The purpose of this test is to check the rectification of the alternator output voltage, where the alternator output is not regulated by the Engine Control Module (ECM).
This known good waveform has the following characteristics:
When the engine is running, an alternator generates electrical energy to supply the vehicle’s on-board electrical systems and replace the battery charge consumed during cranking.
The alternator converts mechanical rotation to electrical energy by causing a magnetic field to rotate within a fixed set of windings. The changing magnetic field induces AC voltages within the windings, which are rectified by an arrangement of diodes to give a DC output.
The maximum output is limited by a voltage regulator, which varies the alternator output relative to the system voltage; when the system voltage is low, the regulator increases the alternator output, and vice versa.
The rectification of the generated AC current creates a continuous series of voltage pulses, a ripple, within the alternator’s output. Periodically missing pulses or disruptions within the ripple indicate a problem with either the windings or the rectification diodes. Sharp spikes, usually downward, between the pulses indicate diode failure and the presence of unrectified AC voltage in the circuitry.
The alternator output will vary with engine speed and electrical load. However, a consistent ripple must be maintained throughout these variations.
Turning on electrical consumers and increasing the engine speed will increase the alternator load which can provoke faults that are not evident at low loads. If the peak to peak output voltages are above 500 mV, the offending voltage spikes may disrupt other electrical systems, in particular those systems dependent on an AC signal.
For an accurate and reliable signal always connect at the alternator B+ terminal: it is convenient to measure the ripple directly at the battery positive terminal; however, the battery can dampen the waveform such that problems can be missed.
Typical symptoms of faulty alternator would be:
Alternator, or related, faults that can cause the above symptoms are:
Selection of component related Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs):
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