PLEASE HELP HANDICAPPED MAN WITH ONLY FAMILY CAR...
1999 Ford Contour
October, 19, 2012 AT 5:17 PM
Please help Handicapped man with only family car!
I am very mechanically inclined. I cannot afford to take car to shop because I have a family of four and I'm on tiny amount of Disability. I try to do all the work myself, even if I'm bedridden for the next week!
The car had the Alternater replaced last year(me). The battery is brand new. The car went dead and will not charge. It's so much trouble having to replace the alt. On this particular model and it takes special tools and a long time (for me anyway) I took the alt. Off (again) and brought it back to Auto Zone and they replaced it. I also found out the wheel bearing was bad and it was welded onto the hub and other parts. I ended up having to use a dremel and cold punch, but after many hours I finally got it! Back to the issue, I put an ohmmeter on the 175 amp megafuse and it has continuity. (Someone said they can get week and no longer work and still have continuity) I have checked all wires from the battery to the starter, then the starter to the altern. They are all in good shape, there is continuity in ohms and volts through A/C or D/C it reads fine close to 13 volts. I crank it up and turn the heater on high and the lights on bright, there is a significant drop but still above 12 volts until after 10-20 minutes of idling it will drop. The Alternater is not charging at all. My wife was picking my two boys up from school when it first happened. She tried to describe to me what happened. I had to drive it myself to find out more. After driving it a little while the Tach goes out first, then the Speedometer goes out. It will start bucking and stalling soon after the Tach drops to Zero. The lights will flicker a little bit and then the car will die and if I try to crank it again it will just click(like a dead battery) I pop the hood and put another hot battery in and it will start-up just fine and will run ok till the battery depletes itself once again. There is also a tiny vacuum leak or something with an air sound once the battery is near dead, after installing the hot battery it does not sound like that. I have checked the onboard diagnostics by self reading the flashes, it reads PCM(code 19) which is the power control module after further reading and studying the book or manual I learned that once the battery is disconnected(for longer than ten minutes) it will pop-up this code and I don't want to try replacing this if it's not the problem. When it first happened with my wife there was a red light that popped up indicating the battery. Since then I have drove the car(only down my driveway till it dies) and there are no other new codes popping up, so I can't do a diagnostic check with the beeps. My dad has a code reader but he says it will not read any problems till there is a code. There are allmost 40 sensors and relays, etc. On this car! I just can.T afford to start replacing them. I really need help with this issue, so if anyone can give me any ideas or info or help me in any way at all, I would surely appreciate it!
Thanks so much if you respond!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
You know, I've had many old school cars and trucks, including my fav. A 65' chevy stepside with three on the tree. Why do these new cars have so many sensors and relays, etc. If only they would stick with the true and tried proven method, there would not be so many problems with these newer cars(mines allmost 15 years old) OH! I know why! It keeps us shade tree mechanics out of the picture more! They are making it where even licensed mechanics with their on shop can't work on them either. You have to bring it to the dealer!
Example: my friend has a Volvo and I offered to help him change the oil to save them some money, he told me that he needed front end work also, I said well I could help him do it. He informed me that he had to change the oil through the dealer, that they had a special tool &/or a lock code for the oil and that it would void the warranty if it was not done at the dealer! I was going to put him some synthetic oil in it and he said they charge him allmost 100 bucks and it's regular oil not even a blend! It seems perfect that they would do that, the car will last the warranty but probably not over 300,000 miles. I use to do a lot of work till my accident. I've come across a lot of older cars with 3, 4 and even 500,000 miles on them. Those days are pretty much over, unless it's a diesel. They just make em crappier and crappier every few years. I was in my 65' and I pulled behind my friends wifes car(about an 85 ford ltd) a true hunk of metal. Well, his wife rushed out the door and he said man, did you pull behind my wife's car because she don't look behind her. BOOM! I heard a loud noise and we all ran outside her car was totalled! My truck had a little tiny scratch and that cars trunk was jacked up and just totalled!
I could not believe it! What happens nowdays if one of these lil cars or plastic cars hits it? Even those airbags can't save you!
Ah, A man after my own heart. I refuse to give up my extremely reliable rusty trusty '88 Grand Caravan and '80 Volare for the same reasons, but you're misguided on a couple of points. First of all cars today are WAY cleaner. You can suck on the tail pipe and live to tell about it. Cars run better and start easier for up to 100,000 miles with no maintenance adjustments or parts replacement. My Volare can't get past 30,000 miles on a set of spark plugs. When comparing cars to cars, you're much more likely to survive a head-on crash in a '90s model puddle jumper, (other than a GM front-wheel-drive car), than in a '59 Chevy. I didn't believe it either until I saw the evidence at a high-level school I attended a few years ago. My '93 Dynasty has REAL effective anti-lock brakes and the most comfortable ride imaginable. The '59 Edsel I had rode nice too but that was because it weighed twice as much.
With older cars and trucks with carburetors, they could only be efficient at two points because there were two jets tuned for those points, idle and high speed. In between you had to run a little rich to avoid the mixture dropping into the "lean" zone. Rich causes a loss of fuel mileage. Lean causes a hesitation or stumble. One is not acceptable to a happy driver. With electronic fuel injection they use all those sensors so the computer can fine tune the mixture to perfect under a huge variety of operating conditions, not just idle and high speed. All of the systems are very effective when they work right. I agree we have way more problems than years ago, but most are easily diagnosed with the help of fault codes. My complaint has to do with the unnecessary use of technology. That means a computer to run the heater controls, power windows and locks, wipers, and things like that. Those have no benefit to the customer, they break down WAY more than on older cars, and they cost a lot more to repair. My Caravan has all those features, plus a rear wiper, rear heater, air conditioning, and automatic transmission, and they all work just fine without involving a computer.
The repairs you talked about haven't changed much. There has always been the need for special tools but today there's ten times more models and brands and each one needs their own tools in many cases. No one wants to invest in all of them so we either specialize in one area of the car, or one brand. Ford has always done things differently than other manufacturers, and the Contour and "Mistake" are definitely not any of their finer products. Their cars have been well-known for steering and suspension, and electrical problems for the last 30 years, and from what I've been hearing they aren't getting better.
I remember hearing years ago some mechanics complaining how they couldn't understand how those "newfangled alternators" worked or how to diagnose them. They're easier than the old generators. (By the way, "alternator" is a term copyrighted and first used by Chrysler). As for yours, it sounds like something is quitting after it gets warm so that's when the testing has to be done. A defective diode will cut the maximum output to exactly one third of its rated output, and that's not enough so the battery has to make up the difference. Diodes though are not intermittent. Voltage regulators and brushes can be. From your description of the problem, it sounds like the voltage regulator is slowly giving up when it gets warm. They are bolted to the back of the generator and can often be removed without removing the generator from the engine. The brushes come with it too.
As for "shade tree mechanics", I agree. I do all of my own work because I AM a mechanic, but most people don't have the tools or diagnostic equipment I do. Knowledge is another problem. Read through these forums and you'll see how total incompetent many owners are when it comes to simply describing the symptoms accurately affecting the product they trust to get them back home. They don't know what "cranks" and "turns over" means. They can't describe any further than "won't start". Gees, that can mean a dozen things, but you can't drag the information out of them. It's the lack of knowledge and training that is holding you back. If you got hired today in a dealership you'd be no more successful than you are now in your back yard. Cars aren't like people. Doctors only have to learn two models in varying sizes for their entire career. Mechanics have to learn dozens of new circuits and systems every year on dozens of new models every year, and if they see only one of that model in a year they are still expected to be an expert on it or the customer gets angry.
If you really want to get me started, let me tell you about the tricks GM, Volkswagen, and BMW have purposely designed into their products to cost owners lots of money after the sale. GM had to resort to all kinds of short-term tricks and rebates to get a new crop of unsuspecting buyers into their showrooms. There were too many former owners who said "never again". They'll be hurting in a few years again when they won't be able to find buyers.
Anyhow, before I go off in another direction, check out this page for your charging system: