Monday, May 14, 2012

Alternators and retaining walls

One day last week after Andrea was done tutoring, she had a problem with her van starting. Thanks to my dad's expertise, we (well, he) discovered that the alternator was shot. How did we know this? After charging the battery for 20 minutes or so, the voltage across the terminals was 11VDC or so. With the car started, it remained about flat. With a properly functioning alternator, the battery should be at around 12VDC or so base, 14VDC when the car is running.* There's a voltage regulator that ensures the battery doesn't get overcharged*, and the alternator differs from vehicle designs of yore that used a generator: whereas the alternator can charge the battery at low engine RPMs, the generator cannot.*

In the interim, Mom let us borrow her Camry. I drove that, and Andrea drove my car. Why did I take the Camry? I don't know, but it has a sunroof. I personally would rather have a vehicle without a sunroof (it's one less thing to break, and I found that I almost never used the one that I had in my Jetta). The boys, however, loved it:





I had the alternator rebuilt by the folks at Red's Auto Electric on the east side of St. Cloud for $150. Last night, Dad and I installed it in about a half hour.

Since Dad was available last night, we finished up the retaining wall on the southwest side of the house -- a project we started but were never terribly ambitious about. Now we can finally finish that up, plant some herbs, and attempt to curb the erosion of our sand into the back yard.

Rounding out this week's news: the raspberry plants are growing well, Jacob's glasses almost got ran over by the lawnmower, Andrea has two weeks left of teaching. Life is busy.
*I may have misinterpreted facts here. All I know for certain is that the van didn't work, Dad is awesome at fixing it, and vehicles are wonky.

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