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Discussion Starter #1
I have looked and looked but cannot find where someone has addressed this directly. Yesterday evening I got the dreaded power steering moan. Then the weird thing is my voltage gauge in the cab dropped and then fluctuated. My first guess is that the pulley on the water pump is going bad and not turning the alternator at the right rpm. No lights came on. My plan is to loosen the serpentine belt and turn the pulleys by hand. But my question is, this is a power steering problem right? I mean the dreaded moan when turning the car at low speeds is definitely an indicator. I normally wouldn't question it but then the voltage drop kind of had me wondering. Thanks for the help. Due to this website I feel like this won't be hard to swap out with a new one.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I'm honestly starting to think that 11 years was the intended lifespan for moving parts on this vehicle. Front axles, hubs, 2nd set of ties, 2nd set of shocks, front calipers, rear brakes all in the last year.
 

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Based on your description, it sounds like you may have a serpentine belt tension problem.

Have you removed & inspected the belt, and verified that the belt tensioner pivots freely and correctly tensions the belt?

Also check the fluid level in the power steering reservoir; sometimes groaning is caused by aerated fluid because of low fluid level in the reservoir, or an air leak in the suction side of the pump.

As for your question on 11-year reliability, how many miles are on the odometer, have you owned this vehicle since new, driven it conservatively, and performed all preventive maintenance by the book?

Also, is the suspension lifted, and are you running larger than stock tires?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the response. I am going to tear into it tonight but I didn't think to check the tension on the belt. It must have looked OK upon visual inspection yesterday as that hadn't even crossed my mind. I will check that before I take off the belt tonight. The tensioner has never been changed though I did change the idler pulleys 4 years ago after they got noisy. I replaced them with the Gates sealed set. The fluid level was right at the lower level when hot yesterday but right at it. Not sure of the tolerance there. I have performed all of the regular maintenance on this vehicle but I will admit that the power steering fluid has been grossly ignored. Maybe I let it go too long? The part that worried me the most was the drop in voltage in the system . Maybe it is a belt tension issue. Either way I have a power steering pump and new belt on the way. I could only hope its something like the belt tensioner though I hear they are not easy to change.
 

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The simultaneous PS pump noise and alternator voltage drop hint at a possible slipping belt.

However, unless your battery is dying or you are driving a large electrical load, a few seconds of belt slip shouldn’t result in an instantaneous drop in system voltage.

Is the PS pump noise continuous, or does it change intensity when you turn the steering wheel when the vehicle is stationary?

(The water pump pulley doesn’t supply the power to the belt and the rest of the belt-driven accessories, the crankshaft pulley does. The water pump pulley can’t really “go bad”, but the water pump bearings which support the pulley can fail, just like the idler pulleys can.)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I'm with you on the possibility of a slipping belt. The PS noise is most audible at low RPM and while turning the steering wheel. It'll be curious in a couple of hours when I get to dig around under the hood a bit. I put the PS pump and belt on order just because I figured it best to have them handy if that is the case. I'm going to spin each pulley separately and listen for rough sound and feel for tension in the spin, but only after checking the tension on the belt. Thanks for all of your help so far. I will post what I find.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
So no play in the belt tension. The belt looks OK. It was replaced between 100k and 115k. Now have 145k on the clock. SO the car starts with minimal issue. I jacked up the car and turned the steering right and left and could not repeat the sounds from yesterday. I decided to check the voltage of the battery while the car was on 11.4. Once turned off 10.6. My battery is the original and I know its on borrowed time. I'm wondering if my alternator might be my culprit here. Its mentioned in a few places where an alternator can growl or whine if its been in dirty dusty locations and mine has certainly seen its share of dirt and dust. No matter what I really think the voltages should be a lot higher than the readings I am getting. Might be time for a new alternator AND battery????
 

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11.4 and 10.6 are both NG, definitely time to change the long overdue battery (11 years is like 3x the life of any aftermarket one), and driving on a bad battery has caused some people to ruin their alternator (I'm not sure I understand how the one causes the other but multiple people have posted to that effect). Get the charging system checked by a reputable mechanic who can check everything over that you have been asking about, using diagnostic tools to confirm if belt, alternator, battery or what have you, is needed


N
 

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Depending on how much time the alternator has spent operating in a high-dust environment, and how frequently (if ever) it has been submerged in water, the only part of the Denso alternator that wears significantly is the brushes. If the bearings are good, you can usually get another 100K miles out of the OEM alternator by simply cleaning it thoroughly, inspecting the commutator slip rings for excessive wear, and just replacing the brush module, about $16 at your Toyota dealer.

If the alternator bearings are noisy or the slip rings are grooved, go for a replacement Denso alternator rebuilt by Denso (www.densoproducts.com, or Rock auto), rather than an "auto parts store rebuilt" unit, regardless of what type of warranty they may offer. Plenty of horror stories here about multiple failures of poorly-rebuilt alternators.

Pair the alternator with a new, premium AGM battery (Odyssey, etc.) and make sure the battery is fully charged BEFORE installing it.

Unfortunately you cannot find a replacement battery that will be as good as the OEM Panasonic battery was, but a premium AGM should give pretty good service.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'm going to try an Interstate battery as its specs are exactly like the OEM Panasonic. I run a small audio amp but other than that have little use for the AGM functionality. Otherwise I would go with a quality Odyssey or similar. We will see what happens. This has been a very weird scenario but I know the battery needs replaced so I may as well start with that and the alternator. There will be a new power steering pump at my house tomorrow so if it needs it I may swap that as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Update so that this thread isn't the question but no end result. I spent 3-4 hours last night pulling the OEM alternator out. It's filthy but overall the bearing turns just as easily as the new one. Other than the obscene stupidity of all the crap connected to this accessory the hardest part was the lower bolt. I highly recommend a 6 point 14 mm deep socket 1/2" with at least a 18-24" breaker bar here. I almost rounded the stupid thing off playing with a 12 point and extension to a much smaller breaker bar. A trip to Lowe's and I was set. Trying to wiggle it out was actually funny since there is no room to move it. I have not installed the new alternator yet as I was in no hurry due to new serpentine belt arriving today. I figure why not? Keep the old one as a spare since its in fair shape. The OEM battery sitting on the floor of the garage reads 12 volts with nothing hooked to it which is kind of odd. I still may end up with a new one as I know this one has seen better days. Hopefully I can put the whole thing back together tonight and tomorrow evening. Avengers comes out and I have priorities :)
 

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Discussion Starter #12
So new alternator and battery in. New serpentine belt added to the mix. Everything appears fine now. I will just chalk this up to additional things I learned about the FJ this week. Funny how I started off in one direction and ended up with something completely different.
 
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