Feature February 1, 2011 by
Jim Anderton, Technical Editor
Looking deeper into the box
Let's face it: rotating electrical is where it's at. Alternators and starters are big volume, relatively easy to replace parts that return good customer satisfaction at a reasonable price. Done right, it's also profitable and really helps your...
Let’s face it: rotating electrical is where it’s at. Alternators and starters are big volume, relatively easy to replace parts that return good customer satisfaction at a reasonable price. Done right, it’s also profitable and really helps your sales per square foot numbers … but there’s something missing in the segment and it has nothing to do with volts or amps: technical information. I’m consistently amazed at the number of independent shops that either install no-name white box rotating electrical or use name-brand components, then just throw the packaging away. Ever really look at what comes inside the box other than the alternator or starter? There’s a warranty card for sure, but a surprising number of shops throw it away, often because they know the likelihood of failure of a name-brand part is extremely low. For reman products there’s often a performance test card showing how the product was checked at the remanufacturer’s quality assurance station before packaging. This is also often thrown away. And the most likely piece of paper to be ignored in the rotating electrical package: the installation instructions. I’ve changed more alternators and starters than I care to remember, and you have too. We don’t need no stinkin’ instructions, right? Well, I got a wake up call recently when shooting a video of an alternator installation using a new Bosch unit (see it on www.ssgm.com) when an unassuming sheet of paper fell out of the box. On it was a Bosch TSB explaining an issue I didn’t know: on 1993 and 1994 3.0L Ford Rangers, there’s a design flaw in the heater switch circuit that can drain the battery even with the engine off and the key out if the heater switch is left in the “on” position. The vehicle may restart, but the strain on the alternator to constantly recharge the battery can be a killer and may be why the unit failed in the first place. Ford makes a kit to address this issue. It’s Ford part number F47-14A411-A, if you need one. I wouldn’t have known about this without the warning in the box, which is another reason to use quality parts. Knowledge is power, but I wouldn’t check a database for TSB’s for a simple alternator job and I know most of you wouldn’t either, which makes the resources provided inside the box even more important. That little piece of paper could prevent an expensive and unnecessary comeback when the customer’s car won’t start after your shiny new alternator. Read the instructions, even if you’ve done it a thousand times before … and install products that give you that “heads up” when you need it!