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Alternator's Warn and Mechanic Destroyed Starter While Trying to Fix Probelm

4088 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Jordan Cooper
Hello out there,

I've recently had difficulty with my Alternator in my Touareg - the battery/alternator notification displayed after a 25km drive and smoke began emitting from my hood. I took it in to get checked at a local auto shop, asked if they had the right tools to diagnose the problem, was reassured they'd be able to look into it and waited as they addressed the issue. After a couple of days, I was told that it needed to be checked out by a VW dealership/maintenance shop which required a 600km tow (not a huge problem because of the 3 year free towing from VW but still needed to somehow pickup the vehicle after). VW checked out thet issue and said the alternator needed to be replaced, as expected, but the engine still wasn't turning over so they needed to diagnose further. 7 hours of labour fees later, VW notified me that the first mechanic who looked at it was trying to charge the battery to get the vehicle to start but in the process of doing that, fried my starter! The starter now has to be replaced, entirely from the first mechanic's mistreatment of my vehicle.

I'm wondering if anyone's had a similar experience? Were you able to receive any compensation for the mechanic's mistakes? I also looked into ordering the alternator and starter online but I'm in Canada and the parts always seemed to be coming from the States or abroad, increasing transportion costs substantially. This is turning out to be very expensive, needless to say I won't be doing business with the local auto shop anymore.

I'm young and new to owning a Touareg so any advice would be great! Also I bought it used so the warranty has expired.

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If the VW dealer will put it in writing, you may have a claim on the first mechanic. <shrug> I'm not sure how your laws are different than the US.

You will have to have the work done, any way. Might as well get it fixed and then present the bill and the dealer's statement. If that gets you no where, then you can look at small claims court or the Canadian version of the Better Business Bureau, if you have something like that up there.
Hopefully you paid by credit card to the shop that fried your starter. You could dispute the charge and provide the supporting document from the dealer. Otherwise the chance of getting a refund from the original shop would be slim and difficult.
Thanks for your comments - we do have small claims court here so that's definitely an option. I'm hoping to have the first mechanic pay for the starter and labour fees associated with the VW work. I did pay with visa but over the phone so I'd need to get a receipt from mechanic 1 the next time I visit (before I bring up the suing thing of course if I go that route). I've asked VW to record everything they're seeing and doing and I'll ask them to specify that the starter had to of been fried by someone working on the vehicle, as appose to me destroying it from just oppurating my vehicle.

Any other suggestions are welcome!
An update,

The total cost for labour, replacing a belt, alternator and starter was just shy of $3,000. I asked the VW mechanic to report his thoughts and why the starter seemed to be destroyed after considering the vehicle had no issues starting before taking it to the local mechanic. He said if the battery was routinely charged, that can destroy the starter and put that thought on the invoice. I took the invoice to the local shop and they said charging the battery to start the vehicle wouldn't destroy the starter as the starter is designed to not be destroyed through jumping (local mechanic described a stopper that would take all the energy before the solenoid). He also said that if there were alternator issues and I drove the 5 kilometers to the mechanic shop, that probably destroyed the starter (although there were no signs of starter issues, just an alternator warning and a bit of smoke from the hood). They also said that there was no way of diagnosing the issue of the engine not turning over without boosting the battery, which is what the VW mechanic is claiming most likely caused the issue with the starter!

Is the local mechanic just running away from taking responsibility or are his points reasonable? The VW mechanic no reason to mislead me but could be not fully informed and just speculating... I don't think I'll take this to court, but figuring out the cause/issue and how I can avoid it going forward would be the overall goal.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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I have difficulty understanding why a starter motor would get fried from charging a battery. Generally a starter will die if it is used heavily with a very low battery charge which is the opposite of charging a battery and presumably a using that fully charged battery to start a vehicle unless they cranked it forever trying to start it. It's just as possible for the VW people to have screwed the starter as it is the first shop to have done it. You really need more info. Any idea where the smoke came from as that will probably provide useful info. John
A few things:

Not sure how they messed up a jump start. The jump connector has red cap on it.

Motors do not fry from reverse current.

If current was reversed some fragile electronics would fry. I sould suspect the started getting damaged last if at all.

Now if the starter was sloppy and it got hung up on the flexplate of fw, and they just kept cracking it, then yea...

Maybe excessive cranking? Which would result in needing a jump...
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Sorry for the bad luck Jordan. My info is a bit too late, but maybe it's worth mentioning in case someone else is researching the same issue.

Your alt's demise sounds exactly like what happened to mine about 3 months ago -- charging warning & smoke from hood. I did not take mine to a dealership, though, mostly because I was being cheap. But I had the same problems as the independent workshop -- it simply wouldn't turn over. After putting a jump pack on it (foolishly, a couple times), however, I realized the problem had nothing do with the battery or starter. In my case, and probably yours as well, unless you took the serpentine off, it probably wasn't going to turn over -- the alt had completely seized and added too much resistance for the starter to turn it. (Keep in mind the pulley has a freewheel clutch, so it should spin freely one way but the other way should catch and turn the armature.) And while I stupidly tried a bunch of times with the same results, I didn't fry anything, so I think you should really collect the original starter for testing from the dealership before they toss it, if you haven't already.

I couldn't find an alt at any recyclers that weren't insanely priced anywhere near me in Detroit (only found one ~150 miles away, but $900 for a junkyard alternator??? no thanks). In a bit of irony, I found one on for less than a third of that with free shipping, so anyone hunting for one should leave no stone unturned. In fact, get your original alt back, too, and get it rebuilt. It's a Valeo -- the rebuild parts (including those bearings) have to be fairly common.

Finally, for anyone doing this alt replacement themselves, you can find everything you need to know about fixing your vehicle by purchasing the reference from You can download the whole thing pretty quickly and it's invaluable, in my humble opinion.

- N
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All the feedback is much appreciated. Below is, word for word, the report typed out on the VW invoice that the mechanic put together:

COMPLAINT: cust states vehicle will no longer start. cust had diag done at local shop. alternator is seized.

CORRECTION: verified that alternator was seized, ordered new alternator installed alternator, reinstalled belt, went to start vehicle, would not turn over. tried connecting vehicle to scantool, could not communicate with scantool. from there I had to remove left seat and battery cover, than loosen both knobs, and join knobs together for half hour. after half hour I rejoined both knobs, tried to communicate with scantool, got connected to scantool checked for gffs found fault for starting motor being mechanical or electrically blocked. went to test plan followed test plan, told me to check fuses and relays were all ok. from there I ran a jumper wire from positive terminal to starter, got a clicking noise but would not turn over. vehicle will need a new starter, installed new starter, reinstalled alternator and belt. reinstalled battery cover. bolted lf seat, connected all connectors. tested operation of vehicle vehicle now starts without issue. charged battery, road test all ok after repair.

Maybe there are more details in the invoice that I missed on previous posts.. My initial post was unfortunately a bit delayed so I believe both the alternator and starter are no longer at the VW shop or available.

So if a starter was fried, it was most likely from using it while there's very little output from the battery? In that case, after driving it the few kilometers to the local VW shop, could the battery have been drained which led to damage on the starter from trying to start the car again after dropping it off at the shop, or even when I first started it after seeing the battery sign?
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