Car Needs New Alternator

My 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS refused to start today as I tried to pull away from a gas pump. It’s had problems dying occasionally, but always started right back up again until now.

I managed to coaerse the driver of the pickup at the next pump to give me a jump start, and drove straight to the AutoZone near home. New symptoms abound during the trip across town. I was hoping it just needed a new battery until the new symptoms began to manifest.

The car has always had problems with performance. I mean, it’s a sports car with a 0-60 of 15 seconds, for crying out loud! It was much worse this time, with all the sputtering and stalling you can imagine. I had to let it stall, drop it back into gear, and feather the gas while deploying the E-brake at red lights just to keep it from dying on the way.

Every time I’d apply an electrical appliance, such as the power windows, the engine would lose a noticable amount of performance. The CD player, which doesn’t have an “Off” switch, spit out its CD a few times.

I managed to limp my way to AutoZone. Just as I pulled into my parking space, the engine died one last time and the car beeped at me seven times. You know the beep; it’s the “Put your seat belt on, idiot” beep. I figured I’d ask the friendly AutoZone people about it while I was there.

Sure enough, my battery was totally dead. Installing a $75 replacement with 775 cold cranking amps immediately corrected the power problems. I had them do a second test after installing the new battery, while the engine was running. Sure enough, the alternator wasn’t charging – Even at 4000 RPM. With the engine running, the battery had a net output of 12.25V, where their clerks claim it should be 12.5V. So I had them price me up a new alternator.

At $104.99, the estimate was cheaper than I expected; and they estimate iit would take a mechanic 2-3 hours to replace. So my math says I should be able to get it replaced for a total of no more than $300. Obviously, the hundred bucks is after the core deposit return for the old alternator; but obviously I can’t return that until after I have it replaced.

The part that bothers me is that I don’t know when the alternator totally died. It’s been on its last leg since I first bought the car. At night, I could easily detect the electrical system alternating between full and about half power every second or two. The effect was so substantial that the resulting flash of the headlamps resembled that of a police cruiser in code-3 pursuit.

So I’ll probably end up having the alternator work done next weekend.

It became evident while I was there that I needed some additional supplies… So I got an emergency jumper kit (Portable battery charger) and a set of jumper cables, just in case of relapse.

I also got a new ice scraper, cuz J broke mine when he sat on it yesterday; and a squeegee to clear the snow and ice scrapings from the car after I scrape it. I also picked up a Haynes manual for the car, as they don’t carry Chilton’s for the 90 Eclipse. I still don’t know what the seven beeps were.

This thing’s becoming a giant money hole.