How to Change the Alternator on Saturn Cars

by Contributing Writer

Virtually all cars have alternators, which keep batteries charged and power a car's electrical features. Replacing the alternator on a Saturn car can be challenging, due to the location of the alternator within the Saturn car engine bay. A Saturn car alternator is located at the lower left passenger side of the engine block. In order to replace it, you'll have to jack up that corner of the Saturn car or drive the front two tires up maintenance ramps to gain access. Once the front passenger side of the Saturn car is up in the air, you will work under the car to pull out the old alternator and put in the new one.

Under The Hood:

 How to Change the Alternator on a Saturn

Disconnect the negative (black) cable from the car battery. Set it away someplace where it can't touch the negative terminal accidentally.

Raise the front end of the car and support it on jack stands, then remove the front wheel on the right side and the splash shield from the fenderwell.

Remove the air intake duct; this is necessary on some models with a four-cylinder engine. Disconnect the electrical connector for the temperature sensor and the PVC hose, then loosen the duct's hose clamp screws.

Remove the drivebelt by relieving its tension; the tool you need can vary with the model. On most four-cylinder engines, use a breaker bar on the tensioner hole and turn it counterclockwise. On V6 models, use a wrench on the tensioner's center bolt and turn it clockwise; then remove the drivebelt tensioner by removing its two bolts.

Pull out the mounting bolts for the alternator and disconnect its electrical connector. On some models, you must pull the alternator away from the engine block after unbolting it to reach the electrical connector. Install the new alternator on the block.

Replace all disconnected parts in reverse order of removal. Connect the wheel and lower the vehicle if needed.

Reconnect the negative battery cable. The Powertrain Control Module needs to relearn its drivability and performance characteristics. Start the engine, and let it reach normal operating temperature. Drive it at part-throttle and moderate acceleration until normal performance returns; then stop and apply the parking brake, and let the engine idle for two minutes.

Items you will need

  • Jack stands

  • Lug wrench

  • Socket wrench

  • Breaker bar

  • Alternator

 How to Replace an Alternator on a Saturn SL1

Replacing a Saturn SL1 alternator

Disconnect the battery by turning the positive terminal bolt counterclockwise. Lay the terminal wire aside. Do not allow it to touch the battery.

Jack the Saturn up at the passenger side wheel and remove the wheel by turning the lug nuts counterclockwise. Set the wheel and tire aside.

Remove the plastic inner fender shield by turning the screw counterclockwise, then pulling the plastic free from the pop rivets. Set the shield aside.

Disconnect the alternator's primary charge wire by reaching through the wheel well and turning the output post nut counterclockwise.

Press the tension pulley firmly to release the tension on the primary drive belt, then slide the belt off of the alternator's pulley wheel. The belt can be left hanging, as long as it does not lose its path through the other pulleys on the engine.

Unbolt the alternator from the mount by reaching into the engine compartment through the wheel well and turning the two mount bolts counterclockwise. Manipulate the alternator out of the engine compartment through the wheel well.

Reconnect the primary charge post nut, securing the output wire back onto the alternator.

Position a new alternator into the mount and secure it by turning its bolts clockwise. The alternator should be mounted firmly and not wiggle.

Replace the drive belt by pressing the tension pulley and sliding the belt back onto the alternator's pulley wheel.

Replace the fender skirt shield by pressing it back onto its clips or pop rivets, then turning its screws clockwise.

Replace the wheel, tighten the lug nuts and lower the car from the jack.

Reconnect the battery's positive terminal by turning the bolt clockwise onto the battery.

Items you will need

  • Socket set

  • Floor jack

  • Lug wrench

  • Screwdrivers

 How to Replace the Alternator in a Saturn Ion

Determine which alternator your Saturn Ion will need. You'll want to be sure the new alternator is compatible with your Ion's engine. This model is available with a 2.0 L LSJ supercharged, 2.2 L l61 and 2.4 L LE514 engine.

Disconnect the negative battery cable with a socket wrench. Disconnect the air duct for the throttle body if you have a 2.2 L engine. Remove the accessory drive belt and supercharger, if present. Unfasten the retainer nut for the terminal and disconnect the electrical connections to the alternator.

Remove the mounting bolts on the alternator with a socket wrench and take the alternator off the vehicle.

Install the new alternator assembly and tighten the mounting bolts with a torque wrench to 18 foot pounds for a 2.0 L engine and 15 foot pounds for a 2.2 L engine. Connect the electrical wiring to the alternator and torque the battery terminal nut for the alternator to 15 foot pounds. Install the supercharger if you removed it.

Install the accessory drive belt and restore it to the proper tension. Reconnect the air duct for the throttle body if you have a 2.2 L engine and the negative battery cable with a socket wrench.

Items you will need

  • New alternator

  • Socket wrench set

  • Torque wrench

 How to Replace the Alternator in a Saturn VUE

Determine which alternator your Saturn Vue will need. You'll want to be sure the new alternator is compatible with your Vue's engine. Models made before 2008 may have a 2.2 L L61, 2.4 L BAS hybrid, 3.0 L L81 or 3.5 L L66 engine. Starting with 2008, models may have a 2.4 L LE5, 3.5 L LZ4 and 3.6 L LY7 engine.

Disconnect the negative battery cable with a socket wrench and remove the air duct for the throttle body if you have a 2.2 L engine. Take off the accessory drive belt and its tensioner. Disconnect the electrical connector from the alternator.

Take the mounting bolts off of the alternator with a socket wrench and remove the alternator assembly. You will need to remove the engine mount through bolt and raise the engine for clearance if you have a 3.5 L engine.

Install the new alternator assembly and tighten the mounting bolts to 26 ft. lbs. with a torque wrench for most models. Torque the mounting bolts to 33 foot pounds if you have a 3.5 L engine.

Lower the engine and torque the mount through bolt to 81 foot pounds if you have a 3.5 L engine. Connect the electrical connectors to the alternator. Install the accessory drive belt and restore it to the proper tension. Attach the air duct for the throttle body if you have a 2.2 L engine and connect the negative battery cable with a socket wrench.

Items you will need

  • New alternator

  • Socket wrench set

  • Torque wrench

 Replacing an Alternator on a 2000 Saturn SL

Park the Saturn on a level work surface and apply the emergency brake. Open the front hood to expose the engine. Detach the negative wire from the battery terminal using an adjustable wrench to cut off all electric to the vehicle. Lodge the wire to the side so it won't come in contact with any exposed metal.

Locate the passenger-side front lift point on the SL, behind the front passenger wheel where you will place the maintenance jack. Loosen the SL's front passenger-side wheel's lug nuts, but don't remove them. Then jack up the Saturn slightly to get the wheel off the ground.

Remove the four lug nuts and wheel. Remove the two plastic shields located at the back of the wheel well by using a slotted screwdriver to pop off the fasteners, and expose the lower engine block and alternator.

Locate the serpentine belt tensioner to the right of the alternator and secure a 15mm box wrench to the center bolt. Pull the box wrench to the left, releasing the tension on the serpentine belt. Slide the serpentine belt off the tensioner pulley and release the box end wrench so the tensioner falls back into place.

Slide the serpentine belt off the alternator pulley, which is located at the lower left corner of the engine. Remove the bolt that secures the plastic shield to the alternator with a ratchet and 10mm socket. Slide the plastic shield out to expose the alternator mounting bolts and wire connections.

Unplug the electrical harness from the alternator. Remove the nut located on the back of the alternator and detach the positive wire that leads to the battery. Loosen and remove the two mounting bolts that secure the alternator to the engine block, using a ratchet and 13mm socket.

Manipulate the alternator to remove it from under the car. Slide in the replacement alternator and attach the positive battery wire to the back of it, securing it with the nut you removed earlier. Align the alternator mounting holes and thread in the bolts that secure the alternator to the engine block. Tighten the bolts with a ratchet equipped with a 13mm socket. Attach the electrical harness.

Replace the plastic covering that protects the alternator and secure it with the 10mm bolt. Slide the serpentine belt over the new alternator pulley. Secure the 15mm box wrench to the serpentine tensioner pulley and pull to the left. Slide the serpentine belt over the tensioner pulley. Release the wrench to apply tension to the serpentine belt.

Thoroughly inspect the serpentine belt to make sure it is correctly placed over the pulley system. Replace the plastic covers inside the wheel well and secure the wheel back onto the hub with the four lug nuts. Attach the negative wire to the battery terminal and secure it in place using an adjustable wrench.

Items you will need

  • Adjustable wrench

  • Maintenance jack or ramps

  • Tire iron

  • Slotted screwdriver

  • 15mm box wrench

  • Ratchet

  • 10mm socket

  • 13mm socket

  • New or rebuilt alternator