The Project Is Winning…

Alternator: 3 Phil: 0

Have you ever worked on a project, particularly an inanimate object, that got the better of you? Yeah, me too! In fact, I am working on a project at this very moment and it is beating me at every turn. It started last Friday when our class was told to disassemble a junkyard alternator, clean it up, check the wiring to see if it was salvageable, and then put it back together.

So, I go out and select an alternator and set to work. In the back of my mind I remembered the instructor saying something about using a heat gun to remove stuck bolts, but the first three bolts came off easy enough. The four screws holding on the voltage regulator seemed harmless enough and the first one came off clean. It was so easy! It wasn’t until after the third screw that someone came over and said, “Oh, those heads keep breaking off, huh?” “WHAT?!?!” I thought that the screws WERE just a head and two threads! Bummer!!! I had to drill out the rest of the screws and then move on!

I spent the next hour trying to pry the case apart with no luck. I was able to remove the nut holding on the belt wheel but that was about it. It didn’t help that I saw some of the other students walking around with their alternators completely apart and asking how to test the diodes!!!

Today I set about to crack my alternator open like fresh pistachio!!! I remembered my instructors telling me that the old adage, “Get a bigger hammer,” is not a useful aviation mechanic phrase. So, I found the pneumatic press, after an hour and a half of failed prying, and quickly found out that pressurized air can do even more damage than a hammer!!! (The alternator above is supposed to be a complete circle!)

An alternator works by spinning an electromagnet inside wires tightly looped around it. As the magnetic lines of flux pass through the wires they induce a voltage (create electricity). The voltage alternates directions (hence the term alternator) because a magnet has two opposite poles. In order to correct this problem and make it so that all of the voltage is sent out in one direction, an alternator uses diodes (which only allows current to flow in one direction).

I was finally able to remove the stationary looped wires and the set of diodes, but the rotor (the spinning electromagnet) is still firmly attached the case with several years of rust! I used a heat gun, WD-40, a hammer, a propane torch, PB Blaster (a lubricant), and finally an acetylene welding torch! I don’t know if it will ever come out, but there is always tomorrow!!!

She loves to Slide!!!

On the lighter side, we had a wonderful weekend! The weather was great, we had a great time as a family, and my instrument flight student passed his check-ride! 32 more days (or less) until we meet Jeremiah face to face! Thank you for your prayers and all of your love!

Beautiful Mommy!

7 thoughts on “The Project Is Winning…

  1. Wow Jessica! That’s sooooo amazingly round and symmetrical! That’s a great picture. You guys must be sooooo excited!

    Phil, here are some pointers for stuck stuff.
    1. Choose an alternator that is not rusty. ;^) If it looks rusty, that is because it is.
    2. Using a suitable punch or drift, tap (read hefty tap) on the screw heads axially. This can turn the rust into a more desirable and friendlier form of dust.
    3. I don’t know what the rules are there about special tools but GM and other manufacturers have special pulley pullers. They work well so people buy them. Unfortunately, they are forged steel. If you were to fly around with all the specialty tools you might ever need, you may have no payload capacity left for actual cargo.
    4. Think of splitting housings like cracking an egg. Pick up the item to be separated with the split-line vertical. lightly drop it on a piece of board or wood so as not to damage it (damaging the board is ok). Repeat as necessary with increasing force to until the assembly has been split or frustration has been relieved.

    Having said all this, have I ever rebuilt an alternator? Why, no, I have not. But I have used the method in item 4 to split VW engine cases. Items 1, 2 and the first half of 3 are typed from experience. If these suggestions never pay off and only make you laugh, well, that helps too.

    1. Eric

      Yeah, I pretty much tried everything I could. I used a special puller and that is how I broke off a piece of the side in the press! I came in to school this morning and my instructor had a proud look on his face. He showed me the case minus the rotor and I asked him how he did it. “Cutting torch,” was his reply. He cut the bearing in four different places and the rotor “slid” right out. Whew. Now I get to clean things up, try to weld the case back together, and test all of the circuitry!

      Thanks for the input


  2. Thinking of you guys,love and miss you,Tati just asked about u guys today she’s sleeping,I’ll show her tomorrow .take care oxox

  3. Lol, oh Phil, you kill me! My husband would probably understand better about your trouble with the alternator but I thought your story was hilarious! I apologize if I’m laughing at your pain but can you blame me?
    Jessica is almost there! She looks great and absolutely giddy! Only about a month (or less) to go! We are all praying for a smooth delivery!

  4. Just wanted to say, Phil…getting used to ‘not much hair’ … actually it looks pretty good on you. LOL Praying for safe delivery of Jeremiah. Enjoyed your recount of “the alternator” …

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