Mark: Hi it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 17 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How’re you doing this morning Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So we’re going to talk about, we’re doing a bit of a reprise I guess, we’re going back to Ford Diesel’s, this time it’s a 2008 F350 with the 6.4 diesel, there was an alternator problem, what was going on with this truck?
Bernie: Yeah so this vehicle as brought to us, towed in actually with an under hood wiring fire or an electrical fire under the hood, so that’s what the vehicle came in to us, pretty, potentially, serious issue.
Mark: So what did you find?
Bernie: So what we found upon inspection, we found that the lower alternator had basically had an internal short and meltdown. We didn’t see any flames. We hooked the batteries up and it started getting hot pretty quickly so we can only imagine that was a bit of a fire coming out of the alternator and it seemed like that was about the worst area of the damage was just the alternator itself. But yeah, it was the lower alternator.
Mark: So you say lower, is there an upper alternator?
Bernie: Yeah there is on some diesel vehicles. Ford’s and GM’s for sure, I’m not sure of Dodge’s, but those two brands you have the option of a dual alternator on some of their diesels. So yeah there are actually two of them on this vehicle.
Mark: Was there any other damage beyond the alternator?
Bernie: Fortunately for the owner of this vehicle, no, other than the belt, the drive belt was damaged but I mean, that would probably be something that would need to be replaced anyways but no, fortunately there wasn’t and it was a good thing for him because there is a lot of wiring that sits right above the alternator and I guess the way it caught on fire it didn’t cause any further damage. So very lucky that it got caught. I’ll share some photos. Our 08 Ford, nice white Ford four door F350 with the diesel and we’ll go to the next photo which is, this is the alternator. This is a lower alternator, it looks rather ugly, it’s had a fire extinguisher sprayed on it, things have melted onto the alternator and also the pulley was seized as well. So whatever happened, is a complete meltdown internally and the alternator would even turn anymore, so that’s our alternator. The belt goes here, one of the mounting holes here, but normally they’re a nice shiny aluminum piece without all this fire extinguisher debris.
Mark: So how unusual is this?
Bernie: You know for all the time I’ve worked on cars, which is a long time, this is only the second time I’ve ever seen an alternator meltdown like this. So yeah, pretty, extremely rare. Not sure what would cause it, just some sort of internal short inside, I mean there’s a lot of windings and wires inside an alternator. I’ll say it’s a pretty complex piece plus it’s directly hooked to the battery there is no, sometimes there is a fuse link but for the most part, it’s a direct connection between the alternator and the battery. So there is a lot of potential power that can flow through it, especially if it’s a short.
Mark: Anything that the owner could’ve done to prevent this problem?
Bernie: No, as an owner of the vehicle, this kind of thing is just a random failure, nothing you can do, no amount of good maintenance will prevent this kind of thing and the good news is it is extremely rare. So usually when alternators fail, they just don’t put out enough energy to charge the battery and they need to be replaced or the bearings will fail and they’ll cause a noise and that’ll eventually cause a problem. But with a short out like this, this is extremely rare. One thing I will add to, that if this happens to you in your vehicle, a lot of times your insurance will cover it because it is a fire, not a mechanical failure. So for the owner of this vehicle, he did have a portion of the bill covered by his insurance which was a really good thing.
Mark: So there you have it. If you have a failure in your alternator or you’ve got some weird noises or your car isn’t charging properly, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com - we have 5 plus years of videos on there, tons of information. Thanks a lot Bernie
Bernie: Thanks Mark.