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Transplant Athlete
Thursday, May 29, 2008
  1995 Cavalier

So, my Cav has been sitting in the driveway for a month and a half now. I've been too sick to work on it, but ABL is going back to work and she won't be able to ride her bike there everyday, so we need a second car. So, out of necessity, I dragged my sorry butt out of the house and went to work getting the front end in the air. I was so weak, I was resting between steps. Pull out the floor jack, rest, pull out one jack stand, rest, pull out the other jack stand, rest, jack up the left side, rest, put the jack stand in position, rest, move the jack, rest...It took forever. When I finally got the front end in the air, I spent over an hour trying to get a reading on the voltmeter. Yes, it's been a long time since Stevens Tech. Mental note: Battery puts out DC and Alternator puts out Alternating current...

I eventually diagnosed the faulty Alternator, and spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to get it out. My Haynes manual covers approximately 10 years worth of Cavaliers with at least three different engine combinations, with 3 different power levels, so as you can guess it can be pretty vague in spots. The tension pulley looked nothing like the manual described and took several hours of Googling to determine exactly which one it was. Apparently, since the 1995 model year was the first of the redesign, some things were "improved" on the future versions. Around mid-day, I gave up looking for the pulley and collapsed inside the house. I seriously thought a trip to the ER was in my immediate future.

After a night of reflection, and more googling, I was determined to get that Alternator out. It was a slow process, but I got it out and ordered a new one on-line. While I was lying in bed, I realized that the alternator (with 200,000 miles on it) probably just had worn out brushes. So, in the middle of the night I sprang out of bed and hit the web, the brushes are just $2 versus a new alternator at $100 so I figured I would take a look at the inside to see if it was repairable.

The Haynes manual says they are not user serviceable, but I fixed an electric lawnmower once by fixing the brushes. I took it to Advanced Auto Parts because they say they check alternators and all they said was "it doesn't work". The brushes are just a $2 item, but if the diode inside went bad, that's a $40 part. I may still take it apart if I get the energy, but for peace of mind, I just may use the new one.

I got the latest issue of Consumer Checkbook Magazine and they found the prices among area shops to replace an alternator ranged from $280 to $650, so I think I'm ahead of the game.

While the car was up on jacks, I replaced the spark plug wires (hopefully I did that right). I think my next project will be to replace the wheel bearings (front and back), I'll also check the drum brakes in the back, and I'll probably take the car in to have the head gasket fixed by a professional. Assuming it starts after I replace the Alternator. Did I mention I love this car?

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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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