1996 Honda Civic Mechanic says alternator needs to be repla

Tiny
SUZANNESHAPS
  • MEMBER
  • 1996 HONDA CIVIC
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • MANUAL
  • 13,000 MILES
Hello:

First, wow, what a great service. Just found it in a search looking for information about replacing the alternator on my car. Here's my story:

My car was making a high pitched noise so I took it to the auto repair place across the street. FWIW they have been very good to me, checking my car before long trips on a few occasions over the last couple years and the only thing I think I ever paid them for was an oil change. This last time, I tried to insist that they let me pay them something since I'm not sure if I am going to do the repair they said I needed, and the guy refused, just asked that if I have it done, that I bring it to them.

They said that the noise was because the alternator needs to be replaced which would cost $470. I would prefer not to make any more major repairs to this car due to its age but I would prefer not to buy a new car until I absolutely have to.

My boyfriend says that (a) an alternator is not important -- provided I always stop the car on the top of the hill so I can get a rolling start -- poo to that.

My questions:

(1) My boyfriend tells me that I don't have to worry yet because the alternator light is not yet coming on. True?

When I start the car, the only one I'm not sure about is the orange "check" light which comes on for maybe a second when I turn the key then turns right off.

(2) My boyfriend also says that I could buy an alternator for $50 and it would be easy for him to install. True? (He works on his 2002 Saab -- which scares me but he seems to know what he is doing.)

(3) How long am I likely to be able to drive before the thing quits? I am unable to work and so probably drive only 5-20 miles most weeks and never far from home so I'm not worried if I get stuck and need to call AAA.

My concern now is that I would like to help with a dog rescue transport the weekend after Thanksgiving, driving from Cleveland to the Canadian border, maybe further, and am concerned that I will encounter problems. Is there any way to determine the likelihood that that would happen?

Thank you so much for your help and kind regards,
Suzanne Shaps
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Thursday, November 19th, 2009 AT 11:11 AM

6 Replies

Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
Hi Suzanne,

Thank you for the donation and compliments.

( 1 ) Wrong. You have to start worrying if there are abnormal noise. If the noise is a rumbling type noise, the alternator bearings are on their way out and it can just seize anytime.
If the noise is a high pitched noise, it is possible the armature is badly worn and the carbon brushes are causing the noise.

The CEL coming on and going off at initial ignition ON is correct. It is the indicator to inform you that the system is working correctly.

( 2 ) I am not sure about the price and you boy friend could be right if you buy a used alternator from the junk yard, you can get it for a very low price. Replacement is rather easy and straight forward and I would not doubt his ability to replace it.

A SAAB is much more difficult and complicated to handle than a Honda. Just wondering, why did he not take the initiative to do it or did you not give him permission? Don't mind me being a busybody, lol.

( 3 ) Such things have no time frames so it is impossible to determine how long it will last.

One thing is for sure, if the alternator gives way, a rolling start is not going to get you far, maybe 1/2 hour of driving max, as the battery capacity is limited.

I would not drive my car over long distance with a known potential fault that can get me stranded if it fails. Get the problem resolved if you are planning to go long distance, that is my advice.
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Thursday, November 19th, 2009 AT 11:28 AM
Tiny
SUZANNESHAPS
  • MEMBER
Wow, that was sure fast!

My boyfriend hasn't replaced the alternator himself yet probably because he doesn't seem to think it is an urgent issue and I haven't pushed him to do it.

Also, I just feel more comfortable when a trained mechanic that I trust works on my car. I don't have the expertise to assess my boyfriend's skills, but the mechanics across the street are certified.

If I am going to do this trip, it sounds like I need either to get this done or bite the bullet and buy a new car which I really don't want to do yet.

Does $470 sound high for this repair? I think I saw somewhere online that it should cost about $300 but I don't remember where I saw it or how old the post was.

If I opt to let my boyfriend do it, can you recommend a good place (online if it's not in the Cleveland area) to buy the part?

I see on your web site that only new parts made by the manufacturer should be used. Do I need to buy it from a Honda dealer? Or are there less expensive sources?

Also, if he doesn't get it quite right, how might I know and what could happen?

Thank you!
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Thursday, November 19th, 2009 AT 11:40 AM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
We only have the OEM price list so that is what we recommend and sorry I am not able to recommend any place for you. It is not necessary to get a new unit and from the dealer. A new unit would last longer.

There should be parts stores around your area, enquire about the price from the various stores to get an idea what the cost is around your area.

Check the scrap yards for a better deal.

If your botfriend is confident of the job, there is now way he is going to get it wrong. This job is straight orward and is not going to cause any complications even if he goofed.
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Thursday, November 19th, 2009 AT 12:02 PM
Tiny
SUZANNESHAPS
  • MEMBER
Yes, my boyfriend is confident that he can do it so I will let him.

Will start looking around now.

Thanks so much for your help/reassurances. $25 well spent!
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Thursday, November 19th, 2009 AT 12:31 PM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
You are welcomed and glad to be of service.

Thank you for using 2carpros.
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Thursday, November 19th, 2009 AT 12:56 PM
Tiny
SUZANNESHAPS
  • MEMBER
You're welcome. I'll be back!
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Thursday, November 19th, 2009 AT 1:05 PM

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