The alternator, a vital part of a vehicle’s electrical system, plays a crucial role in keeping your Honda Civic running smoothly. In this article, we’ll explore the process of testing and how to replace the alternator on a 2013 Honda Civic which could save you hundreds at a garage. This would apply to 2006 to 2015 Honda Civics – Most of this guide is also suitable for other vehicles as alternators all serve the same purpose and are all integrated similarly. So, if you’ve noticed any signs of alternator failure or simply want to stay prepared, this guide is here to help!
Troubleshooting a “Check Charging System” Error Message on a 2006 to 2015 Honda Civic
Recently, I had an error message pop up on the information screen of my 2013 Honda Civic, saying “Check Charging System.” This message typically appears when the alternator is not charging the battery properly. However, it can also indicate issues with the battery itself, dirty or corroded battery cables, loose fuses, connections, or even a faulty electronic control unit (ECU).
In addition to the error message, I noticed that the steering was becoming stiff. Unlike some other cars, the power steering pump in the 2013 Honda Civic is electronically powered rather than belt-driven-This further indicated that there might be a problem with the charging system.
To troubleshoot, I started by testing the battery. A very quick way to rule out the battery is to disconnect the battery from your car and using a second car or car battery, hook jumper cables to the positive and negative post of the other battery and connect the other end of the jumper cables to the vehicles battery cables (not the battery) in your car – positive to positive and negative to negative – If you’re still getting the error message, you know the battery is not the problem and it’s time to look at the alternator.
Step 1: Gathering the Necessary Tools and Parts
Before diving into testing and replacing the alternator, ensure you have the required tools. Here’s a list of tools you will need and some that will make the job easier:
- Socket set – 10mm and 12mm socket
- 19mm wrench
- Safety glasses
- Replacement alternator:
Tools that will make the job faster and easier (not required)
- Dewalt 12V Cordless 3/8 Ratchet
- 3/8 socket extension
- 19mm ratcheting wrench
- 8-inch battery hold-down kit (needed if you need to remove the battery and the nuts are rusted)
Step 2: Testing the Alternator
Before replacing the alternator, it’s important to verify if it’s the culprit. These steps will help you to test the alternator:
Step 2a: Visual Inspection
- Locate the alternator, situated at the front of the engine on the left (if standing in front of the car facing the back)
- Inspect the alternator visually for any obvious signs of damage, such as frayed wires, loose connections, or worn-out belts.
- Check for any signs of corrosion on the battery terminals and cables.
Step 2b: Voltage Test
- Using the multimeter, set it to the DC voltage scale.
- Start the engine and let it idle.
- Connect the multimeter‘s positive (red) lead to the alternator’s positive terminal and the negative (black) lead to a good ground source such as bare metal, usually a bolt will do.
- Check the multimeter‘s reading. A healthy alternator should produce around 13.8 to 14.4 volts. If the reading is significantly lower or higher further testing will be required.
Step 2c: Load Test
- With the engine still running, turn on various electrical components in your vehicle, such as headlights, air conditioning, radio and rear defroster.
- Observe the multimeter’s reading while these components are active.
- The voltage should remain relatively stable, indicating that the alternator can handle the increased electrical load.
- If the voltage drops significantly or fluctuates erratically, it may indicate a problem with the alternator’s ability to supply sufficient power.
Step 2d: Belt Tension and Pulley Check
- Inspect the alternator belt for proper tension and signs of wear.
- Check the alternator pulley for any wobbling or unusual noise, which could indicate bearing problems.
Step 3: Interpret the Results
- Based on the results of the tests, you can determine whether your alternator is functioning properly or if it requires replacement.
Remember, if you’re unsure about any of the testing steps or lack the necessary tools, it’s always recommended to seek professional assistance from a qualified mechanic or automotive technician.
If you’ve determined the alternator needs to be replaced, time to move onto the fun part!
Step 4: Get a Replacement Alternator
If you’re anything like me and are extremely cheap you may want to call your local auto wreckers as they often get vehicles in with relatively low mileage which are still loaded with good parts. I was fortunate and my local auto wreckers had an alternator from a Honda Civic that only had 35,000 miles on it for $50, don’t mind if I do!
Step 5: Removing and Replacing the Alternator
If your alternator fails the test or exhibits symptoms of malfunctioning, it’s time to replace it. Here’s a step-by-step process:
- Watch the video here
Or follow the below steps:
- Disconnect the positive and negative terminal of the battery using a 10mm socket and ratchet.
- Locate the alternator, on a 2013 Honda Civic that would be on the left side near the front of the engine when you’re facing the front of the car.
- Disconnect the wiring harness from the alternator by removing the connectors carefully. Note the connections or take pictures to ensure proper reassembly. You can also refer to the video posted above.
- Loosen the alternator mounting bolts using a 12mm socket and ratchet.
- Attach a bungee cord to a spot under the hood and ensure the other end reaches the belt but with tension on the bungee cord-This will help keep tension on the belt, preventing it from coming off the other pulleys while replacing the alternator.
- Once the bolts are sufficiently loosened, remove the belt from the alternator pulley by releasing the tension using a 19mm wrench, additional leverage can be used by locking a second wrench’s box end to the open end of the first wrench. Once the tension is released, slide the belt off the pulley and attach the bungee cord from step 5 to the belt ensuring there is adequate tension applied to the belt.
- Remove the mounting bolts entirely from the alternator and carefully extract the alternator from the engine bay.
- Place the new alternator in the same position and secure it with the mounting bolts.
- Reinstall the belt on the alternator pulley, ensuring proper tension-most cars should have an auto-tensioner.
- Reconnect the wiring harness, ensuring each connector is securely fastened.
- Reconnect the positive and negative terminal of the battery.
- Turn on the car and ensure all is good.
Testing and replacing the alternator in your 2013 Honda Civic with a 1.8L engine is a task that requires little technical knowledge and is entirely achievable for the average car owner. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can diagnose alternator issues and replace it if necessary, ensuring your vehicle runs smoothly and reliably. Remember, if you’re uncertain or uncomfortable performing these tasks, it’s always a good idea to seek professional assistance.