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Lost Power


prix
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Car died while driving along at about 30mph, fortunately in a place where I could coast over to the side. The steering wheel was suddenly stiff (loss of power steering, I guess), but I got it out of the way of traffic. A few minutes later, it started right up and was fine on the drive home (I stayed off heavily traveled roads all the way in case it happened again and kept A/C and stereo turned off). Question: At the time this happened, I has just hit the 'high' button on the A/C and the stereo was cranked up. I may have had my lights on too -- not sure. Could this be caused by corroded battery terminals? What other problems could cause a car to lose power? Thanks in advance.

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might be the battery terminals, i had this once, first stereo was going on and off and then car just died. it turned out to be a loose terminal on the battery.

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did the motor stop or the lights all die?

some more info needed

The steering became stiff, the lights on the dash flashed off and the motor died. As I said, it was hot out, I think I had the headlights on, the stereo was on high and the a/c had just been cranked up to high when it occurred. Did I overload the alternator?

Spoke to a mechanic this AM who said it could be a) the battery; B) a short; c) a fuel intake control valve; or d) the alternator. I can pay them $100 to diagnose the problem, which will apply toward the repair, or I can wait to see it it happens again. I've driven it another few days and so far the problem hasn't reoccurred.

I don't think it's the fuel intake control valve, because the car passed a smog test in April with flying colors.

The battery is only about 6 months old, although I do see some corrosion. I can have the terminals cleaned and checked.

I am not a mechanic, so don't know how to test the alternator (or even where it is). If it is the alternator, he said the part is about 375 and quoted labor at four hours at 100 per hour.

Thoughts? Wait to see if it happens again? I'm now nervous driving it. What happens if you're on the freeway at 65 mph and you lose power suddenly? I don't think I'm going on the freeway anytime soon, and will make sure wherever I am on neighborhood roads that I have an 'exit', at least until I'm more sure what is going on. But I am just curious what would have happened if I'd been on the freeway when the motor died suddenly. Because it was hard to steer it after. Thoughts? I have AAA roadside assistance, btw.

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I am not a mechanic, so don't know how to test the alternator (or even where it is). If it is the alternator, he said the part is about 375 and quoted labor at four hours at 100 per hour.

I heard this from my mechanic:

if u are at remote location, and has no equipment to test atlernator, start the car, then disconnect battery terminals, if engine stays running, then alternator is OK. however, u still have to test the the voltage output from alternator once u have a chance to do so. it should be 14v or higher.

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if u are at remote location, and has no equipment to test atlernator, start the car, then disconnect battery terminals, if engine stays running, then alternator is OK.

No mechanic would advise this procedure. Disconnecting the battery with the engine running will destroy the diodes in the alternator in a second. Don't do this - EVER.

As to the stall. Sometimes the main power relay, or the fuel pump relay, will trip out and cause a stall which immediately corrects itself when the key is cycled again. If the engine restarts that quickly, it is an electronc "glitch" which may or may not occur again. It is not caused by the alternator, but may be by high resistance in a battery cable clamp or ground.

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Thank you to all of you. This board is extremely helpful. Ok, here's where I'm at on this issue. First off, I've driven around (short trips only) in the neighborhood and the car hasn't stalled again (it's been two days). However, I did not turn on parking lights, stereo or A/C, when I was on the road, for fear that it would.

As someone suggested, I took the car to AutoZone (just got back) and had them run a test on the battery and the alternator. The battery is fine. The alternator gave out 61 amps and a 'bad' reading. He said it s/b at 100 amps.

If the alternator is 'bad', wouldn't it make sense that the car died at the time I a) had the radio on on high and B) also had just hit the 'high' setting on the A/C? I may also have had my lights running --don't recall. Could I have overloaded an already weak alternator (which is 10 years old, btw)?

If it is a 'bad' alternator, why did the car start right up within a minute or so of stalling? Did it do so because I had turned off the radio, a/c and parking lights before restarting?

Autozone guy said that if it is the alternator, and if I keep driving it, I will wear out the new battery, because the alternator will not be recharging the battery as I drive. Makes sense?

Finally, let's say it is the alternator. Autozone's part is almost half what Lexus quoted me and it comes with a lifetime guarantee. Would anyone recommend buying hte part from Autozone and then having an indie mechanic install it to save money? Looks like I could cut the repair bill by 35-40% by going this route, instead of taking it to a dealer.

I really do not want to spend close to $900 to fix this, which is what the dealwer quoted me: $375 for part, $400 labor approx, plus tax.

Thoughts? Does it make sense it's the alternator? Should I have other testing before doing any repairs?

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I have found a shop in my area that only works on Lexus/Toyota's. The owner was a mechanic at a local Lexus dealership for 15 years before he branched off and started his own thing. He uses Lexus parts and does excellent work for much less. Did the 60k service for $450! Dealership wanted $900. Check your yellow pages and see if you can find a Lexus/Toyota shop. Then go there and get a feel for the servicepeople, owner, etc.

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Now I'm really dizzy. Using my AAA approved auto repair shop booklet, I called up an indie shop and told them of the incident (loss of power) and the recent 'bad' reading on the alternator at AutoZone. This mechnaic said he would be very reluctant to conclude it was the alternator based on a 61amp reading, because it )the alternator) only generates what it needs...that even though it has a 90-100 amp capacity, that you would never get that reading! Guess the AutoZone guy isn't v. informed, because he said it should be generating 100amps, not 61amps. So, this mechanic said that the stall would have generated a computer code (internally) which they can read to tell them exactly what caused the stall, taht they would charge me $70 to read the code and that that charge would apply toward any repair. As of this moment, I'm now thinking I should do absolutely nothing, and just wait and see it if happens again. Maybe SRK had it right when he said it might just be a 'glitch'. Anyhow, this indie mechanic said he didn't think it was the alternator, in spite of the 'bad' reading at AutoZone. (????). Any other thoughts are appreciated. I don't want to ruin my battery if the alternator is bad, but this guy is telling me it probalby isn't.

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Prix, it is not the alternator. Any alternator that can crank out 60 amps is in fine shape. The max rating will be higher, but no automotive alternator will make the max rating for more than a few seconds.

Just drive the car. If in a week or so the battery is still in good charge, and the engine doesn't stall again, you can be assured that the stall you did have was a "transient" one. If the battery is undercharged for a while, it won't hurt it. We don't have Autozone here in Canada, at least I hope not, because they sound less than skilled.

Save your money.

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Thanks SRK! I'm with you. After all these phone calls and running around, I've decided to do absolutely nothing. Just got back from a 5 miles jaunt to run errands, and, again, all is fine. This time I turned on the AC and parking lights while driving.

I also spoke to that indie mechanic again,and he too is saying it's likely not the alternator. For one thing (as he pointed out), if the alternator had failed, the car would have started using the battery to keep going (I think that's what he said). But it didn't; everything died, then it started right back up.

Yes, not impressed with AutoZone, but I'm pretty sure the person doing the testing was not a mechanic. At least I found out if I ever do need an alternator, I can get one there at half the dealer price, which includes a lifetime warranty. So it wasn't a total waste of time.

For some reason I enjoy learning how things work on this car. Everytime something goes 'wrong' (which hasn't been all that often in the ten years I've owned it), I am given that opportunity.

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take opinions with salt

disconnecting the battery cable is not the best thing but wont fry the zener diodes which would die that easily, it usually takes a jumper cable being left on 2 running cars charging to fry them.

Is your power steering fluid leaking at all?

It may have dropped a blob on it and caused it to shut down but dry up enough to drive again.

look at that as it is very common

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