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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,

I am new to this forum, not great with cars and rather desperate for some advice. I have a C-Max 1.6 Zetec 12 plate and have a long history of problems with the battery light coming on intermittently and it has completely broken down a few times resulting in me having to call out breakdown and then coming out and getting it started again. In a nutshell I have taken it to a Garage (lets call it Garage 1) but they originally said they can't do anything unless the battery light is on. It came on a few weeks ago for a couple of days so I took it to Garage 1 who tested it and said they weren't 100% sure what it was, it could be the alternator or the ECU but the alternator was more likely and less expensive so I went for that.

Drove fine for a couple of weeks and then just conked out on me one day without any battery light or anything coming on, so called out breakdown who started it again and followed me to Garage 1 who had it for a day and tested the battery etc saying it was all fine! A day later I drove it down the road and noticed the steering was starting to get really heavy but no warning lights so knew it still wasn't right. I phoned a couple of proper Ford garages who said they couldn't look at it until the end of April and it would be approx £140 an hour! So I asked locally for recommendations and someone recommended a garage with a Ford specialist in it so I spoke to him and got it booked in for last Thursday (Garage 2). He phoned me and said the alternator was completely dead, giving out nothing and therefore he couldn't test anything. Even though it's a brand new alternator he said it could be faulty as these things happen. He charged the battery for me so I could drive it to Garage 1 who would need to replace the faulty alternator - only a short distance but needless to say it didn't make it so breakdown were called again!

That is where I am at, I told Garage 1 to replace the alternator and keep it for a few days to test it and haven't heard anything since Friday. I have read a few things on there that say it has to be a specific alternator for a Ford C-Max and a specific battery? Should Garage 1 know these things if they are not Ford specialists?

Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated, I am at a loss and am worried now every time I drive my car. I would feel better knowing how to test the alternator before I drive it and also would it be worth me getting my own jump star kit in case I break down and need to limp it home or to a garage (any recommendations)? I am out of breakdown calls now - I have used them all up!

Sorry for the essay!
Thanks
Sarah
 

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You don't seem to have been served very well by your two garages - maybe garage 1 has sorted it by now . You shouldn't need to go to a Ford main dealer and pay top dollar to get this sorted - there's no special knowledge required to ascertain whether or not your alternator is working or not . Main dealers do have expensive, specialist diagnostic equipment to get into ECUs and the rest, and there are many independents that have it also. The bottom line is - if your battery is not showing an increase of about 2 to 3 volts, with the engine running, compared to the engine not running - then your alternator is not working . This can be easily tested using a multimeter- you could get a cheap one for £20 maybe.
Set the multimeter to DC volts . First test with engine off - place the red probe on the live terminal, and the black to the negative - you should get a minimum 12.6 volts . Now test with engine running - you should be getting that 2 to 3 volt increase.
If you have had charging problems in the past - then the chances are that the battery has taken a hammering , and will need replacing
Reading through your account again - I see that garage 2 told you that the alternator was not working, and just charged your battery and sent you on your way. Unless your destination was a couple of miles away - you were always going to conk out, and I'm suprised that they let you go with out arranging for breakdown transportation.
Anyhow, I repeat , this shouldn't prove too big a problem to sort out.
 

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I had the heavy steering on my '05 1.6Focus TDCI (100,000 odd miles then ) and luckily stopped( immobile) at an all night Starbucks on the M25 near St Albans where a kind AA man who had stopped for someone else told me my alternator had stopped charging. Sat there all the rest of the night and got someone to fit a new one the next day ( about £350 I think including coming out to follow me down the road to his local garage ) . The point is it wasn't a Ford's own brand alternator and is still working a couple of years later.
I bought and OBD11 Vehicle Code Reader fro( immobile )from Lidl. Will it hurt to plug it in to see if it shows all working well before I have to use it in anger ( I mean emergency ).
 

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Discussion Starter #4
You don't seem to have been served very well by your two garages - maybe garage 1 has sorted it by now . You shouldn't need to go to a Ford main dealer and pay top dollar to get this sorted - there's no special knowledge required to ascertain whether or not your alternator is working or not . Main dealers do have expensive, specialist diagnostic equipment to get into ECUs and the rest, and there are many independents that have it also. The bottom line is - if your battery is not showing an increase of about 2 to 3 volts, with the engine running, compared to the engine not running - then your alternator is not working . This can be easily tested using a multimeter- you could get a cheap one for £20 maybe.
Set the multimeter to DC volts . First test with engine off - place the red probe on the live terminal, and the black to the negative - you should get a minimum 12.6 volts . Now test with engine running - you should be getting that 2 to 3 volt increase.
If you have had charging problems in the past - then the chances are that the battery has taken a hammering , and will need replacing
Reading through your account again - I see that garage 2 told you that the alternator was not working, and just charged your battery and sent you on your way. Unless your destination was a couple of miles away - you were always going to conk out, and I'm suprised that they let you go with out arranging for breakdown transportation.
Anyhow, I repeat , this shouldn't prove too big a problem to sort out.
Thanks for replying and reassuring me and for the advice about how to test the battery. Picking the car up today so fingers crossed all is ok.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Update - Well after picking up the car yesterday with the new alternator, after driving it less than 5miles the battery light has come back on again so it appears not to be an alternator problem as that is two brand new ones in less than a month. :(
 

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I am assuming that they (or you) have carried out that simple test with the voltmeter that I mentioned. If the test proves negative -and there is no battery voltage increase with the engine running - then I would say the problem has to be the alternator. If the test proves positive, then your next step is to have a proper scan . If you're dealing with garage 1, and they can't scan it - then I would change your garage. By the way, I don't think a cheap little lidl code reader is going to help you much, in this situation. A proper scan - doesn't have to be Ford main dealer - costs about £70 round my way.
Please keep us posted.
 
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