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Old 07-08-2012, 01:21 AM   #1
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1979 28' Airstream Excella 28
Cedar City , Utah
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Alternator

I considered posting this question under "electrical" but this might be a better place to begin.

My engine is a 1990 model 454TBI upgraded to a 1979 28' Excella Motorhome. Prior to the upgrade and afterward, the alternator has failed several times. It is a 105 amp AC Delco with a lifetime warranty but changing it is no laughing matter .

I understand alternators fail but I felt there's more here than meets the eye and decided to trouble shoot the system for signs of a cause(s). One thing stands out; a regulator made by Ford mounted above the engine in the doghouse. It was there when I bought the vehicle and remained after the engine was professionally replaced. This alternator should have a built in regulator so I wonder if for some reason these vehicles were equipped with an external Ford regulator. It makes sense that a part pron to failure would be relocated for accessibility in a design where the alternator is not readily accessible. Could this be why? Is anyone familiar with this setup? Did they commonly do this with P30 Motorhomes for better access? Why, why...?

Sometimes that is the only question.

Mary
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Old 07-08-2012, 03:36 PM   #2
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Yes. At the time there wasn't a (small size) 110amp alternators, so they used an after market alternator build in an old delco housing with the ford regulator. If your 'upgrade' came with the 105A delco w/internal regulator the ford regulator wouldn't have a need and may cause harm.
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Old 07-08-2012, 04:15 PM   #3
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In addition, many "rebuilt" alternators are very very poor quality, even with lifetime warranty. I would highly recommend you be sure you are getting a brand new alternator. It will be more costly, but the replacement cost in labor is the deciding factor in the overall expense.
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Old 07-09-2012, 10:43 PM   #4
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Accessing the alternator wasn't too bad except for the very heavy radiator. Didn't have a cherry-picker or block and tackle so I used my heavy gauge adjustable ladder and ratcheting straps to hoist it out at a slight angle (ladder angle was a bonus). You can be certain I will repair/replace anything that looks amiss while the front end is open.
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Old 07-10-2012, 02:00 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marydixon555 View Post
Accessing the alternator wasn't too bad except for the very heavy radiator. Didn't have a cherry-picker or block and tackle so I used my heavy gauge adjustable ladder and ratcheting straps to hoist it out at a slight angle (ladder angle was a bonus). You can be certain I will repair/replace anything that looks amiss while the front end is open.
I'm surprised that you have to remove the radiator to get to the alternator but I have a diesel so I'm just guessing. The thing I would suggest is that you take your radiator into a shop and have it boiled and rodded. The radiator itself should not be that terribly heavy, however as they get older they get clogged up with dirt, rust and stuff and that adds a great deal of weight. I realize "very heavy" is hard to define but cleaning the radiator now might save a lot of hassle down the road.

Cheers, Dan
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Old 07-10-2012, 08:48 AM   #6
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Yes, the only way to remove the alternator is to remove the front grille, radiator etc. It is possible to access the alternator by completely removing the entire dash and doghouse and labor intensive but then you really don't have great access even then. I should post some photos. The radiator weighs about 150lbs and incorporates cooling for the transmission. It is surrounded by a frame from which it cannot be removed while mounted to the vehicle and must be inserted and attached as a unit. This adds to the weight. Keep in mind, nothing is standard about this coach. It is a 1979 with a new fuel injected engine and an over-sized radiator added to keep it from over-heating. It's pretty "cool" literally and has never been hotter than 195 degrees in all types of conditions. Weight considered, it doesn't take long to access the front of the engine this way. You're right about cleaning the radiator while it is out. Thanks.

Mary (cheers to you to my friend)
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Old 07-10-2012, 09:18 AM   #7
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Mary, you must have had some major modifications done to your engine and Radiator. I used to own a 1979 28' Excella for over 10 years and have replaced everything short of the engine. The Alternator was one of the easier things to replace, easy accessible while sitting under the passenger wheel well.
The only way I ever was able to remove the Radiator, which I did twice, was to raise the vehicle and pull it out from underneath.
I may be mistaken, but the Ford regulator you mention is a starter relay and not a regulator, but do not take my word for it.
Is your battery Isolator functioning as intended?
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Old 07-10-2012, 10:39 AM   #8
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You're right, I've spent more money than I wish to disclose.

I sandblasted the frame, replaced all floor, wiring and fuse systems. Replaced polybutylene water pipes with pex and repaired/replaced black and grey water pipes as needed. Other: New heater, AC, generator, tankless water heater, custom designed integrated AC/Heater (driver compartment), new custom designed dash, all new gauges and a few extras, led lighting (regulated), new fuel injected engine (had to go through the California DMV for that one and no fun), new power/heated mirrors, new wiper system, motors including a single switch integrating them with 2 speeds, 3 intermittent levels and wash function (very expensive option), replaced the univolt with an intellicharger and relocated it to the basement area as well as the deep cycle batteries by the driver (separate areas), 4 deep cycle batteries rather than two joined in parallel, replaced the old P30 rear end (with a better design after dropping on busy Southern California freeways twice), new over-sized radiator/transmission cooler, new furniture. The list goes on but this covers the big stuff. Other than my two grandchildren, I have two passions and they are flying and working on my motorhome. The nicest thing about the motorhome is that with all the upgrades it looks original to the untrained eye. Making major improvements while retaining the original look and feel is not easy and takes a lot of planning. For every hour of work I have put into my project, I have spent 20 times as much in research and development. I've done most of the work myself but had the engine professionally replaced though I designed the wiring.

Anyone here interested in professional sandblasting equipment? Ha, ha, that purchase set me back a bit but not nearly as much as having someone else do the work.

Mary
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Old 07-10-2012, 11:10 AM   #9
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Mary, I would love to see lots of pics of your work!
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Old 07-10-2012, 01:36 PM   #10
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Photos

I'll get around to posting photos when the weather turns cold. During the warm months, I spend most my time on the motorhome. I have taken some shots during different stages but in retrospect wish I had taken more.
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Old 07-10-2012, 04:31 PM   #11
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When the alternator fails, take it to an alternator shop and have them determine how it failed. There are regulators, diodes, bearings, brushes that can fail. If the same component keeps failing like diodes or regulators then you may have poor air flow and that is causing failures. Bearings go out a lot in cheap rebuilds because the replacements are made in China. You will hear the noise before it fails if it is a bearing ,usually the shaft has play with the belt loose. If it is just bearings failing take it to an alternator shop and tell them to put American made bearings in it.

Perry
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Old 07-10-2012, 04:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marydixon555 View Post
You're right, I've spent more money than I wish to disclose.

I sandblasted the frame, replaced all floor, wiring and fuse systems. Replaced polybutylene water pipes with pex and repaired/replaced black and grey water pipes as needed. Other: New heater, AC, generator, tankless water heater, custom designed integrated AC/Heater (driver compartment), new custom designed dash, all new gauges and a few extras, led lighting (regulated), new fuel injected engine (had to go through the California DMV for that one and no fun), new power/heated mirrors, new wiper system, motors including a single switch integrating them with 2 speeds, 3 intermittent levels and wash function (very expensive option), replaced the univolt with an intellicharger and relocated it to the basement area as well as the deep cycle batteries by the driver (separate areas), 4 deep cycle batteries rather than two joined in parallel, replaced the old P30 rear end (with a better design after dropping on busy Southern California freeways twice), new over-sized radiator/transmission cooler, new furniture. The list goes on but this covers the big stuff. Other than my two grandchildren, I have two passions and they are flying and working on my motorhome. The nicest thing about the motorhome is that with all the upgrades it looks original to the untrained eye. Making major improvements while retaining the original look and feel is not easy and takes a lot of planning. For every hour of work I have put into my project, I have spent 20 times as much in research and development. I've done most of the work myself but had the engine professionally replaced though I designed the wiring.

Anyone here interested in professional sandblasting equipment? Ha, ha, that purchase set me back a bit but not nearly as much as having someone else do the work.

Mary
That's truly remarkable. There I was thinking that I did a lot of work to my 79, but compared to your list, I barely scratched the surface.
But when I put mine on the market, I had no problem selling it, once knowledgeable buyers realized what all I had done.
My compliments!
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Old 07-12-2012, 05:57 AM   #13
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Thanks Peter. I've actually don'e a lot more than what I've listed. I did remove the radiator and will post some photos. Mine is actually a lot larger and is mounted inside a frame from which it cannot be removed while attached to the vehicle. I didn't have a block and tackle so I just put a very strong configurable aluminum ladder in front and hoisted it out and up at an angle; not difficult except for the weight. The alternator is something that can be removed from the passenger-side wheel-well by a male or female less endowed than I am. I did replace the battery isolator with a larger one and was wondering if, perhaps, that might be the problem. Now that I have easy access, I'll recheck the wiring and pay a mechanic to check over my work. I found one who teaches at the Technical College who'll drop by and check it over for me.

I was also considering Perry's line of reasoning (thanks Perry!) and thought about misalignment (bearing failure) and heat related failure. I see where I can add an air intake while I'm at it to improve airflow to the TBI and improve mpgs. At the moment, I'm checking and cleaning everything and will grease everything while I have easy access. Oh, the fun never stops!

Thanks everyone for the input, I'll update what I find out.

Mary
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Old 07-13-2012, 04:50 PM   #14
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Thanks Peter. I forgot about the Ford Starter Solenoid. The GM solenoid would have problems when it was very hot. The remote solenoid was added when I had added the Thorley Headers to avoid heat failure. Incidentally, Doug Thorley lives a few miles from me and lost that company in the divorce so now he makes "Doug's Headers." Gratefully, the alternator checked out fine but I have found some wiring issues and hope that'll fix the problem. I think I'll do what you said about the radiator too! Awesome people here! Crazy enough to love their Airstreams as much as I do.
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