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!!!
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!