Hey Chris==Make sure the belt is tight. If it is, it can be problems inside. GoodluckJoe
Yes, a loose battery cable will prevent the alternator from charging the battery. The drain on the battery is not caused by the engine not running unless an accessory is left on. Most likely, the drain is caused by accessories (radio, lights, etc) while the engine is running due to the battery not receiving its charge from the alternator and then not having enough charge left to start the engine.
A quick way to check alternator on any vehicle is while engine is running,carefully touch a screwdriver to the spinning part (armature) of the alternator. If it is magnatized, it is charging. If not then alternator is not charging. The voltage regulator (the thingy that tell the alternator to charge) is built into the alternator. Replace the whole thing with a rebuilt unit.
your alternator charges the battery while the car is running. The alternator actually puts out a higher voltage than 14 volts while it is running, but it is reduced by a voltage regulator (most of which are already built into the alternator housing), to prevent damage and premature death of the vehicles battery. While your car is not running, the alternator is not charging the battery, and the 13.5 volt reading you get is just the measurement of the voltage the battery is holding at that given point.
Check the gauges, if the car is equipped with them. If you have a volt/amp gauge, it will read the alternator output for you. Turn on the blower fan for the AC or Heater, the headlamps, and any other accessories that put a strain on the alternator, and watch the gauge to see if it decreases voltage or amperage. As a rule, if the voltmeter is higher when the engine is running then when the engine is not, you can confidently assume that the alternator is charging. Check it at the battery with the engine running. It will show at least 13.5 volts if the alternator is good. If these values decrease when you turn on electrical accessories, the alternator may be weak. Listen to the alternator while the engine is running. If there is a problem with the bearings you may hear a squealing sound coming from the front of the car, which becomes louder with more electrical accessories using power at the same time. Feel the alternator after the engine has run a few minutes and you turn the engine off. If it is very hot, you may have wear to the bearings or the insulation on the copper windings may be breaking down, an indication the part may fail soon. To actually measure the charging current on a cheap modern digital volt meter: Set meter to most accurate voltage range, with the engine off measure the voltage between chassis and chassis connection at the battery, this should be nearly 0 volts, now turn the headlights on, the headflights will draw about 10 Amps and the volts drop across battery earth to chassis will show about 50 millivolts dependent on the resistance of the earth strap. Remember 50mV is proportional to 10 Amps. Turn the headlights off and start the engine, the meter will show the charging current and this will be in the opposite polarity as the current will flow in the opposite (charging) direction. for example if the meter shows 100mV the alternator will be charging at 20A. turn the headlights on and you will see the charging current to the battery reduce as half the alternator current goes into the lights.
best way to tell if the alternator is charging is to unhook the battery with the engine running, if it shuts off then you know you have a bad alternator, i wouldn't recommend this with newer vehicles due to the fact you could hurt the computer but an 89 i wouldn't worry about that so much, good luck!
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