Instructables

Alternator Replacement - Volkswagen Upright (Type I) Motor

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Recently the battery in my 1971 Westy died.... Normally this is no big deal. However, this battery is less than 2 months old. A newer battery should not go dead, as the alternator re-charges the battery as you drive. Obviously this was not happening for me. I got out my trusty volt-meter, and sure enough, the alternator was putting out 0 volts (more on how to check it in a minute). So I called a good friend of mine that has a mini parts-warehouse at his house and he provided me with a new alternator. This is how to swap them.

Note: Disconnect your battery before beginning any of this work.

Materials

19mm socket and ratchet
10mm socket and ratchet
8 mm wrench
10mm wrench
13mm wrench
Screwdriver
Voltmeter

Note: If any parts are unknown to you, refer back to the photo on this page with the labels on it.
Note: Disconnect your battery before beginning any of this work.
 
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Step 1: Check New Alternator Out

There is a shaft that comes out of the back of the alternator and spins a fan. The fan is what provides the main cooling for the motor. The fan lives inside the giant shroud at the back of the motor. It is fixed onto the alternator shaft with a great amount of torque. It is pretty difficult to remove without an impact driver. If your new alternator does not have a fan on it, you can follow the next few steps, remove your alternator, then have a shop (or yourself) switch the fan from the old alternator to the new. If you are unsure if you have the torque to do it, get professional help. If this fan comes off at speed...... I shudder to think... Anyhow....

I wanted to make sure the new alternator I had was going to work. I made a visual inspection of the fan to make sure it was not damaged.

I put the alternator next to the battery (which I had out of the vehicle) (Interesting side note, someone once told me if you leave a battery on concrete it will discharge. I can't attest to the veracity of that claim, but to be sure I set mine on a rag, on some bricks) that I had removed. I alligator clipped a wire from the body (shroud cover) of the alternator to the negative terminal of the battery because in the vehicle it would be grounded. I clipped the negative lead of my voltmeter to the negative of the battery, and the positive to the B+ terminal on the alternator. I set my voltmeter to the millivolt-DC reading and spun the fan as fast as I could by hand. It registered on the meter. Good enough for me. (When I hooked my meter to the B+ of the dead alternator in the car, it showed 0. Later when I did the by-hand test on it, it went -0.3 then .2 then 0 then -5... not sure what was up with it, but it obviously wasnt working)
caarntedd2 years ago
Pretty sure the battery going flat on concrete is an urban myth that originated about 40 years ago when auto batteries had hard rubber cases. Still not too sure about how it was supposed to discharge, but storing a battery on a nice cool concrete floor is probably the best thing for it. I have stored batteries this way for many years (charging them every couple of months) and they have always worked fine. One of them was under my bench for about 3 years after being salvaged from a wreck, and is now in it's 5th year under the hood of my car. Not definitive proof, but a pretty good argument.
Not a myth, It's the cold from the concrete that does it, lead acid batteries and cold are not good bed fellows.
bchenry2 years ago
I'm unsure about your particular VW, but many of the air cooled engines used a generator, not an alternator. From time to time, generators need to be polarized with the voltage regulator or they will not charge. Generators get replaced a lot when all they need is polarizing. Not to say yours didn't need replaced, just my 2 cents. Awesome job though.
hirod3 (author)  bchenry2 years ago
Thanks! It was an alternator, and I did some subsequent testing once I had it out.

Thanks for the tip, and the feedback!
dataphool2 years ago
Good job. But, you didn't explain how you determined the failure in the alternator. The test you described on the first page does not accurately show anything beyond the condition of the bearings of the rotor. If you have no voltage across the rotor windings, the alternator will not produce anything. Alternators are very robust, especially those from Wolfsburg. They have no moving parts except the rotor which cannot be overloaded, and thus rarely fails. If the stator diodes are OK, then the commonest reason for a problem is the voltage regulator. The Voltage Regulator monitors the condition of the battery and when the voltage decreases it turns on the rotor winding by connecting the battery to the alternator.

The greater the need at the battery, the more voltage is across the rotor winding. If the voltage regulator fails, the battery goes dead. If the battery was not charged before installation, it will not charge either. (Although, the car will run fine on the drive home!) If the alternator has a built-in regulator then you have fixed the problem, whatever it is.  If the battery was charged.

Articles like this, however, are very valid and important  instructables.  They explain how-to repairs for automobiles.  Often a handman (woman) hesitates to fix his car because (s)he has never done this before.
As I read the instructable this is exactly what I was thinking.

Not only is it a faulty alternator a common misdiagnosis, but in fact a failed voltage regulator is a very common problem. That said, it does depend on the particular alternator you are replacing as it is common to find both alternators with a built-in voltage regulator as well as with an external voltage regulator. if the voltage regulator is built in, then the solution is in fact replacing the entire unit.
hirod3 (author)  dataphool2 years ago
Thanks for the feedback. I basically did not get very detailed in my diagnosis due to my own ignorance :) I saw that the old alternator was putting out 0V at the B+ terminal, and that's about as far as I can go. Perhaps I need to educate myself in this area.

Thanks again!
Phil B hirod32 years ago
I cannot say for certain about your alternator, but I had an alternator fail on a Chevy 350 cu. in. V-8. My battery was much older than yours with side post connectors. Someone had over-torqued one of the side posts and it was partially broken off inside. According to the Chilton manual I had, a bad internal battery connection can cause an alternator to fail. That failure causes the rotor to short out. The test in that case was to use an ohmmeter on the slip rings to read the resistance in the rotor windings. The resistance was to be 1.5 ohms, which is tiny. Anything less meant the windings had shorted out. Mine read 0 ohms. Anyway, a new battery and a new alternator fixed me up. It sounds like your battery is still OK.

Thank you for your Instructable. I do not have a VW, but I may someday have a friend who will need help with his.
hirod3 (author)  Phil B2 years ago
Thanks for your feedback Phil!
PeoplesCar2 years ago
Good 'ible, nice to see some aircooled stuff on here.
josefski2 years ago
Just fyi: I had a volkswagen in which I replaced the alternator and after doing so the fan started rattling in a rhythmic fashion (you'll know it if you hear it). After months of frustration an old man at a volkswagen shop informed me that there is supposed to be a shim the thickness of about three business cards between the stand and the alternator. So cut a piece out of the back of a notepad and put it in there. Problem solved. Now you know, just in case.
hirod3 (author)  josefski2 years ago
great tip! thanks :)
josefski hirod32 years ago
Glad to make suggestions. I only do so because I have such traumatic memories of this experience. It was awful! I had replaced the squirrel cage, messed with shims, tightened every nut. I even drilled holes and put screws in the squirrel cage in order to balance it. The second I put that shim in there, problem solved! But boy...the mountain I had to climb before I found that old guru. Phew! I loved that car, but it was a quirky little bugger.
joechacon982 years ago
Very clear, concise instructable! I don't own a VW but I feel I can take this task on thanks to this!! Great job!

A neat way to test an alternator: With the engine off, check the voltage across the battery. If it is above 12V, you're in good starting shape. If it is below that, this test will not work and it is probably your battery.

Start the engine and check the voltage across the battery again. It should be above 13V. Give it some gas and increase the RPM's; you should see the voltage fluctuate between 13-15V. If there is no increase in voltage from the first 12V measurement, there is no voltage coming from you alternator.

To test amps, you need to run the multimeter inline. I would suggest taking it to Autozone since they test an alternator for free!

Great job!
creasemaker2 years ago
Loved your ible. it brought me back to when I had a 77' beetle that I got in 86'. rebuilt the engine twice. And made me remember why I ALWAYS carried ALL of my tools needed to work on the car. One day on the way home from work my belt came off. I pulled into parking lot put my old belt that I had saved for just such an occasion and back an the road in less then 10 min.
Thanks
hirod3 (author)  creasemaker2 years ago
Good times, right? :) Thanks for your feedback!
hirod3 (author) 2 years ago
It would be neat to see pics of that :)
TDWay2 years ago
Ah Dud, thanks this one brought back some fond Memories of my first ride back in 1978 mine was 69 VW Bug, however I replaced the Engine with a 4/11 Porch Engine, it took a little Modification of the Engine Comp and had to Mod the Trans-axles, I kept snapping the off the the 6 bolts at the CV joint, also had to use the friction and pressure plate from the 4/11 want more info feel free to contact me.