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December 2008
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Remove 2 bolts. 1 bracket, and slide out between the firewall and the crossmember.

That is what it said in the repair manual. My  grand caravan developed electrical problems the other day. Tuesday, I called one of my friends in the auto recycling biz who specializes in Chrysler products. After discussing the problems, we decided that we would try replacing the engine computer. The reason being that the regulator for the alternator is in the computer, not in the alternator or on the firewall, which it has been over time.

So I picked up an used/recycled computer and replaced it. This was a simple operation. I started the van, watched the amp gauge drop and the engine died.  This test told me that the computer was not at fault. So my next move was to replace the alternator.

Now before we get into this, a small bit of history. I haven't always been a remodeler. In the late 80's and early 90's, I worked in auto wrecking yards. From dismantling, to sales, to management, I did just about everything that happens in a wrecking yard. Part of this experience was what made me stop working on my own cars. And for about 15 years I have been able to avoid it.

Times are tough, money is what other folks have, so into the breach I descended.
It started out simple enough, disconnecting the battery, finding the top and bottom alternator bolts and removing them, almost. The bottom bolt would not come all the way out because of a bracket being the way. I had a quick conference with Joe, the local mechanic, and he looked at it and figured out that the bracket needed to come out. He borrowed me a long wrench, the right size but had to split as his wife was in labor and was on the way to the hospital.

I finally got the bracket out of the way using the eyeballs on the tips of my fingers, which were rusty from not being used in years, and still no joy. The alternator was not coming out from the top as the top alternator bolt went through a bracket that also bolted to the engine, contained the power steering fluid reservoir, and extended down the front of the engine block. After looking at this for a while, I sat back and thought deep thoughts about auto engineers, and figured I would check online. Two hours of my life that I will never get back.

Long story short, I went and got a Manual. There I discovered, the alternator comes out the bottom.  "Remove 2 bolts. 1 bracket, and slide out between the firewall and the cross member." This was good news as the alternative of stripping all of the brackets from the front of the engine, is what sent me to the store in the first place. 

To do this you have to raise the vehicle. You have to be able to swing a cat, Figure 18-20'' up. 'They' suggest Jack stands. Like every body has a set of stands, a 5 ton floor jack and a grease pit in their garage.

Now having gotten the vehicle up high enough, and parked on one of the few spots of the old driveway that water pools, I began the process. Now I have already removed the 2 bolts, removed the bracket, and gotten a grip on the alternator. No matter how I turned it, slid it, muttered, held my breath, it was not coming out. After looking at this for a while, I sat back and thought deep thoughts about auto engineers, and discovered the SECRET!

You have to remove the firewall heat shield, unbolt, disconnect and move the exhaust system,(which is a hell of a lot more work than the description would indicate) swing the alternator around, being careful not to get it caught on the spark plug wire, O2 sensor, ground strap, power steering hoses, brake lines, and the cross member. A few items they neglected to mention in the fricking manual. 

Having finally gotten it out, I took it up to the parts store and had it tested. The damn thing is fine! 204K and it still works. The parts guy mentioned that I didn' t seem happy that it passed. 

This means that there is some electrical gremlin in the system that involves a whole lot more work than I am equipt for, temperamentally suited for, or competent to tackle.

Plus I have the wonderful task of reversing all of today's work before I get it towed up to my mechanic. Some days just suck.