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When God Helps You Work On Your Cars

March 22, 2018

I knew what was wrong. I could fix it myself. I bought the parts to fix it myself. Instead I paid hundreds of dollars for someone else to fix it. And I thank God I did. . .Literally.

EDIT: I tried explaining how an alternator works. I can replace one, I just apparently don’t understand how they work. I’ve deleted the inaccurate description and offer this very succinct description by my friend Nathan Stoker:

“The only thing in the car that doesn’t run on 12V DC are the spark plugs and they are still DC…… it’s called an alternator because it uses induction windings (magnet passing by a coil of wires causes the electrons to shift back and forth). 2 diodes inside the alternator actually convert it to DC before it leaves the alternator.

For it to be AC the voltage would just oscillate positive and negative. because of the diodes (one way voltage valve) power circulates in one direction like a battery.

Some mechanics liken the battery to the heart and the alternator to the lungs. While air is technically supplied by the lungs it uses the battery for distribution.”

I would say, “Yeah, that’s what I meant,” but I don’t want to lie. Thanks for the assist Nathan. Now, on with the story.

An alternator is a part in your car engine. You’re probably familiar with the car battery. Maybe you’ve had to jump a friend’s car. We all know that “red goes on positive – black goes on negative.” The battery’s main job is to juice the starter. The fact that the lights work, is nice, but there are times the lights will work but the battery is too low to run the starter. And, once your car gets running, you could remove the battery. I wouldn’t recommend it, and you’d have to complete the circuit. But the point is that once the engine is running, it’s the alternator that powers everything. In fact, the alternator will even recharge the battery. If you jump start your friend’s car, it’s recommended they drive around for a while. That’s so the alternator can recharge their battery.

The alternator in one of our cars was going bad. There are several possible indicators when an alternator is going bad. The “check battery” light might come on. The car might have a hard time starting. The car could randomly decide to burn out both $25 headlight bulbs! (Okay, maybe that was just me.) Anyway, if the power starts being flaky, the alternator is one of the things to check.

I knew the alternator was failing. In fact, we’d tested it. It was putting out inconsistent power. I bought a new alternator. And then I kept finding reasons to not do the work. The alternator isn’t hard to replace. It’s a couple of bolts, a pully and rethreading a belt. But, I just couldn’t seem to get to it.

Finally, after the headlights burnt out. . .twice, it was obvious that it couldn’t wait any longer. I do most of the work on my cars, but I do have a guy that I go to. And he has a guy he goes to that is a professional mechanic.

We took it to the professional. They used the alternator I’d purchased and it was $175 in labor charges. That’s not an unreasonable charge for a couple of hours labor. But, it still rankled me that I wasn’t doing it myself. When I came to pick up the car I realized why I didn’t do the work myself.

God was watching out for me.

Here’s a picture of the bolt that holds the alternator to the alternator bracket.

If it looks like that bolt has a groove in it, you’re right. And that other little piece? Well, they broke the bolt when they took it out. And if the professionals broke it, I would have broken it. You need to get all the parts out. That small part is the end of the bolt that the mechanic’s shop had to drill out. Basically they lined up a drill and drilled through about 1/2″ of broken bolt until they could back the rest of it out.

Not in a million years.

Had I attempted to replace this alternator, I would have broken the bolt, just as they did. And then I would have been stuck with a broken, undrivable car that I couldn’t fix. I don’t have the tools to drill out that kind of a bolt.

Oh, and that “groove” in the bolt, it’s from the alternator rubbing on the bolt. Probably why it got so stuck.

This took the mechanic 2 hours. I would have planned 3-4 hours if I did it myself. It would have taken me all day, half the night and then I still wouldn’t have been able to do it.

You might call it fate, or karma, or luck, or coincidence. But, for me, I’m giving the credit to God that He didn’t let me try to do that work myself.

Yep, God works in my garage. . .sometimes.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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