How to get your alternator running smoothly and silently

Alternators can be scary things. They play a crucial role in keeping your car going, and if they fail, can leave you stranded. More, as complex and intricate electrical units, they are not the sort of thing many would rush to disassemble should something need to be repaired. So why did I have mine open on the kitchen table the other night?

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Give your pulleys a new lease on life

The belt that drives the accessories on the front of your engine is routed around a number of pulleys. Some of these are attached to things like the alternator and power steering pump, and there is also a pulley on the belt tensioner. You may find that your car has a separate pulley, called the idler pulley, that solely functions to route the belt a particular way.

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Mileage milestones

When you’re a car person, hitting a big mileage milestone is always an event worth marking. This is usually acheived by pulling over at the appropriate moment and taking a photo of the mileometer, which is what I did earlier today.

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With this milestone, I’ve now clocked up close to 12,000 trouble-free miles on my Outback in the last fifteen months. Aside from regular maintenance and replacing a few consumables – well, and someone driving into it – the only unexpected problem has been a blown exhaust gasket. Other than that, the car just gets on doing everything we ask of it, comfortably and effortlessly, and feels like it will happily do so for another 150,000 miles. And I couldn’t ask for more than that.

Realigning the bumper cover on a BL/BP Subaru Outback

A few months ago, someone with a distinct lack of ability in navigating car parks gave the Outback a blow to the face. My wife was out at the shops and returned to the car to find this big mark on the front bumper cover. When she got home, I took a good look at it and, in addition to seeing a big crack, discovered the cover was hanging a bit loose, owing to what I surmised was probably a couple of broken clips.

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A display of failure

In the twenty years I have now been working on cars, I have achieved a good deal of success. Brake jobs, every bit of suspension, thermostats and water pumps, more intricate things like valve timing solenoids, and even cambelts – I have done them all and been able to make cars run and drive better. But automotive electrics remains one area I do not have a good working knowledge of, or much experience with, having only ventured into doing simple things, like repairing frayed wiring on a boot lid release.

Still, how are you going to learn if you don’t try? The radio display on my Subaru Outback has not worked since the day I bought the car. This has not bothered me, as I don’t use the radio, but instead use my phone to stream music through the Bluetooth setup the previous owner installed. But every now and then I get an itch to take stuff apart and tinker, and so I figured it was time to have a go at fixing the radio display.

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A long overdue fleet update

Some time ago, I set myself the goal of posting at least monthly here, and have failed miserably this year in doing so. As there is no one I am accountable to for this, I offer no excuses – I have other priorities in my life, and have willingly set this aside. Still, this site has been getting a surprising amount of traffic in the past few months, so I wanted to offer a quick update on a few things, with the hope that over the remainder of the summer, I will be able to write a bit more regularly again. Continue reading “A long overdue fleet update”

Fleet update, January 2019

2002 SEAT Leon 20VT

For the first time ever in my two and a half years of owning the Leon, I calculated the fuel mileage. After a fairly even split of 200 miles of commuting and 200 miles of slightly exuberant recreational motoring, it came in at 33.5mpg. That was better than I expected, and means it would probably not take much effort to be knocking on 40mpg on a run. The only other thing of note this month was capturing a pleasing odometer reading.

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Changing the sidelights on a BL/BP Subaru Outback

A blown sidelight is something that might escape notice, particularly if these lights are not very prominent to begin with. That is why I didn’t realise the offside sidelight was out on my Outback until I spotted it as my wife pulled into the driveway last week.

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Having followed the saga of fellow Subaru owner, Lewis Kingston, changing the sidelights on his Forester last month, I was not looking forward to discovering what would be required to swap them on the Outback. Surprisingly, it took very little effort and all of ten minutes. Continue reading “Changing the sidelights on a BL/BP Subaru Outback”

Fleet update, November 2018

2002 SEAT Leon 20VT

Having said I should drive the Leon more in my last update, I have been doing exactly that this month. It is strange to find myself going outside and actually pausing to think about which car I want to drive. Before this, the Leon would only win out if my sole intention was blasting round local B-roads. Now I willingly choose to take it, even for commuting purposes. It really has improved that much following the work I did to it a few months ago.

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