In the Shop: Windstar Belt, Tensioner, and Alternator

In the shop today, we had a 2001 Ford Windstar come in with a bad alternator. Normally, alternators fail by NOT charging. Not this one! Nope…this one was overcharging! Hooking up the voltmeter showed the alternator was putting out over 15 volts (normal is about 13.5-14ish)! Obviously there was a strong sulfur odor under the hood because of the acid in the battery boiling, but the cables were also very hot to the touch. In fact, the positive (red) cable end got hot enough to do this to the battery…

Hot Battery!

Quick tip when replacing the tensioner on a Windstar like this: the bottom bolt on the tensioner is pretty difficult to get to with the belt off and the tensioner released because the pulley covers it.

TensionerHowever, when you rotate the tensioner, the pulley clears the bolt so it can be removed.

Rotating TensionerBut it’s really hard to rotate the tensioner and remove the bottom bolt at the same time right? Here’s where Ford actually made a pretty snazzy engineering decision (for once…). They put a spring loaded tang on the side of the tensioner to keep the pulley out of your way.

Tensioner TangPretty neat eh? That also helps if you’re replacing just the belt because it’s nearly impossible to hold the tensioner and put the belt on the last pulley.

The new tensioner we bought was a Dayco brand and they do things a bit differently around there

New Tensioner PinThese guys put a roll pin on the FRONT side of the tensioner instead of the spring loaded tang on the side like Ford did. Thankfully, unlike most roll pins, this one was very easy to remove once the spring tension was released from the tensioner after installation. The top bolts are still a bit of a pain to replace, but it wasn’t terrible.

All that’s left is to tighten the three bolts (red circles), attach the battery cable (blue circle), and reattach the voltage regulator connector (blue arrow), and install the new belt.

Alternator EditBecause the battery had been overcharged for quite sometime, it needed to be replaced because it was heavily sulfated internally. We’ll discuss what that means in a later post. Hope this helps someone working on a 2000-era Ford Windstar!

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