Our Wonderful Followers who come back again and again to read about us...

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Alternator Woes on our Motorhome

By the time I finish writing this blog post, I hope it's all fixed!!!

It seems our Safari coaches have alternator loads that wear them out pretty fast. Other Safari owners of our vintage years in the mid 90's seem to say the same thing.  I believe it's strained not only the maintaining of two batteries needed to start the big diesel 3126 CAT engine, but also charging up the four 6volt batteries we have on the coach.   We do not run the inverter while in transit, so that helps lessen the draw on it.

We do have 500 watts of solar panels to recharge the coach batteries during the day, but when taking off early for travel days, the coach batteries are low too. Some suggest starting the generator for an hour or so before take-off to charge up the coach batteries and lessen the draw on the engine's alternator.  Hmmmmm sounds like a good idea too, but sometimes not feasible if it's an early driving day.  Many campgrounds have set hours for noise or generator operation. Or many campgrounds prohibit the running of generators altogether.

Anyhooooo   We have already replaced our alternator in 2006, 2008, 2013 and 2015.  Steve said it is strange because it seems to always be failing for different reasons, and different parts that go out in the alternator itself.  Perhaps it's just bad workmanship and manufacturing on the alternator components?  He usually replaces it with the cheapest alternator you can get.  It's a Delco 21 si 160 amp, J 180 mounting.  If he changes to a larger alternator, then he also has to change the isolator.  Arggghhhhh   It's like he is always throwing parts at this motorhome, but after all, being 20 years old, we need to do this no matter what.

Last week on our way back from Sun Coast Designers in Hudson, FL, Steve noticed that our alternator was not putting out enough charge.  It was only about 11-12 volts.  It should be reading between 13.5 to 14 on the gauge and the Silverleaf vmspec computer in our dash.

We had enough battery power to get back to mom's yard... and he pulled the alternator out to examine it. Inside there was grease from the bearing that appeared to get all over inside on the windings and the brushes.  ewwwwww  

So Steve ordered a rebuild kit and a new set of brushes to rebuild the unit himself.  In between all the other projects he has been doing, he installed the repaired alternator and hoped for the best. He also cleaned all the connections and wires. Fired up the engine, and sadly, nope.... no go.

Okay, now it was time to get serious here, because we have to leave in a week to head back to Wisconsin!    He ordered another alternator and it was to arrive by UPS yesterday.  Say what you will about bad UPS service, but we tracked that package and it said it was going to arrive yesterday.  We watched for the truck all day long.  Last night about 8 pm, there was a knock on the door. Sure enough, out in the darkness was mom's friendly UPS guy. He had a flashlight and made his way from the truck out on the road into her yard and set the package on the front porch.  He wanted to be sure we knew it was there, so he knocked and wished us a great evening.  What a nice guy!

Well, the coffee is done here, so I might be able to gulp down a cup before I have to help Steve install this new alternator first thing this morning.  Perhaps I will even get some pics .... it's not a hard install, just two bolts and three wires. He is getting so good at this, I think he can do it in his sleep!


yup.. we got the old alternator out, swapped the pulley over onto the new one, and installed...  

yippeeeee  13.6 volts and not even driving it, 
just idling in the yard! 

This is our fourth week in Florida.  We are working on many projects for mom.  The details around her getting settled back into her home are too many to mention.  We are handling what we can to help her out.  Paperwork, accounts, billings, name changes and legal issues are daunting at times.  We are so glad we can be here to help.

In between all the other stuff, we have managed a few more shopping trips to Gainesville with Auntie Lois.  These two gals are a hoot to take to Walmart because they get going with those carts and there is NO stopping them!

They wear us out for sure... after an hour of Walmart shopping, 
Steve and I found a good spot out in the Garden Center to relax 
while those two were still zooming the aisles! 

While sitting there, Steve found a great deal on a clearance price of the Weber Q1000... with a stand!~  It was marked down from $199 to only $99!  He has been wanting one of these for quite a while, so I think it's his vacation souvenir! 

We also hit Trader Joes again... our friends Conny and Jack sent us a gift card, and we really put it to good use.  Yummmmmm   I sure wish there was a Trader Joes closer to our house.

On leap year day, Mom decided to surprise us with a full blown Thanksgiving Meal... turkey and all the trimmings!   She said it was because we didn't get to have Thanksgiving together in November, so on leap year day, we can make up for it and have the holiday we missed with our loved ones!  Like a make-up day! 

The dogs are enjoying the warm weather and we take evening walks as often as we can around the rural location of mom's place in Florida.  It's all sandy roads, and they come back pretty grubby.  Added to the humid conditions and damp fur, the sand and dirt just clings to them.  If you pet them, you get a puff of dust in the air!   I can see why most folks in Florida have short haired dogs....  LOL.  it was bath time, even if they didn't totally appreciate it.

Last night, Auntie Lois invited us out to Fish Fry at her church!  

She is part of the kitchen crew, 
and took a moment to come out to speak with us at our table... 
Ahhh the Master Chef!  How I love that smile! 

In between tasks and errands and things, I am also working on some quilt blocks.  I carry an extra sewing machine in our motorhome, and of course there are quilting shops all over to get more and more fabric.  I am working on a blue quilt to go on our front porch back home.

With so many details to work out here in Florida, we are also keeping an eye on things back home with our housesitter, snow plow man and neighbors.  The snow coming down right now in Chilton makes me kinda homesick, but the nice sunny 75 degree day here in Florida is enjoyable too.  Hmmm

We know about the big landslide in Jelico at the Tenn/Kentucky border on I-75.  We have heard the auto detour is bad enough with the twists and turns and grades, and we should avoid it with our motorhome and toad.  Also, the big truck detour route is about 140 miles around out of the way.  So we are making plans for a different route further to the west on our way home next week. That means missing a visit with our friends Linda and Mark in Tennessee.  Sigh.

Well, coffee is done and Steveio is raring to get to the alternator replacement.  I better get off this computer and get to work.  I am his "gopher assistant" and photographer/reporter to take photos and write the articles!


  1. As you go over the Tennessee River Bridge wave to me to the west. I am in Decatur Al. Have fun.

  2. Maybe try going with a higher quality and amperage alt. Also maybe look for a dual alt. kit for your engine...

  3. I think the only way to have a 20 year old coach is to also have a wonder fixer like Steve. He does such a good job. Your Safari is better than new.

  4. I have no idea how this might apply to a Safari, but for Alfas people have been recommending a "heavy duty" alternator made by Bosch. The function is pretty standard, so mechanical/mounting compatibility may be the only thing to look for. Here's one URL:

  5. I see SEVERAL jars of cookie butter. This must be some awesome stuff. What do you do with it? Is it like peanut butter? I must try some.

    1. Yuummmmm it is made from crushed speculoos ginger cookies. Not pea-nutty at all ... but it spreads like peanut butter. Honestly it tastes like gentle mild gingersnaps!

  6. If you come up little to the east of that rock slide in Tennessee you could visit Don and me--have a safe trip home


Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog! I moderate all comments so it may take a little while for your comment to appear.