
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6,511 Posts
It is very possible the refurb alternator has a bad voltage regulator in it.

This is the main reason why I purchased a used OEM alternator off a crashed Accord on Ebay for only $50. That car had 98k miles on it, less than half of the mileage where my original OEM alternator is at.
 

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BRWNFLSH now
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6,647 Posts
Sounds like either the belt is slipping (what's this about black gunk on the belt/pulleys?), or the alternator is intermittent.
 

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Registered
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131 Posts
Based on my experience I reckon changing the tensioner and belt at 100k or whatever service interval you get around there is a small price to pay to be assured of good service from your vehicles systems.
It also powers the AC, power steering!
 

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2005 Accord EX 4cyl
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
It is very possible the refurb alternator has a bad voltage regulator in it.
I forgot to mention it, but my friend had considered the voltage regulator as a possibility.

Check the serpentine belt tensioner. An arrow on the block points to a bar on the tensioner when the belt...
I checked the calibration per the thread you linked, and the arrow is closer to the front of the car than the bar, both when on and off.

Sounds like either the belt is slipping (what's this about black gunk on the belt/pulleys?), or the alternator is intermittent.
Sorry for the confusion. The gunk I spoke of was on the alternator and surroundingarea. Didn't really seem to be on the belt/pulleys, though it was suggested that the gunk was a disintegrated form.

Based on my experience I reckon changing the tensioner and belt at 100k or whatever service interval you get around there is a small price to pay to be assured of good service from your vehicles systems.
It also powers the AC, power steering!
My car is at about 180k, so I'll definitely look into the tensioner & belt replacement.



Thanks for all the input peeps! Your suggestions are invaluable! :)
 

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Cruising in Montana
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4,120 Posts
I checked the calibration per the thread you linked, and the arrow is closer to the front of the car than the bar, both when on and off.
Then there's no need to replace the tensioner at this point, just the belt. After you replace the belt, recheck it in a few days.
 

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2005 Accord EX 4cyl
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
So you don't think it'd be a good idea to go ahead and replace the tensioner stuff, even though it's got so many miles on it? I mean, I'm definitely not asking for more work, cost, or frozen fingers (not a fan of winter), but I'd also like to make sure I'm not going to have problems down the road.
 

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Cruising in Montana
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4,120 Posts
I'd say leave the tensioner alone for now. Now that you know what to look for, you can tell if it's going to fail long before it actually does. The belt is only $20 or so plus 20 minutes of your time, and it's done.
 

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Texas Ground Pounder
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1,031 Posts
Sounds like you are having the same issue I was having a few years ago. I've got a voltage meter that plugs in to the cigarette lighter plug so I can monitor voltage while driving. Sure, it's not exact, but it gives me a rough monitor. It would intermittently drop in the low 12's while driving and flash an "Alt Fault" light. When this happened, the only way I could get it to come back up again was to punch the gas and engage the VTEC. I tried a new Optima battery and Autozone Duralast battery, new Autozone Duralast alternator and another new HO 300 amp alternator and did the big 3 upgrade but still had the problem. I even took it to Honda for testing and they couldn't find a thing.

After much research, I learned about the ELD (Electronic Load Detector) on our Accords. This regulates the voltage needed from the alternator. If you are not running a lot of electronic items and not needing much power, this would lower the voltage output of the alternator to help increase fuel mileage. Problem is that this was not working properly. Bad thing is that this ELD is part of the under the hood fuse box and can not be bought separately and the entire fuse box is like $300+ from Honda. Luckily I found a used one on eBay. This seems to have resolved my issue. For the most part I no longer have low voltage issues even while back on the Autozone alternator. Every once in a while I will see in drop in the upper 12's, but not low enough to trip the "Alt Fault" light again.

So if everything else you try fails, you may want to look in to this as well. Changing the fuse box is a bit of a PITA not to mention costly. Even the eBay one cost me $100. However, if you also have a faulty ELD, then their is not much else you can do.
 

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2005 Accord EX 4cyl
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Sorry for the delay, but wanted to give you guys a heads up.

As mentioned before, the indicator pointed out a belt replacement being needed, so I went ahead and did that, getting something from AutoZone.

When I put the new belt on, I noticed the arrow & line were closer, but still not quite lined up. Surprisingly, I found that after I pushed on the tensioner with my hand a bit (with the new belt on), I was able to get them to line up.

The belt has been on for a couple weeks now, and while I've not monitored the voltage daily, periodic monitoring has shown 14-ish volts, and no battery light on the dash so far.

You can see here the before & after.


Think I'm good?
 

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2005 Accord EX 4cyl
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Sadly the saga didn't end with a belt replacement. Today temps were in the 20's (Fahrenheit). Not great, not terrible either (been as low as 0*F this month). Drove for lunch at 2:30, then tried to leave work about 10pm. Started the car, it was fine. Let it warm up ~10 minutes. Battery light on the dash, weird revving noises. Decided to book it to auto zone - oops, they're closed at ten, duh. Car almost died on the way there.

24 hour fast food next door, asked a guy for help with a jump start. Let it charge for several minutes, started, kept it connected. Dash still had battery light, and now check engine light. Didn't have the obd reader, dang it.

At this point, I'm about ready to roll the car off a cliff and claim that it committed suicide. For reference, the arrow/line indicator on the alternator are within a good range.

Thoughts on what to do next?
 

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2005 Accord EX 4cyl
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7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Don't know how to edit posts on mobile, if it's even possible.

Yesterday I had both battery and alternator tested. Alternator reported bad on the bench.

This morning the car was whining, but driving at lunch it wasn't, but I'm going to further investigate later.
 
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