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2006 Kia Sportage V6 4WD
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
OK, so I'll provide a little context, but try not to make this too long. Just trying to provide all the (possibly) relevant details I can.

Background (You can probably skip this if you don't like to read.)

About two weeks ago I change one of my oxygen sensors, all of my spark plugs, and the plug wires. I had an O2 sensor code, and -- related or not -- was starting to have very random misfires, with no recognizable pattern. The misfires were getting worse, so I did it all at once.

For the first few days everything seemed good. Then the light came on and there were three codes -- P0300, P0303, P0306, indicating misfires on cylinders 3 and 6. The first night the misfires were not noticeable at all. I started to think maybe I'd have to replace the ignition coil.

The next day it misfired really noticeably, so I got it back home. The battery light was starting to blink when the car was misfiring, which I thought was unusual but didn't panic about at first. But I had never seen the battery light flicker when it had misfired before.

While looking online and looking at parts, I noticed that cylinders 3 and 6 were controlled by the same "pack," which reinforced the idea that the ignition coil was bad.

It was dark and getting late so I didn't mess with anything that night.

The next morning I was ready to go pick up a used coil at a place down the road. Took the plug wires off and immediately noticed that the wire for cylinder 6 was seated improperly. The boot had slid down the wire a bit, and the wire wasn't down into the coil all the way. There was also some rubber or plastic debris down in the hole. I cleaned it up and reseated.

The Current Problem

After cleaning the coil and reseating the plug wires I took it for a 20-30 minute test drive, and everything was running perfectly. Obviously I was going to keep paying attention to how things were running, the check engine light, and any codes that would pop up, but I thought that issue was solved.

I'm an Uber driver. Later that night (Friday) I went out driving for just a couple hours. No misfires or CEL -- but I was again very randomly seeing the battery light flickering for just a fraction of a second. It worried me, but not too much. Then I picked up some riders, and the battery light started flickering a lot, with the car running every so slightly rougher when the light would blink. But no misfires.

Worried, I quit driving for the night and headed straight home. Driving up hill the battery light blinked a lot, but made it home OK. Headlights maybe a little dim, but hard to say.

Which brings me to where things are now. I'm trying to narrow down the issue and make a plan for getting it fixed ASAP.

Timeline

  • Wednesday, September 4 - Oxygen sensor, spark plugs, and plug wires changed. Car drove the rest of the week.
  • Saturday, September 7 - Misfire codes re-appeared, though no noticeable misfires. Didn't drive for a few days, drove little into the next week.
  • Thursday, September 12 - Noticeable misfires. Called it an early night. First time ever seeing the battery light flickering.
  • Friday, September 13 - Re-seated plug wires and cleaned coil, pretty sure the misfires are gone (for now). Went out driving later in the day and the battery light was blinking a lot, running slightly rough at times.
  • Have started the car, but haven't driven it since.
Additional Details

  • New battery bought in March 2019, stickered 3/19.
  • Battery holding a charge. Tested voltage immediately after getting home on Friday night. 12.78V when the car was off, 13.2-13.3V while running. Higher than the battery voltage, but seems lower than it should be.
  • Battery at 12.66V right now, after sitting since Friday night (black/ground terminal disconnected).
  • Have read of some other voltage tests on the alternator itself, but not totally sure what to do on my car.
  • Battery terminals clean, good contact, secure connection.
  • When I changed the Oxygen sensor I did have to detach what I think was a ground wire. Just re-attached it where it was, how it was. Because everything was fine for over a week and ~500 miles, I'm 99% sure it's unrelated, but who knows.
  • I can speculate as to cause, but maybe when that plug wire was poorly seated it caused extra stress on the electrical system?
  • EDIT: Every once in a while, especially in cold/damp conditions, I hear a little bit of squealing when the car is started. It goes away once the car is warmed up and has been driven for a little while. But there is the possibility of some belt slippage.
  • I've owned the car for over two years. Purchased with 135k miles, currently at 170k. No significant issues until now.
Any help in diagnosing would be super appreciated. Confirming/denying that it's the alternator that's the issue, or correctly finding what is causing the issue.

I've had alternators die on my twice, and having everything slowly shut down and end up stranded on the side of the road somewhere is something I'd like to avoid. But I don't want to replace it when it could be something else.
 

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2011 Forte SX 2.4L (thankfully MPI) A/T 144K miles
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.... Have read of some other voltage tests on the alternator itself, but not totally sure what to do on my car.....
A load test might provide some additional information about how well your charging system is functioning. Post back for the details, if you're interested in running that test.
 

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2006 Kia Sportage V6 4WD
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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
A load test might provide some additional information about how well your charging system is functioning. Post back for the details, if you're interested in running that test.
Someone on another forum suggested a couple things.

The alternator output to the battery is a bit low. Start by testing voltage at the alternator B+ output (stud), with no electrical load at idle, and compare it to the voltage at the battery. Then apply all the electrical load you can - Lights, heater fan - And repeat. Raise the idle up to 2500-3K, rev it up and down a few times, and monitor the voltage between both points.

Now, turn on the AC and rev it some more while watching the belt, and listening for any squeaks/squeals. What you are trying to find out is if you have an issue with the belt slipping / a bearing issue in one of the accessory components, or an issue with the alt itself.

Ideally you would want to get it to a battery/electrical specialty shop with a proper charging system analyzer which can create an artificial load up to the max output of the alt.
I did that and these were my results.

OK so I took the fuse/relay cover off, and did see that the B+ and ALT posts (especially the B+) were kind of dirty and corroded. So I detached those and cleaned them up with a wire brush and then cotton swabs and alcohol.

Also made sure no fuses or relays were loose while I was in there, and everything was fine.

The results leave me more optimistic.

  • Battery while off: 12.6V
  • Battery while on: Initially about 14.2V
  • At the B+ post: Same as the battery while running, 14.2V when I checked it
  • At load: With lights, AC on, fan at max it was between 13.7-13.8V. With CD player on at max volume it might have dipped down to 13.4-13.5V or so.
  • Revved: Didn't seem to change much. Might have dipped initially and then would come back up, and then would raise a few decimal points above where it was at idle.
Maybe cleaning up the B+ post/connection helped?


Is a "load test" different than that?

Is the charging system test that the other poster suggested something like Advance Auto, AutoZone, or O'Reilly will do? Or do the part stores basically do what I just did?

If there are other tests I could run at home I'll try them out.
 

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..... Is a "load test" different than that? ....
The test that you described above not the way I do a load test; however I'm not saying it's 'wrong', and the results that you posted seem to indicate that the alternator might be having a problem.

If you want to run the load test that I do, here's how it goes. The battery needs to be fully charged, in order for this test to be valid, so check for 12.5V minimum, before doing a cold start. First you need to fully warm up the vehicle for 20+ minutes. Next, shut it off, connect your meter to the battery, and confirm that the static voltage is still at least 12.5V. Then turn off all utilities (blower, lights, ....) and start it back up. Let it idle for a few minutes, until the running voltage stabilizes to a fairly constant reading (which should be somewhere in the 13.5-14.5 range). That voltage reading is the 'baseline'.

Once the running voltage is constant, begin turning on the utilities one-at-a-time (don't rev the engine at all). You need to be watching the meter as each one is switched on, to see what that voltage does. If the alternator/regulator is working properly, for the higher draw utilities, the voltage will drop for a couple of seconds, and then should immediately bounce back up to the baseline. Leave that utility running, and move on to the next one, again watching the meter as it's switched on. Continue until everything is on, saving the wipers for last, and spray the windshield in order to avoid causing the wiper motor to overload.

A charging system in good condition should be able to support all electrical utilities, without causing a permanent voltage drop. Based on the results you already posted, I doubt that your vehicle's charging system will pass the test I described either. Although charging system issues can be caused by other things (poor grounds, corrosion, ....), the flickering charging light makes me suspect the alternator is beginning to fail. However, you should also have it tested by a parts store, or a shop in order to confirm before hanging on a new one.
 

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2008 SpectraSX, 2014 Optima LX,2006 Jeep Liberty, Linux Mint Mate
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With 170k miles on the engine/car think about the number of times the alternator pulley has rotated....
There are mechanical wear items within the alternator.. Carbon brushes making contact with the commutator wear out... That would cause your battery light to flicker...especially when you draw a lot of current (headlights on)... The car was running off of the battery...not the alternator towards the end of the night...

I would suggest that if the alternator is an old one (dirty/greasy) it probably is the original one and IS worn out...
DO NOT go to the local discount auto parts stores (Oreilly/AutoZone/Advance/etc...) for a "rebuilt/re-manufactured" alternator as they buy them from Mexico and they truly are not properly re-manufactured... They are checked for a very short time when the used ones come in and "if" no fault is found they are cleaned and painted and sent back out...only to fail in your car a short time later (you got someone else's intermittent problem)... That's why they have a "Lifetime Replacement" guarantee... They KNOW that a high percentage of them WILL fail and they can give you another questionable one...

A truly re-manufactured alternator will have new bearings, new brushes, new regulator assembly, new terminals and they will have been run on a test jig for hours and will come with a paper report.... I have been very satisfied with the new "Chinese" alternators that are sold on Ebay...Yes they are Chinese but they ARE all new and from what I can see they have been reliable... A second option would be an alternator removed from a low mileage "donor" car in a salvage yard to get you by until you can find a new one... Be sure to check ALL of the ground wires from the battery (-) to the body and from the body to the engine block... remove, clean connecting areas, and apply silicon grease, then re-assemble the connections... While replacing the alternator...replace the connecting belt...Run the car for a day or two and THEN re-tension the new belt...The new belts DO stretch shortly after installing and need this done...

I bet this will solve your problems...Your battery should be just fine as it did get you home before being discharged...

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the input guys.

Thankfully, I haven't seen the battery light in about a week and a few hundred miles. It seems cleaning up the connections helped. Believe me, I've been driving paranoid, waiting for it to come back on, but so far at it seems to be good as far as that goes.

As one of the many videos I watched said, "Never underestimate the importance of good, clean electrical connections when addressing charging system issues."

The issue now is chasing down the cause of my random misfires, which I'm about to make another thread on.
 

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I'm guessing that you didn't run the load test that I posted. IMO your vehicle has an alternator on the way out, and I believe the results of the load test would show that, clean terminals not withstanding. And I also believe there's a decent possibility it's the indirect cause of your performance problems, so it makes no sense to me to spend time on the misfires until the alternator is diagnosed for certain. That's what I would do, but this is your vehicle and your choice.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
That's a good point.

I'll try to run the load test in a little while, and post my findings.

That said, the vast majority of sites and videos I've been able to find about testing alternator/charging system this way seem to indicate that the voltage will dip some as more and more things turned on. Are all of these wrong? I think this is the only time I've read that the voltage should stay the same at all times.
 

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... I think this is the only time I've read that the voltage should stay the same at all times.
I did not say 'it should stay the same at all times', but rather that it sometimes drops down MOMENTARILY when something is switched on, and then will bounce back up to the baseline voltage within a few seconds.

This the method I've used for a number of years, and every vehicle we've owned has given the same result from the load test that I described. But of course I didn't invent the wheel here - I just found it in some tech source and began using it from that point on.

If you post a couple of the links you've found, I'll take a look at them because I'm always open to the possibility of learning something new.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I did eventually run the test as you suggested, and you were right that it didn't maintain voltage.

But, with that said, I haven't seen the battery light flickering even once ever since cleaning up the connections, and the battery always seems to achieve a full charge after driving.

Went for a 20 minute drive and got everything up to full operating temperature, brought it home, shut it off for another 20 minutes or so. Voltage read 12.8v with the car off. Upon starting it went right up to 13.8-13.9v. Dropped little by little the more things turned on. Once I got up to about 3/4 of everything turned on it dipped below the 12.6v "full charge." Lowest it got with literally everything on, engine only idling, was about 12.4v.

As soon as I started turning things off, the voltage bounced back up to 13.4v. The battery light never flickered or blinked during the test. No other indication that anything was starved for electricity.

Obviously, yeah, that looks a lot worse when looking at those numbers.

However, to my (admittedly) novice understanding, what that tells me is that in a worse case scenario, it took 3/4 of the accessories at idle to really start dipping into the battery power. I never drive around with 3/4 of the accessories on/maxed. And when the engine isn't idling -- but cruising at 1500-2200+ RPM, I'm getting a lot more voltage.

And at this moment it's been 22 days and almost 1400 miles since I've seen the battery light flickering.

So I guess you could be right and that the alternator isn't performing as well as it should be, but for now at least, it seems to be performing its job. I guess I could/should get a charging system test done.

At the moment, at least, this doesn't seem to be on the top of my list of concerns. But thank you for your help and input!
 
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