Question about 1997 Saturn SL

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1997 Satrun SL 2 alternator failures

I am having alternator failures on by 97 SL2 DOHC. It started with the battery going out. I had the system checked at an auto parts store and they said the battery was bad. It had 5 years on it so I replaced it. Within 2 weeks the car died again and had to be jumped. I checked the voltage to the new battery and it was not getting a charge. I took the alternator off and had it tested at the parts store and it tested bad. I got a new alternator and put it on. Started it and tested the system voltage and had 14 volts. Two weeks later the car would not start again. I jumped it and tested the voltage and was only getting 11 volts. I pulled the alternator off thinking I got a bad rebuilt alternator and had it tested at the parts store. It tested bad. I exchanged it for a replacement and installed the replacement alternator. It showed 14 volts. After 1 week the battery was dead again. I jumped it and checked voltage again 10 to 11 volts. I pulled the new battery and had it tested at the parts store and it test ok. What could be causing the alternator failures.

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  • jrilea Aug 13, 2008

    I have replaced the alternator again. Now I have the 14 volts needed for the battery recharge. The only problem that I can see is that the battery light does not come on when you turn the key in the on position without starting the car. Is there a problem with the charging system that will cause the alternator to go dead again.

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  • Saturn Master
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Miserable engineering.

My '95 SL2 purchased new, ate 6 (SIX) alternators, that fantastic "27 patents" automatic transmission, two sets of front disks and finally dropped a rod cap at 56,700 miles of very civilized driving.

I 'sold' it to my youngest son for $1 as a hobby when he got bored with his Jeeps or to donate it to a fund-raising bashing contest.

Now, the reason the alternators die -

They are buried in the engine compartment and get hardly any natural cooling there and, I don't know what kind of stupid engineers GM employs these days, but that alternator at 105 amps rating must deliver up to 1200 watts of 12 volt power an d it is too small to effectively dissipate the 1200 watts of sheer heat it produces while doing it.

If you have any appliance that absorbs 1200 watts (10 amps at 120 VAC), just check to see how much heat that is and even if spread over a larger area and bulk of the alternator, you think that would be a good environment for the semiconductors that are used to make the DC and regulate it.

It's a absolutely insane design and convinced me to never, EVER buy another anything from GM!

Sorry to vent but it still irks me after over 4 years of trouble-free Subaru ownership.
I wish you luck.

Posted on Aug 07, 2008

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