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Replacing Alternator Brushes

Discussion in '1st Gen. Tacomas (1995-2004)' started by Petrol, Aug 23, 2018.

  1. Aug 23, 2018 at 5:43 AM
    #1
    Petrol

    Petrol [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Let me start by saying that I'm frugal but if you want to label me as a cheap bastard, I'm OK with that too.

    An issue with an alternator came up in another thread and reminded of something that was once common and now nearly forgotten - replacing alternator brushes.

    Back in the days when we had to walk to school barefoot, in the snow, up hill, both ways ;)......we would spend time maintaining things in the hopes of prolonging the life of those things.

    One of those things to save money involved replacing the brushes in alternators BEFORE they were completely worn down. By replacing the brushes before they wore down to the point of damaging the slip rings they rode on, the life of the alternator could be extended considerably.
    This maintenance was easier to perform on some types of alternators (Chrysler) than on others (GM and Ford).
    In those days that usually involved purchasing a set of brushes (very inexpensive) and actually unsoldering the old brushes from the brush holder and soldering the leads of the new brushes to the brush holder. That gave way to brushes being sold pre-assembled in the holder and simply replacing the entire brush holder complete with new brushes (still wayyyyyyyyy cheaper than replacing the entire alternator).

    By replacing the brushes after about 50K-70K miles, you could generally double the life of the alternator. By the second go-around on the brushes something else was going to be the failure point (bearings, rectifier bridge, etc.). Then you would have the alternator rebuilt. (Back in those days there were actually shops that specialized in rebuilding alternators, generators and starters - right next to the telegraph office and blacksmith ;))

    The Denso alternators used in Toyota trucks and many other applications are actually very good alternators. They're not quite as easy to service as some of the old Chrysler alternators but they're not horrible to work on. You can get a replacement set of brushes for a Denso alternator for less than $10.
    So if you have an old Toyota Tacoma or any other vehicle with 80K miles on an alternator, you may want to consider replacing the brushes in that alternator. There's no guarantee that you can extend the life of the alternator by replacing the brushes before they wear out but it only costs $10 and some time. If you're mechanically inclined and a cheap bastard, er..........I mean frugal, it's something to consider.
     
    Colchicine, underaroof, CS_AR and 2 others like this.
  2. Aug 23, 2018 at 5:53 AM
    #2
    cruisedon66

    cruisedon66 Well-Known Member

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    I also used to rebuild the alternator & generator in my cars. (1977 Celica, VW Bugs)
    Did you replace the brushes? You never said. I remember some of the alternators had a small hole to stick a paperclip in to hold the brushes back while the amature was inserted.

    The way I look at it. If the alternator is broken, try replacing the brushes. You have nothing to lose and it's still good for a core trade in.
    Gotta go....It's my turn to hike out to the well and get water : ).
     
    CS_AR likes this.
  3. Aug 23, 2018 at 6:13 AM
    #3
    Petrol

    Petrol [OP] Well-Known Member

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    I've put new brushes in a lot of alternators and yes, there's often a hole for a paper clip (brush installation tool?) to hold the brushes retracted until the case is back together.
    Unfortunately, the alternator in my Tacoma had been buggered up by a previous, I guess......."mechanic"?, and the brush holder was no longer removable. The screw heads were both stripped out and severally rusted. I decided it wasn't worth effort to replace the brushes in that particular unit and just replaced the entire alternator.
    However, on more than one occasion I've used hemostats to hold the spring compressed on the brush so that I could solder the tail of the lead to the brush holder. I've even salvaged the brushes out of burned out motors and filed them to fit smaller brush holders in other motors.

    When you get done with the well rope please bring it back to the house, we need it for the clothes line :)
     
    CS_AR and cruisedon66 like this.
  4. Aug 23, 2018 at 6:15 AM
    #4
    Benny123

    Benny123 Kid from the late 70s

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    Replacing everything worn, broken, and rusted.
    2nd Gen owner. But love the history in first post, OP. I bought some brushes for my 05 last month and plan on doing this when the temps cool down this fall.
     
    CS_AR likes this.
  5. Aug 23, 2018 at 8:39 AM
    #5
    pulldo

    pulldo Well-Known Member

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    I've got a very good rebuilder around the corner from me, starters and alt's. Used to do all the big equipment re-builds here for Shell oil. I've had him do my wife's honda starter, my old beater work truck, 84' s-10, he actually did a trick on that one to keep it where it'd keep up at idle on charging. Did my 4 wheeler starter, which new one was $250 or more, I can't remember now. Did her La Sabre alt. also.

    I'm a firm believer in having OEM shell rebuilt to help with alingment issues on pulleys, especially on that S-10, there was not one over the counter that had the same pulley and it wouldn't put out like the one he re-built.

    Been a while since I needed him but it use be be $30. for the charging/elect. side or/and $30 for the bearing/mech. side or $60 total.

    I've rebuilt a bunch in my time myself, but I really like his work.
     
    CS_AR likes this.
  6. Aug 23, 2018 at 9:19 AM
    #6
    Petrol

    Petrol [OP] Well-Known Member

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    pulldo - I'm with you. At one time there was shop that would rebuild starters/alternators/generators in just about any decent sized town. Most of them are gone now, the proprietors retired or died while the reduced costs of remanufactured replacements continued to push the others out of the market. The labor just got too expensive to make money at it. There will always be a few guys that do that work to support the show car crowd where authentic replacements can be hard to find or there is just no remanufactured source. Farm machinery is another place where rebuilding often remains economical.

    I've had pretty good luck with remanufactured alternators but I can't say the same thing for starters.

    With the Denso alternators you get about one set of bearings for every two sets of brushes. Because of that, I'll still replace brushes one time but by the time the bearings start to go, I'm thinking about a replacement alternator, rebuilding to old one at my leisure and keeping it as a spare.
    Brushes, rectifier bridge, regulator and bearings will get 98% of the alternators back in service. If you've got shorted windings or burnt out windings, just turn the core in and let someone else deal with it. I've seen guys in electrical shops rewind coils but it just isn't worth it anymore unless there's just no other alternative.
     
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  7. Aug 23, 2018 at 11:02 AM
    #7
    Dirty Pool

    Dirty Pool I WAS DRIVING THAT MODEL A

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    Sorry for the semi thread jack but I had the pics just waiting.

    I do this all the time instead of buying the holder assembly. It does not save much cash but it makes up for that in the satisfaction department. There is a spec for the extended free length of the brushes. The length of the leads when soldered determines this length.

    Old/new brush
    [​IMG]

    Mr Minion showing his technique. He pulls the lead thru the hole till the brush is at the correct extension and folds it thru the mount tab, it's now hands free. Then solder at the back of the holder and clip off the extra.
    [​IMG]

    Polished up the rings a bit.
    [​IMG]

    The redaction below incorrectly says to "run the wire through the spring". It should run next to the spring, just like the old one.
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Aug 23, 2018 at 11:34 AM
    #8
    pulldo

    pulldo Well-Known Member

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    Good job, where you picking up the brushes from?
     
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  9. Aug 23, 2018 at 11:42 AM
    #9
    Dirty Pool

    Dirty Pool I WAS DRIVING THAT MODEL A

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    Toyota, most aftermarket parts houses have or can get them and look identical at 1/3 the price. Toyota sells them by the "each" not as a pair, keep that in mind if price shopping.
     
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  10. Aug 23, 2018 at 11:54 AM
    #10
    Benny123

    Benny123 Kid from the late 70s

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    CS_AR and whatstcp like this.
  11. Aug 23, 2018 at 12:28 PM
    #11
    Pappy Jon

    Pappy Jon Member

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    I seldom, if ever, purchase a reman alternator. When I do it's Denso or nothing. I'm always replacing the brushes first. I get around 100k miles off a set. I carry extras in case something sinister happens in the field and I need to swap them out. But, I'm usually proactive and check them if I have an excuse to pull the alternator. I have several local options for rebuilding alternators/starters, but I never used them.

    Alternator brush holder - 27370-75060, $22.70 list, for 80A (2000+ 3RZ) and I believe up Denso alternators. Also works on a long list of Toyota cars.
    Alternator brush holder - 27370-35060, $22.70 list, for 60A and 70A Denso alternators. Works on my 60A 22RE alternator, and works on 70A 3RZ alternators, in addition to many Toyota cars.
     
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  12. Aug 23, 2018 at 1:40 PM
    #12
    Petrol

    Petrol [OP] Well-Known Member

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    YEP, all of the above is right on the money.

    In years past, you had to re-use the brush holder and solder new brushes in like Dirty Pool has shown us (Thanks for the pictures DP)

    Now you can buy a brush holder with new brushes already installed. However, the technique displayed by Dirty Pool is STILL a valid technique for those of us that don't mind that little extra bit of work. Another technique is to buy a brush holder complete with new brushes AND a set of loose brushes. You swap out the old brush holder for the new fully assembled one and then replace the old brushes in the old brush holder - now you have a complete spare brush holder with new brushes !

    Denso alternators are very reliable when maintained. In fact, the entire charging system on Toyota trucks is very reliable.
     
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  13. May 2, 2019 at 8:00 PM
    #13
    obh

    obh Member

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    Really thankful for Tacomaworld. I nearly always find the answer I need, even though sometimes it can take reading several posts to compile information. OP, I too had a buggered up brush holder, but I decided to try my easy outs on the screws. The heads were so rusted and corroded. Between two easy outs and the right size drill bit, I fortunately was able to get them out and detach the rectifier from the brush holder from the voltage regulator. Saved me about $250.


    In my experience, badly warn brushes were responsible for the following:


    One day on the highway after 70mph for 2 hours the battery idiot light came on. I kept driving until I came to a stop light about and hour later. After sitting at the light for 2 minutes, the light went off. I didn't see it come on again until several months later when the light came on and about an hour later the truck wouldn't hold cruise control on the highway and the dash lights/acceleration were intermittent. I made it to a rest stop, turned the truck off. Heard clicking sound when tried to start the truck back up. The battery had lost energy over time from the faulty alternator. I bought a new battery (I'm an idiot I know), took it back to the rest stop and drove my truck home. Popped the hood and started putzing around, eventually taking the alternator for bench testing, it passed. So, I replaced all leads, like the on at B+ terminal/post coming from the battery, and still was getting reduced voltage at the battery after starting/running the truck.


    I finally opened the alternator and found the brushes were warn to the point of barely touching the copper arm of the alternator. I went online and tried to find the rectifier, brush assembly, and regulator as one unit with associated screws, for easy replacement. Of course I didn't come across this, but I did learn how to buy parts online at a discount through my local Toyota dealerships parts website. There are part diagrams which are helpful, but their website isn’t always correct about what fits my truck.


    Anyway, I easy outed all the screws and got the three components separated. I then tested each with a multimeter to be sure simply changing the brushes would do the trick. This video was helpful to me for testing the rectifier. I also just enjoy the guys voice. He doesn't test the regulator with his multimeter. I tested the regulator and found current/resistance, so I knew that the only faulty part was the brush assembly.

    My suggestions: Don't be afraid to pop off the alternator and don't be afraid to open up the alternator. You'll likely find the problem pretty quickly AND save a high quality alternator by replacing its faulty parts. A little help to our environment. :fingerscrossed:
     
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  14. May 2, 2019 at 8:46 PM
    #14
    Timmah!

    Timmah! Well-Known Member

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  15. May 2, 2019 at 8:58 PM
    #15
    bagleboy

    bagleboy Well-Known Member

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    Good thread, subbed.
     
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  16. May 3, 2019 at 6:28 AM
    #16
    skeezix

    skeezix Well-Known Member

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    Hmmm. Anybody have experience with the less expensive brushes? Ebay sells them for between $6 and $8. That's quite a price difference from $22.... but I'll probably buy the Genuine Toyota Part instead of taking a chance with the cheaper ones.
     
  17. May 3, 2019 at 8:03 AM
    #17
    Benny123

    Benny123 Kid from the late 70s

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    @skeezix I have the ebay ones in my Taco and 4runner. They work just fine. Save your money.
     
  18. May 3, 2019 at 8:10 AM
    #18
    llibrm

    llibrm OH NOOOOOO!

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    I’m surprised you’re replacing brushes at 60-80k. I just got 205k out of my alternator, and it’s now only an intermittent issue. Got a dealer reman on the way and hope to get another 200k.
     
  19. May 3, 2019 at 8:17 AM
    #19
    Glamisman

    Glamisman Well-Known Member

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    yep, the Denso alternators are very good... the Paris-Rhone alternators in the SC series of Porsches I used to work on were crap... material incompatability. The brushes were so much harder than the commutator that they would wear a grooves in it making the alternator junk.
     

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