Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Tale of Three Generators

Most VW's these days use Alternators. For some reason, I've stuck with the generators. I'm not sure if it is some sick desire to stick with old tech, but I think it is a combination of being gun-shy with electrical matters, and not wanting to deal with a fuel pump. (Alternators require a larger stand, which also requires a change of fuel pumps. See this blog as to why I hate fuel pumps.)

My last road trip killed my generator. It was old enough that it might have deserved to die, but it died and that is all that matters. So I had it replaced.

And on it's maiden voyage home from the shop, it died. The generator light came on, it was not charging the battery. It just wasn't doing what it was supposed to do - generate power. So I headed back to the shop who gave me a quizzical look and said "they never break that quickly, that's weird". They installed another new one.

And less than a thousand miles later it died. Full death. The engine just stopped running less that 10 blocks from my house, so I pulled over and saw smoke from a melting fanbelt. Better yet, I didn't turn the engine all the way off, it was in the start position, so power was running to the generator. It was arcing and sparks/electrical cracks were coming of the pulley. (Yes, the pulley) The generator not only epically failed, it was competing for most spectacular failure ever on my bus.

Punchline to this was that I was only going a few blocks away, so I didn't bring my cellphone. I borrow some random guy on the streets phone, call the tow company, and three hours later, I'm back in my garage. I might have just pushed it, but I live in San Francisco, we have hills.

Big Sigh. Here we go:
Step one, pull off the failed parts.

Step two. Remove generator

Step three, bring generator back to shop, swap out, get replacement pulley, fan belt, and spare woodruff keys.

Step four, put it back and start it up again.

So I'm running again, and this time, it sounds as good as it did when I was driving through Nevada a couple of months ago. The sewing machine sound is exactly what is it supposed to sound like. Let's see how long this lasts. ;)

Some notes - When you put a generator/fan assembly back in the car, it is important to shim it correctly. The fan has about 1/8 of an inch of room in the fan housing, and will rub if it isn't perfectly straight and if the fan housing is not lined up correctly. When I was repositioning the fan housing, I noticed that the fan shroud had some rubbing where there wasn't supposed to be any, indicating that the shop may have not lined it up correctly. It's a difficult thing to do, and easy to over look is it isn't visible on the back side. But, it accounted for the inconsistent "fan rubbing sound" that I was getting when the car was cold starting.  Bottom line - engine tin is designed to go in one way and one way only. Double check that it is right, then triple check.

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