2001 Ford Windstar, Alternator Burnt Up, Cooling Fans Run At High Speed, Part 2

The vehicle’s original alternator failed in July of last year. The customer had an extended warranty and the warranty company paid the bill, less the deductible.

I had personally checked the system and installed a replacement alternator at that time. I offer a 12 month, 12,000 mile parts warranty and a 90 day labor warranty. As is normal for me I checked the battery, possible drain condition and excessive current draw and all was fine.

In early January, the customer called and stated that the alternator had failed and wanted to know if it had a warranty. I explained that the alternator itself had a 12 month 12,000 mile warranty but that I would like to check the alternator myself first. She brought the van in and sure enough the alternator had failed. I obtained a replacement alternator and installed it along with charging and checking the battery. I confirmed that there were no standby drains on the battery. I also as you know from earlier in the post found that the engine cooling fans were staying on high within about 10-20 seconds of engine start up.

The amperage draw of the engine running and the cooling fans on was 77 amps. This current draw combined with 15 amps needed for the front blower, 15 amps for the rear blower, 8 amps for the a/c compressor, 12 amps for the lights, 5 amps for the radio and misc electrical uses exceeds the 130 amp maximum rated output of the alternator. This coupled with the fact that most alternators are only designed to output 75% of their rated output continuously and that my amperage usage calculations did not include rear window defrosters, wipers, power windows, power door locks and misc uses, led me to the conclusion that an alternator could not hold up to this abuse more than a couple of days in cool weather and probably only a few hours if it were really hot outside.

  • 77 amps Engine running with cooling fans stuck on high
  • 15 amps Front blower motor
  • 15 amps Rear blower motor
  • 8 amps A/C compressor
  • 12 amps Lights
  • 5 amps Radio

132 amps of power consumption not including rear window defrosters, wipers, power window, power door locks, phone chargers, DVD players, laptops and other misc power consuming devices.

The factory rated 130 amp alternator could only handle about 90 – 100 amps continuous output depending on ambient conditions.

Now, with all that information it should be clear that the alternator was being abused and misused. The complicated part is who is responsible for the repair bill when the vehicle systems (specifically the cooling fan controls) were the cause of the alternator failure. It was not an alternator defect, which would be covered for 12 months or 12,000 miles from the date of installation. If it had been a defective and not an abused alternator, I would have replaced the alternator and depending on customer attitude, I may have even discounted or even declined charging for labor even though my shop policy is clearly stated at the bottom of every invoice, 90 day labor warranty.

This is where is starts getting ugly. I finally got in touch with the customer’s warranty company. An hour and a half of real time, spread out over one afternoon and the next morning (who’s paying for this time?) and I finally get to talk to a person. I thoroughly explained the situation to the warranty company representative only to be told that I, an auto electric specialist with 37 years of experience did not know what I was talking about. “The alternator is designed to handle any and all factory electrical loads on the vehicle.”

I restated my position and to no avail, I was told the warranty company would not pay for the alternator or it’s replacement diagnosis and installation. They would however pay for the fault with the cooling fans. I asked them, why bother if they claim there is no ill effect on the charging system and the customer had not made a complaint about them being on. The representative stated that there was a clear fault with the cooling fan system and that they would pay for it.

Okay we’ll take what we can get!

Next, I contacted my supplier about the alternator to see if we could get some help with the alternator expense. They agreed to warranty the alternator at no cost, even though we all knew the alternator had been damaged by the vehicle.

I added everything up and informed the customer of all of the details and that she would have to pay her deductible $25.00 plus another $150.00 for expenses that the warranty company would not pay for. She claimed that she understood and she was sorry for all of the trouble I had to go through to fix her vehicle. She paid the bill and left happy.

Several hours later the husband who did not know all of the details called me up and started complaining that I charged them too much. Then he started in on where did I get the alternator from and that he could have changed the alternator himself for nothing and it only takes a couple of minutes to do it. Blah, blah, blah.

I explained that the alternator can be removed and installed fairly easy but dealing with the belt was not easy and that changing the alternator is only a small part of the service and that I was simply charging for part of the time that I had involved in fixing his vehicle.

He obviously did not know anything about dealing with people or specifically me. If he would have just had a good attitude about the situation and asked if anything else could be done about the labor charges rather than berate me about it, I may have discounted the service, but when I realized that the situation was lost why bother?

So to end this story. I am unhappy with all of the stress and strain involved with dealing with so many people on a routine repair. The gentleman customer is unhappy with me, the warranty company and most likely his wife. The warranty company will not have me as a service outlet any more and more than likely they will not sell a warranty to the vehicle owner again. My parts supplier ate the cost of the failed alternator (I feel for no good reason other than a favor ot me) which will be included in the cost of the next alternator that you or I buy.

I have re instituted my policy of not working with warranty companies, period! I had waivered on it for a few customers but I have beeen reminded that it is just not worth my time to deal with them on the customer’s behalf. Not to mention the stress factors and lost customer. If I would have just said “NO” last July, my January would have been much better.

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