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Old 09-11-2011, 08:46 AM   #1
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1986 34.5' Airstream 345
Bethlehem , Pennsylvania
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Alternator advice

Classic 345, new to me, and devouring a belt every 300-400 miles. Would like to replace the alternator with an "upgrade", and looking for direction.

I have no familiarity with alternators, but have a friend who can competently install for me if I get the right parts.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions!

P.S. Aren't these vehicles an amazing mix of joy and despair?!?!?!
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Old 09-11-2011, 10:26 AM   #2
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I don't own a motorhome, but have a background of messing with old cars, and if belts are being chewed up prematurely, the pulley alignment is not correct, the alternator bracket is flexing, the alternator pulley is bad, or a combination of any of these things.

Good luck with your repair.
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Old 09-11-2011, 11:03 AM   #3
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Another clue I omitted.

The dashboard volt gauge spikes to about 16, immediately before belt squealing starts.

Good Sam mechanic installed the most recent belt, so hopefully the tension was right. Not sure about alignment.

My thought is that the voltage spikes followed by squealing were a sign of bad alternator...
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Old 09-11-2011, 11:08 AM   #4
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Yes, they are a joy & sometimes a pain at their age. We just sold our '87 AS 345 which was in great shape. Although the day we were to show it & set it up nicely to show in a camp ground the alternator stopped charging & then would not crank. My husband ran to Wal Mart (too late in day for parts stores) & bought a new battery. We were able to crank it & drive it then to our Chevy dealer. (They seemed a little perturbed to find a big silver MH at their shop the next day...wont be buying from them or using their service dept again, also wanted to charge us an outrageous price & admitted to not knowing anything about MH"s...Ha!) After much searching we were able to find a good truck shop that would work on it. They could not find a new alternator for it but we just happen to have one of the best alternator shops around. They rebuilt it & it now cranks & runs like a top again. ($359.)
Sadly, we sold it just last week. we are in the middle of a renovation & time & money are short. We just did not have a lot of time for a MH & it needs to travel & not sit up. Good news is we bought a '74 Argosy 26ft TT. I think we have AS fever for sure!! Can't do without one now!! Economically the TT is what we need for now. Good luck with finding a really good alternator guy to work on it for you.
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Old 09-11-2011, 11:10 AM   #5
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Yes, that is what happened as my husband was driving it to the camp ground about 40 miles. The voltage meter went crazy. A new alternator or rebuilt by someone "really" will probably take care of it.
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Old 09-11-2011, 11:13 AM   #6
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Sorry for typos. Someone "really" good with alternators.
Also, it gave off a smell when it was going out.??
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Old 09-11-2011, 12:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hirsch22 View Post
Another clue I omitted.

The dashboard volt gauge spikes to about 16, immediately before belt squealing starts.

Good Sam mechanic installed the most recent belt, so hopefully the tension was right. Not sure about alignment.

My thought is that the voltage spikes followed by squealing were a sign of bad alternator...
Hirsh:
The squeal is a direct consiquence of the Alternator being under load(shown by the 16V reading) and the belt being stressed and overworked to turn it.
There maybe an alignment issue too.

I have some Alternator/Battery issues on my list, as when I drove back from KS the Voltmeter would spike and plunge randomly, so I did a lot of research in preparation...

Here is some info I found/plagerized/modded/saved that is pertinent to what we have or might have that might help you....
I simplified some of he langauge so I could understand it as I am a dope with Electrical stuff!

Electrical transients in automotive systems are not uncommon. But voltage spikes where you can immediately "see" effects on instrumentation indicate a problem.
If it's happening in other areas (e.g., instrument cluster, A/C system, interior/exterior lighting, etc.), you may have a defective alternator.

"Normal" vehicle electrical systems typically exhibit a voltage around 12.8V (battery voltage w/ ignition off) or 13.8V with ignition on and alternator up to snuff). The voltage can vary between 9V to 16V depending on the battery state-of-charge and/or condition of the alternator. These are rough numbers, but you get the idea.

Most vehicle electrical and electronics systems are designed to tolerate and function "normally" with voltages in the range of 9V to 16V, and even 19V in some cases. 19V is pretty rare, and represents a failed alternator. Electronic modules are even designed to survive to 24V for several minutes (representing a double-battery jump-start), although normal functionality is generally waived until the voltage returns to normal.

The voltage regulation these days is built into your alternator, but some older systems there maybe an external regutaor.
The battery itself acts as a giant capacitor(Storage device) that can compensate for large transient currents, but it's the alternator that keeps the voltage steady (or, tries to, anyway).

There is a phenomenon called "load dump" which occurs when large loads are switched on and off... high current items like headlamps and A/C system, etc. Load dump can also occur if the battery experiences a sudden disconnect (via loose/faulty wiring or terminal connections). This can be as high as 40V to 60V, but is very brief. Again, most electronic modules in automotive systems are designed to withstand this kind of (typically brief) transient.

Bottom line: Check, in this order...

1) Check all cables & connectors running from the battery
2) Get the alternator checked

I am looking at an Upgrade, and understand that a 200Amp unit would do a great job, and give a higher output at Idle, that the stock unit does at 2000rpm, but have not looked much deeper than adding it my want list.
My 84 345 seems to have a Voltage regulator mounted on the Radiator Shroud, so I need to figure out how to deal with that, one if I needa single wire, 3 wire or what...

I was eyeing this company and unit, as the price is good, and local to me, but no idea if its good, so just using it as an example...
NEW ALTERNATOR CHEVY,GM CHROME 3 WIRE,HIGH OUTPUT 200A | eBay
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Old 09-11-2011, 01:21 PM   #8
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The plot thickens!

(or perhaps my weak mind is reminded of additional variables with each response...)

Another gremlin I had thought unrelated, but now am reconsidering:

1) With the engine and generator off (I can't remember if it happens on shore power).

2) If both ventilation fans are running, or even 1 with too many lights at the same time, everything shuts down as if tripping a circuit. Except, no breakers tripped and turning things off results in the system kicking back on seconds later.

Wondering if while under way this is leading to spikes, straining the alternator, etc. ?
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Old 09-11-2011, 01:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hirsch22 View Post
The plot thickens!

2) If both ventilation fans are running, or even 1 with too many lights at the same time, everything shuts down as if tripping a circuit. Except, no breakers tripped and turning things off results in the system kicking back on seconds later.

Wondering if while under way this is leading to spikes, straining the alternator, etc. ?
This sounds like a loose connection, becoming high resistance when under heavy load.

Had a simular problem with a loose thru board connector on a battery distrubution panel in a '75 Airstream travel trailer. Under high 12 volt demands, everything would shut down. Went in there wiggling wires until I found the loose connection, tightened it, and all was fine.
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Old 09-11-2011, 01:28 PM   #10
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Yes, I agree.
This sounds like a loose wire/bad connection, or possibly also a bad battery Isolator?
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Old 09-11-2011, 02:50 PM   #11
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Thanks everyone, will start digging
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Old 09-11-2011, 03:28 PM   #12
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check all of your ground wires, engine to frame. etc etc.
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Old 09-12-2011, 10:00 AM   #13
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Of interest to those of us with an Alternator Upgrade in mind, I suggest you do so searches on the internet for the following phrases:

Big 3 Upgrade
Ad-244 Alternator
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Old 09-12-2011, 08:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hirsch22 View Post
The plot thickens!

(or perhaps my weak mind is reminded of additional variables with each response...)

Another gremlin I had thought unrelated, but now am reconsidering:

1) With the engine and generator off (I can't remember if it happens on shore power).

2) If both ventilation fans are running, or even 1 with too many lights at the same time, everything shuts down as if tripping a circuit. Except, no breakers tripped and turning things off results in the system kicking back on seconds later.

Wondering if while under way this is leading to spikes, straining the alternator, etc. ?
You may also have a resetting circuit breaker in a 12V circuit. It can overload and trip as it is supposed to and as it cools in a few minutes it will reset itself until it overloads and does it all again.
Another thought if your alternator is bad to the point of destroying the belt, I don't think replacing the belt would allow it to function for 300 or 400 miles before it does it again. If it's bad, it's bad, a new belt will not change that. You need to find the problem weather a worn pulley, incorrect pulley alignment, electrical short, loose connection or whatever before buying more belts and alternators.

Good luck, Dan
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