Alternator Doesn't Work

The RAC mechanic that rescued me off the intersection last week told me that although my battery was fine, it was dead flat because the alternator isn't
charging the battery at all. In the middle of a busy interesction, that was all he obviously had time to assess. My question ... with the battery fully charged on a bench top charger, assuming I don't use the head lights etc, how far could I expect to drive without the alternator working before I run into trouble? I need to drive 10 kms there, 10 back again on a daily basis. If I recharged the battery every night on a bench top charger, would I be able to do that? The car is an 88 model Ford Laser if it makes a difference.
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The Doctor wrote:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Laser
The Ford Laser was rebadged Maxda 323, sold as the Mercury Tracer and I think Escort in the US. The Ford Laser was sold in Australia, Africa, New Zealand, Asia and South America.
Anyway, you can probably drive for about an hour without a working alternator. However, your battery is not designed as a deep-cycle battery. If you recharge and discharge your battery on a daily basis, you're going to wear out the battery.
Your question: If I recharged the battery every night on a bench top charger, would I be able to do that?
In theory yes. In practice, you're going to ruin the battery and maybe need to replace the battery cables and terminals. In addition, powering up and down the electrical system like that every day is not good for it. You need to replace the alternator or you're going to run into more problems.
Jeff
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I worked at Ford up until 1986. I was a member of the design team, working on crumple zones, for the Escort, first and second models.
Contrary to what many believe, the ONLY Mazda based chassis, albeit with a different body, sold by Ford in the US was the first Mercury Tracer, build from 1988 until 1990. ALL later Tracers and ALL of the Escorts were designed by Ford engineers and built primarily in the US and some Mexico. They did use some Mazda designed components, in some models, however.

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Mike hunt wrote:

It would be great if you could use your knowledge to update this page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_Tracer
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You are free to believe whatever you choose. Just because a site like Wikipedia gathers information does not mean what they gather is necessarily correct. If you want the facts do a search of the industries bible, Automotive News. ;)
As to setting sources straight I did write to Motor Trend at one point early on, when they published disinformation about the 91 Escort being Mazda based. Although many of my letters, to buff mags over the years have been published, by MT and others, MT did not publish that correction or even acknowledge it receipt.
I guess they don't like their opinions to be challenged since they never changed their view, even though Ford sent them the same correction stating that the Escort was not based on 323. In one later article when MT said it was based on the 323, they did say "Ford says is it is not, wink, wink." If you doubt what I'm telling you, go to a Mazda dealer and try to by a major '91 to '99 Escort/Tracer body part. Not even the windshields were common to both.
Anyone who knows anything about the business knows Mazda did not have anything near the capacity to build enough components to meet Escort/Tracer sales volumes. The fact is we designed the chassis that was adapted for use by Mazda, not the other way around. The ONLY exception was the '88 to '90 model tracer but even that chassis and body was not common to any Mazda. The ONLY engine that was a Mazda was it higher winding 1800 CC used in the Escort GT with a manual tranny. The Ford 1900 CC was used in all the other Escorts and Tracers. Ford. The only Escort built in Mexico was the notchback four door and some excess wagon demand in the final years

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I have a similiar car, and I had no problem going 30 miles to work with the only the car running, and the parking lights and windshield wipers on. I got a charge at work and made it home just fine, with a stop at the auto parts store for a rebuilt alternator.
Don't use the headlights, front or rear defoggers, the stereo, or the heat or air conditioning.
I would think that in your situation, you could easily charge the battery every night and make it until the weekend just fine, but do fix your car then. Just keep junper cables in your car, just in case. Even better if you can charge the battery while at work.
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with a 4 cylinder VW I am able to go about 40 miles with a bad alternator.
Turn on the headlights and you'll go about 10 minutes. The headlights are a huge drain on the battery.
Take that alternator out of your vehicle, open it up (should be about 1/4" hex head bolts), get the brushes out (sometimes it's a bit of a puzzle, requiring 3 hands), go to your local alternator store, buy new brushes (about $2.00 total) and put em back in... should run fine
Another idea is to run the truck, and spray electrical contact cleaner into the alternator... it could be that the brushes or (commutator?) are dirty and not allowing current to flow from the rotor to the terminals..
Rich
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just take it out and get a rebuilt one. i dont mess around with trying to rebuild them any more maybe it is the brushes or maybe the diod or treeo or maybe a broken wire in the windings or voltage regulator. dont charge it up every night and try to run it during the day and charge it at night you will fry the battery. dont mess around with it fix it wright you are going to spend a lot more money doing it that way. (new battery wires might burn starter may go bad) also it may leave you stranded again
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$2.00 for brushes and about 1 hour of work is a good try before you spend $50 on a rebuild. Although the diodes, windings, voltage regulator can go bad, the brushes are the only wearing part (besides the bearings) and are usually the cause of an alternator not outputting voltage.
Rich
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