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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
2013 Honda Accord EX-L, 4 cylinder, CVT transmission, also includes navigation.

I recently went to AutoZone to have my battery and alternator tested. They hooked up the test tool and said that the battery was good, starter was good, but the alternator is bad because the voltage regulator test failed.

I called the Honda dealer near me and ordered a new alternator. The wait time was 1 day. I installed the new alternator myself and went back to AutoZone to test it. Again, getting the same error "VOLT REG FAILED".

If I use a voltmeter, I get the following:
TESTVOLTAGE VALUECOMMENTS
Test 112.65 VVehicle engine off, negative terminal disconnected
Test 212.65 VVehicle engine off, negative terminal connected
Test 312.43 V - 12.83 V
Vehicle running, radio off, A/C off, climate control off
Test 4
13.86 V - 14.28 V
Vehicle running, radio on (low volume), A/C on, climate control on (medium fan setting)

I also ran across a Haynes vehicle manual that states that the voltage should be around 13.5 V - 15 V, but it is not always this way.
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Here is the output from the AutoZone Startging & Charging Tester tool:
T#2569 12V CHARG
VOLT REG FAILED
DIODES PASSED
'Y' TO CONTINUE

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The alternator that I bought was new from Honda and not re-manufactured (the cost was just over $470.00), the part number is 31100-5A2-A02 (Made in Japan). Here is a side picture and install picture:
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I asked AutoZone to test my old alternator stand alone, but they said their machine says that they cannot test it this way.

Is it possible I am missing anything else that could be causing this problem? What is the possibility that the new alternator is defective?
 

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What exactly is the problem? What prompted you to have Autozone test your battery, starter and alternator?
 

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2014 Honda Accord EX 4-6 MSM
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My i4 battery ran around 12V. When I upgraded to the larger V6 battery, it’s reading slightly higher. For what that is worth.
Have you tried checking the sensor that attaches to the battery terminal? That black box before the clamp. They’re notorious for going bad. Although they usually give the “Charging System” error, it may with worth a shot for your issue, as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
What exactly is the problem? What prompted you to have Autozone test your battery, starter and alternator?
I had an intermittent steering problem that seemed like it could be related to electrical system, so I started to check the voltage of the battery. This is what prompted me. When I noticed that the voltage of the battery was not 13.5 V I decided to have the test performed at AutoZone.

Also, when the weather changes from mild to really cold over night I get several of the lights come on the dashboard for 1/2 a day, then they disappear.

About 2 years ago when I had some lights come on and disappear I took it to the dealer and they said I needed a new alternator and it would cost around $760.00 for them to replace it. I thought that was ridiculous, so I removed the battery and had it tested. I was told it wasn't good, so I replaced it and everything has been working fine ever since then except for some randomness once in a while when temperature changes. Or the most recent, took it to a dealership and they told me something was weird with steering.

This isn't going to help, but you made a mistake by listening to Autozone for car advice lmao
Two years ago I took my car to the dealership because lights were coming on and they told me the same thing, your alternator is bad. I took the battery out, had it bench tested and they told me it was bad. Replaced it and everything was fine.

I guess it doesn't really matter if it is AutoZone or the Honda dealer. Either one is not able to explain why or how they arrived at the diagnosis.

This isn't going to help, but you made a mistake by listening to Autozone for car advice lmao
@jpepkowski instead of bashing, can you provide other tools or things that could be helpful? For instance, have you used TOPDON AB101 or TOPDON BT100 tools for testing charging systems?

The video you replied with is for some 1960's Chevrolet truck. On this forum we are talking about 9th generation Honda Accord. Would you happen to have anything constructive to add like posting voltage measurements for your 9th Generation Honda Accord?

Would you be able to describe why the AutoZone test tool would be wrong, it is a simple test tool you can get from anywhere for $60.00?

I think it would be great to use this forum to solve a problem. Opinions for sake of opinions aren't really worthwhile.
 

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@jpepkowski instead of bashing, can you provide other tools or things that could be helpful? For instance, have you used TOPDON AB101 or TOPDON BT100 tools for testing charging systems?

The video you replied with is for some 1960's Chevrolet truck. On this forum we are talking about 9th generation Honda Accord. Would you happen to have anything constructive to add like posting voltage measurements for your 9th Generation Honda Accord?

Would you be able to describe why the AutoZone test tool would be wrong, it is a simple test tool you can get from anywhere for $60.00?

I think it would be great to use this forum to solve a problem. Opinions for sake of opinions aren't really worthwhile.
Okay, so I apologize for my bash, but I still stand by what I said. If you want immediate useful advice drive into a mechanic shop, autozone employees probably couldn't even swap out their own alternators. Driveaccord is good when you have time to investigate a problem that doesn't render your car useless. I don't have experience with your issue but I can say that when it comes to fixing almost any car issue, you always check the easiest and cheapest to replace components.

9th gen accords had a recall for the battery sensor:


Replacing my alternator would be last on my list of parts to replace. The mild to cold temperature change could be causing some condensation which is leading to a short somewhere. I would check your battery leads super thoroughly, check the ground on the alternator and any sort of sensors that are attached to the battery leads. Also, swapping in another car's battery is super quick and helpful to find out if the battery is the culprit without dishing out 100+ dollars on a new battery. I had the recall affect my car from starting. I took it to the dealer and I've been fine since (from that problem). The first time it affected me I went to refuel and my car showed no signs of life when I went to start it. I disconnected and reconnected my battery and it started up right away.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Decided to go to O'Reilly Auto Parts and try their charge system tester. The use the same tool as AutoZone, a tool by a company named AutoMeter BVA-260, but re-branded AutoZone.

They ran the same test and in fact got the same output:
#1468 12V ALTER.
VOLT REG FAILED
DIODES PASSED
'Y' TO CONTINUE
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This is no surprise since it is the same software/firmware and hardware underneath. I watch a few video on AutoMeter website and the store employees are using it correctly. This particular tester has a load testing,so it is not required to turn on/off air condition or radio, fan, or lights. It will simulator the load and measure the voltage. Here is the link to their product videos:

Will try another tool as well.

I wanted to get a variety of machines to test with so I decided to go to Advance Auto Parts and they had another tool. The tool was a Midtronics EXP-1200 Expandable Electrical Diagnosis Platform and it printed out a receipt that stated that everything was good. The store employee said that this was an old tool and just by looking at the numbers and his experience,the values are kind of low. With this particular tool I had to go through a procedure that the store employee read from machine, such as revving the engine, turn on/off A/C, lights, radio.

At least it was a different tool to test with, which is good. I attached the pictures to show what the machine looked like.
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That same Advance Auto Parts store had another new tool. It was another Midtronics product, but a modern touch screen one. The store employee said they barely used it because the touch screen was not working very well. I tried it because I had to enter my e-mail address into it and sure enough the touch screen driver software on this Android device was not working well. I could not find the product on Midtronics website, but it was similar in form factor to a Midtronics CPX-900 Battery & Electrical System Analyzer. The results of this were much more interesting,it actually shows the ripple test and a failure because the voltage is not in the right range. It is a minimum voltage difference, but still a failure. This makes me thing that it is not the alternator, but a slight short or grounding issue somewhere.

Take a look at the images below. I like this new tool a lot because at least it shows details and e-mailed me the details. Even with this new alternator there is still a problem. It must be electrical or wiring related.
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I was on a quest to test the old alternator I took out of my vehicle and so I visited more AutoZone and O'Reilly Auto Parts for a stand alone alternator bench test. Just as with the case of the electrical system analyzer machines, these old alternator & starter testing machines were exactly the same. The are manufactured by OTC and serviced by SPX. When they are put into these store they are re-branded to look a little different. The part numbers in their system change a bit as well. It almost seems like both of these stores are the same.

In each case none of these stores had a machine that could test my old alternator.
STOREPART NUMBERMESSAGE
AutoZoneDL2694-7-2This part is not supported by this tester. Please test on vehicle.
O'Reilly Auto PartsR111557BERROR:
SORRY - UNABLE TO TEST. This unit must be tested while on the vehicle using your store's portable battery tester.


Take a look at the pictured in the attached PDF file: AlternatorTestingMachinesOld.pdf.

Wow, there is no way to bench test alternators anymore!

I decided to visit more AutoZone and O'Reilly Auto Parts stores, at this point like 10+. I found that the newer O'Reilly Auto Parts had purchased new alternator/start test machines from the manufacturer OTC.

I was very hopeful, but once again with this new machine I got this the error message: "This part is not supported by this tester. Please test on vehicle.".

Please take a look at the pictures in the attached PDF file: AlternatorTestingMachinesNew.pdf. These new machines have an internet connection, so I am guessing that every time the store employee attempts to test something, it sends a message to the OTC and/or O'Reilly Auto Parts server, so they can add the most requested alternators to service. At this point a 2013 Honda Accord alternator is not supported.

Once again, can't bench test an alternator.

Visited more auto part stores and again Advance Auto Parts is one of those stores that has surprised me because of how different their tools and parts are. I ran across a store that had alternator/starter bench test machine. This machine was made by AmFor Electronics Model 897-00. The store employee looked up my vehicle on the computer and pulled up a part number 14489A. He then entered this number to AmFor Electronics 897-00 machine. The machine prompts the user to connect TEST LEAD LH, however the store did not have this test lead. I visited 6 more stores that night and not even one store had this test lead. The amforstore.com shows this part costs $90.00 (897-LH). Please take a look at the attachment (AlternatorTestingMachines_AdvanceAutoPart_AmForElectronics_879-00.pdf) for pictures of all this.

I attempted to reach out to AmFor Electronics over e-mail and left voicemail messages to find if there is any location in the Chicago area that has this test lead, but so far no reply. I also asked Advance Auto Parts store manager if he would purchase this test lead, but I did not get any answers, but just suggestion to use a different method of testing such as the Midtronics equipment they had.

If anyone else on this forum knows of a Advance Auto Parts or any other places that has TEST LEAD LH and this machine or another way I can get my alternator on a stand alone bench test, it would be extremely helpful.

Isolating between alternator or electrical short is very tough.
 

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Wow, there is no way to bench test alternators anymore!
Have you called or visited any starter/alternator rebuild shops on the northside of Chicago? I dealt with a starter issue 2 years ago and every one of them I called or visited told me they can bench test an alternator and starter or hook up their analyzer if the unit is still on the car.

Google "alternator rebuild shop near me". Just call them up.

The auto parts store comparison research you are doing is appreciated and noteworthy. But back to your electrical issue, this is over my head. I hope @greg1c will see this and lend his opinion.
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
@RickBlaine , thank you for your suggestion. In fact, I ended up going to a Pep Boys store and the guy tried to test my alternator on his new OTC machine (less than 1 years old), but got the same error message (unable to test, test in vehicle). However, since Pep Boys is transitioning their business away from parts and doing auto service only, the store was almost completely empty so I think he was sympathetic and start calling people for me. He called a few guys that were alternator re-builders, but they were closed on Saturday.

When I left Pep Boys I decided to Google search alternator re-builders and got the first result which was CSS Starter Alternator (5335 S. Western Blvd. Chicago, IL 60609). I called and they were still open on Saturday at noon. He said he would test my alternator for $5.00. When I got there he took the alternator in the back of his shop and came back telling me that it was not outputting anything because the voltage regulator. For that $5.00 he gave me a printed sheet (attached as WIA_CSS_StarterAlternator_Output.pdf) that told me exactly which type of voltage regulator was being used and what the terminal was.

The alternator only has two connectors on it. One connector for outputting the current and the other is a LIN connector (the ground is the alternator housing). Please take a look at this image:
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This is why I'm not getting any where with this. A person has to understand electronics hardware & software. The vehicle computer senses the load and tells the voltage regulator how much to output over LIN 1/LIN 2 protocol. LIN is a quiet simple serial protocol.

In order to be able to test this type of alternator, one has to have a machine that can specifically send messages to the 2013 Honda Accord Mitsubishi Alternator and Regulator (attachment: WAI_PD2227_0.pdf). These machines are out there, however very few people have these machines. The likely hood of these alternators going bad is a lot less than the older ones because they are turned on and off as needed, so probably work a lot less than older alternator that always were on full power all the time (via the clutch mechanism).

I think the reason that these charging system tests fail is either because the vehicle computer is telling the voltage regulator to send just enough power to meet the load demand and these older tools don't understand that or are not setup to understand this and they fail the because of a small voltage margin. The other assumption is that the computer is sensing the load incorrectly because of a rusted wire somewhere and sending a slightly smaller value to the voltage regulator. I still need to figure this out, meaning where the voltage is being measured (voltage difference or voltage potential) by the vehicle computer. The fail is by a very small margin (like on the order of 0.5V).

The auto shops and parts stores are just not up to speed with hardware and software. Everything is moving this way because of efficiency, but there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of this, especially from technician or part stores.

If anyone knows of a place in Chicago-land area with a LIN 1/LIN 2 alternator test machine please let me know. I would pay them to test my alternator.

I hope all my work helps someone now or in the future. :)

There is a company in Europe that had a simple BSS & LIN 1 & LIN 2 alternator test tool:

Notice, he jut places a clip inside the COM (communications) socket. You don't need an entire complicated test station. Just something with a motor and drive belt. After that the simple tool AutoDiagger sends messages to the alternator's voltage regulator to set the output voltage and measures to see if it is doing it. This is what we need here in the US Chicago area.
 

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Wow, you have spent a lot of time investigating this issue. It is not clear to me what brought you down this path in the beginning. You are correct the alternator in modern cars adjust there load to what is needed, that is done as a fuel saving measure. There is no need for the alternator to run full charge all the time, that has not happened on most cars since the 80's.

Back to the original failure, the test they run for voltage regulation is mearly a voltage test. There is load put on the battery during this test. The problem is the device Honda uses to measure current flow is on the negative battery cable. They should have connected the tester on the body side of he negative cable. Then the load the tester puts on the system will be seen by that sensor. The tool is looking for stable voltage and they obviously have a certain voltage they want to see.

The newer version of that tool has a screen that recommends turning on the headlights and run the test. Every test you have given looks good to me, battery voltage, alternator voltage, ripple, etc. They all look good.

The alternators job is to charge the battery, and run all the electrical devices in the car. In order to do that there are 3 diode pairs that form the rectifier, converting AC to DC. You need voltage regulation so the alternator does not send too high a voltage or too low. It sounds like your new alternator is doing that. Low AC ripple says the diodes are working.

My guess is only the manufacturer of the alternator is going to have the test gear you would need to test the alternator off the car. As I am sure they have a QA test before the alternator is boxed and shipped.

I do not think there is any issue in your electrical system. The steering is another matter, there are some known issues with 2013 models. There was a recall to update code on the steering. Also, there was an extension of the warranty for the steering.This covers the EPS sensor for a period of 13 (thirteen) years from the original date of purchase with no mileage limit.

This only applies to vehicles with EPS DTCs 53-01 torque sensor (low/high check) or DTC 53-02 torque sensor (average check).

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
I decided I wanted a tool of my own at home for doing battery and charging tests, so after investigating and looking at YouTube reviews, a lot of them recommended the TOPDON AB101. Including YouTube personality Scotty Kilmer on his channel. I wanted to know what to purchase the TOPDON AB101 or the BT100, so I contacted TOPDON and this was their reply:
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Ok, so the "BT100 is the newest version. The AB101 is being phased out." I bought the tool TOPDON BT100 and it kept on failing the charging test. Part of my frustration was trying to figure out what the instructions meant (please see attachment: Topdon_BT100_ChargingTest_Instructions.pdf). Especially the following part:
Charging Test
------------
Increase RPM to 2500
r/min and keep it 5
seconds.
Press ENTER to
continue.


I didn't know if I needed two people for this or a single person. At first I kept it around 2500 RPM or lower because I hate to just rev my engine while idle. At some point right before I was about to loose patience with the tool, I accidentally revved my engine all the way up to 4,000 RPM and kept it there for 5 seconds. The test PASSED and I couldn't stop it from passing even when I didn't rev the engine anymore. This is really interesting.
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I'm wondering if the AutoZone/O'Reilly Auto Parts or Advance Auto Parts tools would say passed if I revved my engine up to 4,000 RPM before performing the test.

All of these tools are essentially automating voltage measurements a human would perform and prompting through the screen.

Wow, this is so cool. I learned I had to really rev the engine to 4,000 RPM before it started to pass this test with the TOPDON BT100 tool. The conclusion is rev the engine to 4,000 RPM for 5 seconds before pressing "ENTER" to continue in the "Increase RPM to 2500 RPM". :)
 

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I recommend that anyone that is trying to figure out if they have a bad battery, alternator, or starter , get one of these tools. I have a different one, A Solar ba9.

Regarding the output of the alternator, the ECM controls the output of the alternator based on battery condition and the number of AMPs going in or out from the battery via the sensor on the negative battery cable. Test with a high current draw such as AC or headlights and the alternator will be in high mode.

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I know you've already figured out the answer, but I did want to put it out there that the PCM commands the voltage on and off in our vehicles. So when the engine is running, the minimum threshold output is only 12.5 volts and can be commanded up to 14.5 volts via the LIN line. Both the Autozone and O'Reilly's tester's show this. The value you are looking for to fail is the loaded portion to make sure the PCM commands the voltage to increase due to the increased draw and the alternator to respond accordingly. If the alternator does not increase in voltage or is too low on voltage, you have a failing alternator. Just my .02.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I know you've already figured out the answer, but I did want to put it out there that the PCM commands the voltage on and off in our vehicles. So when the engine is running, the minimum threshold output is only 12.5 volts and can be commanded up to 14.5 volts via the LIN line. Both the Autozone and O'Reilly's tester's show this. The value you are looking for to fail is the loaded portion to make sure the PCM commands the voltage to increase due to the increased draw and the alternator to respond accordingly. If the alternator does not increase in voltage or is too low on voltage, you have a failing alternator. Just my .02.
@Cjlarson14 , this is a new alternator from the Honda dealership. They won't take it back and give me a refund. They say that they don't replace these things often because they work. How do you prove to Honda parts that this new part is bad?
 

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@Cjlarson14 , this is a new alternator from the Honda dealership. They won't take it back and give me a refund. They say that they don't replace these things often because they work. How do you prove to Honda parts that this new part is bad?
You misunderstand. Via the charging system slips you provided by O'Reilly's and Autozone, your new Alternator shows to be charging correctly at 12.5 volts respectively unloaded and an increase over that when loaded. The PCM commands when to charge, like an on and off switch. It also increases the charging amount via the amount of load, determined by the PCM. Using a standard tester will not reveal all the details you would like. You need a special tester as you have already determined. Honda would insist to test the alternator themselves if you are wanting to "prove" it is bad. If their actual OE tester can come to the same conclusion, then have them warranty for a new alternator. I have a great relationship with my local Honda dealer so my input may be skewed, but if I was having this similar issue with my own accord, I'd have the service department run a quick test on it (maybe 5 mins) and if it fails, take it to the parts department to show it fails. At that point, pay for the new part and install it. Then, get refunded by bringing back the old alternator. If you wanna avoid this, remove and return to the parts department and exchange it. Make sure prior to doing this that you speak with the parts department about what the service department concluded as well. Whatever is easier for you.
 

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Doing a bit of research on the alternators for 9th gens, they are so much more complicated than previous alternators. Here is a good article on how they work.



The one part that I was unaware of is the Overrunning Alternator Decoupler (OAD). It has a one-way overrunning clutch inside the hub, as well as an internal torsion spring to dampen vibrations in the drive belt system further. The spring acts as a shock absorber to cushion the hub.

One more thing to blame when your alternator is not working.



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