How to Replace Alternator on a Tercel Wagon

Click here to skip to the tutorial part

I lent my car to my parents this summer, so it wouldn’t sit and rot while I rode my motorcycle instead. It is an old car – it has a few eccentricities. For instance, the first week after I bought the car last year, I lost my key. Since it’s an old Toyota, it isn’t difficult to break the ignition in such a way that you can turn the car on with a screwdriver. Old Toyotas are basically DOS boxes – security is an afterthought.

toyota_tercel

Soon after that I replaced the key, but the ignition lock slides in and out easily enough. This can be confusing for people who aren’t used to the car. When my mom started complaining that the car occasionally wouldn’t start, I assumed this was the problem. I told her to make sure she turned the lock all the way off, and didn’t leave it in ACC mode, killing the battery overnight. She insisted that she hadn’t done that, and that something was wrong with the car. After a couple weeks of balking, I went over to check it myself.

The car started fine, though I had to jump it off my dad’s car. I drove around the neighborhood, listening for noises and charging the battery. Once in a while, lights would flicker on the dashboard. Suspicious. I went home and parked it, then tried to restart it. Nothing, dead. Sat there stewing for a few seconds, then tried again. It started fine.

At this point I suspected electrical trouble. This article has a few methods for detecting alternator problems – I borrowed my brother’s multimeter and tried a couple of them, but I wasn’t able to prove anything to my satisfaction. So the next day I went to a dealership I used to work at and got a mechanic to run a diagnostic check. For 80 bucks to get a diagnosis of “yep, it’s busted” , I have to recommend that you learn to do electrical diagnosis yourself. But for me it was worth it to be sure that both the alternator and the battery were bad.

The service advisor quoted me $561 for a new alt, battery and installation. When he got to “$245 for the battery, a good one, installed”, my eyes crossed and I squeaked, “Erm, thanks very much but I believe I’ll do the work myself.”

Instead I got both the alternator AND the battery, from Lordco, for $240 total, and was able to do the job in about 2 hours. It wasn’t too tough at all. Here is an illustrated guide, relevant to the 1987 Toyota Tercel FWD Wagon (3AC), and probably every other Toyota of that decade as well.

How to Replace an Alternator on an Old Toyota

First, confirm that the alternator is the problem. You can do tests like the ones described here: Check An Alternator, or take the easy way out and get a tech to look at it.

hyundai-bill


It’s definitely the alternator, and the battery as well.  Next, acquire parts.

lordco-

Ouch. Well, could be worse. Ok, battlestations.

battle-stations

If you have a pdf or hard copy of the 1985 4wd Tercel Manual, now is a good time to pull it out. Here is a rather sketchy link to download it. If that doesn’t work and you honestly can’t find it yourself, email me.

Have a look at what the motor looks like before hand, so you know what it should look like when you’re done.

IMG_20140719_154133

The black motor in the center bottom of the pic is for an aftermarket cruise control. It doesn’t work and isn’t actually connected to the engine, so I ripped it out.

Two bolts hold the alternator in place. This one, the adjusting bolt, needs a 12mm wrench:Adjuster bolt

 

And this is the pivot bolt, underneath the alt, 14mm.long-bolt-installed1

 

Take note of the position of that top bolt, as it will help you adjust the new alternator to the correct spot. Don’t clean off the grime. It helps.

Remove the old battery.

battery-out

Remove the positive terminal wire from the alternator, with a 10mm wrench. Unplug the plug at the back.

Loosen the adjusting bolt and the pivot, put them somewhere safe, and tug the thing out.

Old alternator pics, in case anyone needs them:

And here’s the new one, ready to go in:

new-info-plate

When you install it, put the pivot bolt in first. Snug it but don’t tighten. Then put the adjusting bolt in. In my case, the entire engine had sagged, so that the bracket that the adjusting bolt goes through wouldn’t line up with the bolt hole. I put the old battery back in to for a fulcrum, and used a crowbar to lever the whole thing up a few millimeters.

See how it doesn't line up?
See how it doesn’t line up?

Put the belt into its tracks, making sure it’s seated correctly on all three pulleys. Have a buddy use a crowbar to put tension on the alternator so you can tighten the bolt into the correct spot.

Belt in pulleys, no tension
Belt in pulleys, no tension

Crowbar it into place.

I thought the adjusting bolt would have a lock nut on the back, but mine must have gone missing along the way somewhere. Then I stripped the threads in the bolt hole, so I couldn’t tighten it at all. At this point I took a quick break for a trip to Canadian Tire and got a couple of new nuts, bolts and washers.

Before I stripped the old bolt and replaced it.

Plug the plug back in, bolt on the positive terminal, and give it a try.

Installed alternator

My cousin Darren, who is a first year automotive apprentice, says that a good way to check the tension is to try to turn the belt over with your fingers. If it turns all the way over, it’s loose. If it doesn’t turn at all, it’s tight. It should turn about halfway over. However, I am going to take it into a shop to double check my work on Monday, because the engine idle was pretty uneven after I started it back up.

Update: It just needed some spark plugs as well. Running fine now.

Mom and Dad standing ready with the fire extinguisher, before first test start.
Mom and Dad standing ready with the fire extinguisher, before first test start.

Parts needed:

  • 1 battery
  • 1 alternator
  • 1 M8 bolt, nut, and 2 washers

Tools needed;

  • 14mm socket wrench
  • 14mm crescent wrench
  • 12mm socket
  • 12mm crescent
  • 10mm crescent
  • Hammer
  • Crowbar
  • Phone camera, for social media credits
  • Shop manual

Don’t forget to turn your old alternator and battery in for recycling.

Running a Query on Multiple Databases

Our company uses a CMS that we developed in-house, and there are around 60 sites running the most current version of it. That means about 60 sites with mostly identical database structures.

When I make upgrades or bug fixes to the CMS, I commit them to a core repository which is inherited by all the sites. Very efficient, write once, use over and over and over again. Then if you need custom code for a single site, you can override it locally. So that’s great for the code, but the databases, though all pretty similar, are nonetheless each their own unique entity, running on our MySql server.

When I need to change the databases, I have to change all of them individually. What a chore. Shouldn’t there be a programmatic way to do that? PHP5, Cake framework, MySql, hit me up, let me know what I don’t know. But in the meanwhile, I needed to add a single record to the Permissions table of each and every database.

The query looks like this;

Ok, cool. It checks whether the permission exists in the permissions table, gets the id if it does, and adds a record to grant that permission to the admin (#2) group.

But I got to do this 60 times in a row. No way Jose. I asked my pal Matt to help out, he being more advanced in his career than I am. Matt kindly wrote me a nice syntactically-correct statement using the sp_msforeachdb command – then I pointed out that I’m using MySql and sp_msforeachdb doesn’t exists, nor does it have an equivalent that I know of.

These problems are so basic, I’m almost ashamed to even write about them. Does everyone make such elementary mistakes? I’m positive they do, but I must be the only one who blogs about it. Anyway, Matt’s advice was to burn our 13 years of legacy code and start again on Microsoft Server. Okay pal.

Here’s what I ended up doing:

script.php:


Then I ran the contents of output.txt against my database in PHP MyAdmin, and no I couldn’t use mysql_connect or any of the other excellent PHP MySql functions that exists, because some of the databases were on my list incorrectly, didn’t have the right tables and therefore caused the script to fail gracelessly.

Is there a better way? Will you tell me?