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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a '13 EX-L and the other day we went to drive it and it wouldn't start because the battery was too low. Lights came on and it tired to start once but it wasn't enough juice. Second attempt was just clicking sound. So, charged it up and had my wife take it up to Walmart the next day to replace it since it has a 3 yr warranty and we bought it less than 2 yrs ago. My wife told me they tested the battery and it showed to be fine so of course I figured the next thing is probably the alternator. Checked it tonight with a volt meter. With the car off it showed 11.84 and then when it was running it was reading at 13.85 volts. I know the battery should be at about 12.6 but do you think that 13.85 while it's running means it's not putting out enough voltage? Does that sound like it's probably an alternator going out? They aren't cheap so I don't want to just toss money at something that may not fix it.
 

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I don't know the precise spec, but around 14.5V is typical charging voltage with the engine running. So this is suspicious for your alternator. Having said this, I'd first replace the battery - I don't trust someone "testing the battery", especially at someplace like Walmart (and where they're on the hook for a warranty replacement). Batteries are cheap and easy to replace. Once you have the new battery, see how it goes and repeat your voltage checks. You may still have to replace the alternator, but you may end up fine.

- Mark
 

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I have a '13 EX-L and the other day we went to drive it and it wouldn't start because the battery was too low. Lights came on and it tired to start once but it wasn't enough juice. Second attempt was just clicking sound. So, charged it up and had my wife take it up to Walmart the next day to replace it since it has a 3 yr warranty and we bought it less than 2 yrs ago. My wife told me they tested the battery and it showed to be fine so of course I figured the next thing is probably the alternator. Checked it tonight with a volt meter. With the car off it showed 11.84 and then when it was running it was reading at 13.85 volts. I know the battery should be at about 12.6 but do you think that 13.85 while it's running means it's not putting out enough voltage? Does that sound like it's probably an alternator going out?
Battery voltage should be in the range of 12.5-12.8V with the car off.
13.85V is marginal when the car is running.
What is the voltage when the car is running and the headlights are on, the vent fan is at the highest speed and the rear defroster is on?

 

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Just curious, have you heard whining matching the RPM when it's running, perhaps coming from the vicinity of the alternator?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Battery voltage should be in the range of 12.5-12.8V with the car off.
13.85V is marginal when the car is running.
What is the voltage when the car is running and the headlights are on, the vent fan is at the highest speed and the rear defroster is on?

I'll have to check this later today when I can get a chance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Just curious, have you heard whining matching the RPM when it's running, perhaps coming from the vicinity of the alternator?
Not that I've heard. My wife drives it mostly but she hasn't mentioned anything and typically she would for something like that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I don't know the precise spec, but around 14.5V is typical charging voltage with the engine running. So this is suspicious for your alternator. Having said this, I'd first replace the battery - I don't trust someone "testing the battery", especially at someplace like Walmart (and where they're on the hook for a warranty replacement). Batteries are cheap and easy to replace. Once you have the new battery, see how it goes and repeat your voltage checks. You may still have to replace the alternator, but you may end up fine.

- Mark
I agree with that. Normally I wouldn't have Walmart touch anything on my cars but they have reasonably priced batteries and have been very good with battery warranties. This is actually the first time I've had them not just replace the battery.
 

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I'm going to suggest another track, it's a simple concept. Do it right the first time. Instead of throwing money away on a new battery, just to rule it out of the equation, get a battery charger, a good one can be had for the price of a new battery. Make sure it is AGM, gell cell battery rated, as more and more they are the battery of the future. Also pick up a load tester. A Foxwell or Schumacher can be had for around $50.00. Instead of replacing a possible good part, you use the money to buy the tools to know for sure. The procedure for testing is simple. Charge the battery to full capacity. If the battery charger can't charge it to full capacity then you done. Bad battery, replace it and go on down the road. If it does charge to full capacity load test it. If the load test fails, bad battery, replace it and go on down the road. However if it is a good battery and you haven't wasted $100 or so for a new battery. Plus you have the tools to test the battery the next time you have such an issue. Batteries don't last forever.

If the battery is good pull the alternator from the vehicle and go to a reliable auto parts store and have it tested. If you are one of those that "doesn't trust" the dealer or the auto parts store, you need to realize your little battery or alternator doesn't mean diddly to them. It's not going to make or break their business. What does make or break a business is their reputation and screwing someone out of a few dollars for a new alternator when one isn't needed isn't worth it.

Finally, once the problem is diagnosed, don't cheap out and go with the ebay, or Amazon part rock bottom price. Put in a top quality alternator, or for that matter a battery. Nothing screams stupid like putting in some cheap made, prone to failure part, because it isn't going to fail in your driveway on Saturday morning when you have nothing better to do than to change it out, AGAIN. It's going to fail at the worst possible moment, in the worst possible place.

If you don't feel competent to do a repair take it to the dealer or a good shop. There is an easy way to tell a good shop. It's called an ASE shop. I use my Honda dealer when needed, for my dealer will only hire ASE certified mechanics. For my out of warranty vehicle I have an independent who also only hires ASE certified mechanics.
 

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^^This^^ Echo the advice of Daltongang.

There are a few parallel threads related to cars that are spending days between uses. The cars drain the battery slowly on their own, at a rate someplace around 50 milliamps. My normal advice for folks who might leave the car sitting for more than a few days at a time is to invest in a smart battery maintainer, so the battery stays fully charged between drives. Mine sits for days at a time in normal Pilot driving season (winter mostly) since we both work from home. Under the current conditions, it might be two weeks between uses. I have learned to keep a maintainer attached pretty much anytime it's parked these days.

Daltongang's recommendation is to get the battery to full charge before any serious testing. Charging efficiency for the battery isn't even close to 100%, so a battery that's at half charge will take a day or two on most common home battery charger/maintainers. Depends on the charger really, how discharged the battery is, and how the battery is responding to it. Easy maintainers can deliver up to maybe two amps max, which is plenty for maintaining but agonizingly slow when it comes to actually recharging a low battery.

Once the battery charge level is restored, look for charging voltage again at the battery. The voltage regulator function on our pilots is actually managed in the PCM module rather than an onboard regulator that's part of the alternator itself. The PCM regulates charge rate based on more factors than the onboard regulators might, including engine RPM and various temperatures in the engine bay. Pretty smart actually. Bottom line is that it won't try and damage the alternator or the battery when it's recovering a discharged battery. Charge voltage can vary between 13.2 and 14.5, tending towards the higher number under normal conditions.

You can remove the alternator and have it tested at a better parts store. Just know that the tester will need to be able to support the external voltage regulator functions. Before you do that, follow the above guidance and get the battery fully charged before drawing any conclusions.

Tangents:
-- I've settled on the CTEK US7002 maintainer as the weapon of choice for stored vehicles. It has enough capacity to recover discharged batteries in a reasonable time. For most uses, the smaller-capacity units would be fine. CTEK private-labels these for Mercedes and Porsche, and I'm sure for others, so there's a reason to think they are pretty good. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other good units in the market for a fraction of the $110 current cost of the CTEK I like. Today's Amazon Deals has a decent unit for around $35, and the local Costco usually has something in the $30-40 range on the shelf.
-- My annual electrical maintenance routine includes some predictive testing, looking at the specific-gravity of the fluid (acid) in the battery. Testers are under $5 at the parts store. Gloves and glasses since the fluid is acid, but you get a good idea of the remaining battery life. The battery does need to be fully charged to test. When you start to see balls in the little tester that don't float, you know to go battery shopping before you actually get stranded.
-- I haven't yet jumped on the portable jump-start booster units yet, but may. Plenty of options, including units that have USB ports to keep your phone charged in an emergency. I'd need to find a place to keep it connected/charged, and out of the way. I don't have things loose in the car, so would likely end up with a pigtail wired into the trailer wiring circuits so I could hide the unit in that rear left cubby, along with the portable air compressor and the trailer hitch parts and heavy-duty flashlight already secured there.
 
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-- I haven't yet jumped on the portable jump-start booster units yet, but may. Plenty of options, including units that have USB ports to keep your phone charged in an emergency. I'd need to find a place to keep it connected/charged, and out of the way. I don't have things loose in the car, so would likely end up with a pigtail wired into the trailer wiring circuits so I could hide the unit in that rear left cubby, along with the portable air compressor and the trailer hitch parts and heavy-duty flashlight already secured there.
That's where I keep my unit, plugged into the rear 12v socket. I have a couple of phone charging cables permanently available to second and third row passengers, who are usually the always-using-their-phone-but-always-on-a-7%-charge demographic.

Doubles as a flashlight and "emergency flare" red flasher.
 

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I am not a fan of using an AGM battery under the hood where exposed to high heat. I believe it negates the longevity benefit. On other vehicles we own, the battery is in the trunk of under the rear seat and those batteries can be AGM. I would stick with a traditional flooded lead acid battery on a Pilot as this is what the manufacturer specs. Otherwise I wholeheartedly concur with the "do it right the first time" approach. People trade cars because they complain of loss of reliability but that loss often if not always results from improper, low balled repairs with inferior parts. Repair the car correctly, have people who know what they are doing and add in factory parts and you will realize the 250k mile service life a good car can deliver. This approach is far cheaper than taking a car loan every two, three, or four years. Also clean and detail a few times a year so you don't look uninsured and you will be good to go. ;-)
 

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The economics of AGM are suspect at this time. The extra 50% cost now for a claimed 50% extra life starting five years from purchase is a sucker bet unless the money is free and other investment potential is close to zero. The only advantage they have going for them is a claimed ability to withstand deep discharge with less permanent loss of capacity vs. a flooded battery. True if you look at shorting of sulfated plates as the only failure mode. With AGM you still get the crystals and loss of capacity, offering the longer time before the battery self-destructs.
 

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I have a '13 EX-L and the other day we went to drive it and it wouldn't start because the battery was too low. Lights came on and it tired to start once but it wasn't enough juice. Second attempt was just clicking sound. So, charged it up and had my wife take it up to Walmart the next day to replace it since it has a 3 yr warranty and we bought it less than 2 yrs ago. My wife told me they tested the battery and it showed to be fine so of course I figured the next thing is probably the alternator. Checked it tonight with a volt meter. With the car off it showed 11.84 and then when it was running it was reading at 13.85 volts. I know the battery should be at about 12.6 but do you think that 13.85 while it's running means it's not putting out enough voltage? Does that sound like it's probably an alternator going out? They aren't cheap so I don't want to just toss money at something that may not fix it.
Running at 13.85v sounds reasonable. As suggested above, what is the voltage with it running with lights, fans, radio, wipers, etc.?

I'm curious, though, at what point you checked the battery voltage after shutting the car off and got the 11.84V reading? Was it just a few minutes later, an hour later? 12 hours later? 11.84 is definitely low for a battery. Either you have something on the car that is running it down (called a parasitic draw) or the battery is no good, regardless of what the auto parts store test said.
 

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Still running my OEM in my 2015 only got 98k on the meter ..all highway mileage .. Dealership stated recommended to swap due to age .. but it passes all checks done to it. lol
 

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Still running my OEM in my 2015 only got 98k on the meter ..all highway mileage .. Dealership stated recommended to swap due to age .. but it passes all checks done to it. lol
I just changed the original Toyota, made by Denso alternator, on a 2001Toyota 4Runner that had 220k on it yesterday. I wouldn't bother until it fails or gives signs of failing. Selling alternators at 100k for preventative maintenance is all but theft. If you get to 150k and want to change it to prevent a breakdown I can see that. At 98k, no way.
 

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Still running my OEM in my 2015 only got 98k on the meter ..all highway mileage .. Dealership stated recommended to swap due to age .. but it passes all checks done to it. lol
Battery or Alternator?
 

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The battery is another story. If you've got 5 years on the battery I'd replace it before it leaves you stranded at an inopportune time or place. 5 years is extremely good life for the original battery. Most only last 3 years.
 

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If the battery is good pull the alternator from the vehicle and go to a reliable auto parts store and have it tested....

If you don't feel competent to do a repair take it to the dealer or a good shop.
Unfortunately, pulling the alternator for testing, even if you are competent, is not an easy job because of the limited space to work in and the 180 degree “spin” required while elbow deep just to remove or reinstall it. Just so you know what you’re getting into, doing it yourself will result in creative new words added to the English language, and paying someone to do it will cost a couple of hours of labor. Without more info on mileage or other symptoms, I’d continue with battery troubleshooting and checking battery cables for good connectivity and cleaning any corrosion from the posts, and other recommendations, simply because of how unfun pulling the alternator was. They don’t go very often.

Perhaps related, when I thought my alternator was failing, it turned out to be a failed AC compressor relay causing parasitic battery drain (Common issue across many Honda products over many years including the ‘12-15’s). I had done extensive battery troubleshooting and thought that was the next step. Turned out the alternator was fine, but I still have the scars on my knuckles from that.

More info on that issue here, in case you’re had any of the same symptoms.
 
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