I once had my 1999 civic alternator fail on me while driving on the highway. Symptoms?
Steering wheel becoming very stiff.
Fuel gauge showing a fast decline.
Battery voltage to 9volt? What the hell! I Hope paddington bear was not giving my car a hard stare.
I had my alternator replaced with a used unit but how to maximize the life of this one?
A lower amp load means the alternator has to work less hard and this will help maximize the service life (new or used). How is that even possible? Lower amps means lower thermal stress on the winding insulation (believe it! Heat kills insulation integrity) and rectifiers. Also a lower workload can translate to longer bearing and belt life (provide the belt is properly installed).
Read on for tips to do this.
Step 1: Led Headlights.
Gas bulb headlamps are power hogs. Switching to leds will help decrease the load. For me I went from 55watt oem to 20watt led. I made sure to adjust the headlamps to put the light on the road and not drivers' eyes.
Step 2: Led Signaling and Indicator Lighting.
I used full leds for my external car indicating lights. I had to change the turn signal relay to the led compatible type to prevent hyper flashing.
Also for the dashboard indicators, again led type.
The dome light, yes you guessed it. Led.
Step 3: Using Lifepo4 Battery for Engine Starting.
Lifepo4 is a smaller battery but cranks my engine better than any lead acid ever did. It's been in service for 19 months and has not let me down. I installed Mine in the glove box. Check out my Instructable on it.
This battery charges much faster than lead acid and needs far less current to be recharged.
A special note on conversion to Lifepo4. Since the amp hour rating a quite small, the one I have is actually 6 amp hour, using electrical loads without the engine running is a bad idea. If you love to pull up at the beach, turn off the engine and play loud music then Lifepo4 may not be for you (without incurring high cost for multiple batteries). I had inserted a relay that turns off all lights when the engine is off. I have no use of my electrical loads (except the hazard lights) when my engine is off. Your application may be different.
Step 4: Enjoy Longer Service Life on the Alternator.
Failing alternators are no fun. It's not safe, will leave you stranded and costs money. Reducing the electrical load equals a happier alternator!