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How to Replace the Alternator in Volkswagen Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Although the battery supplies the necessary power to start the engine, it is the alternator which then takes over and powers the vehicle. Due to the unusual design of the Volkswagen car engine, replacing the alternator requires steps not normally associated with most engines. However, replacing the alternator is still relatively straightforward and typically takes about one hour.

Under The Hood:

 How to Replace the Alternator in a VW Jetta

Determine which alternator your VW Jetta needs. Be sure the new alternator is compatible with your Jetta's engine. Models made from 1980 to 1984 have 1.6 L or 1.7 L engines. Models built from 1985 to 1990 had a 1.8 L engine, and models made from 1991 to 1998 may be equipped with a 1.6 L, 1.8 L, 2.0 L or 2.8 L engine.

Look at recent models of the VW Jetta. Models manufactured from 1999 to 2004 have 1.4 L, 1.6 L, 1.8 L, 2.0 L or 2.8 L engines. The current version debuted in 2005 and may have any of the following engines: 1.4 L TSI, 1.6 L FSI, 2.0 L FSI, 2.0 L TFSI or 2.5 L.

Disconnect the negative battery cable with a socket wrench. Label the wires, if necessary, and remove the electrical wiring from the alternator.

Reduce the belt tension so you can remove the drive belt from the alternator. If you have a 2.5 L engine, you will then remove the mounting bolts with a socket wrench. Otherwise, use a socket wrench to remove the adjustment bolt and then the pivot bolts for the alternator. This allows you to carefully detach the alternator from its bracket.

Install the new alternator assembly on the bracket. Install the upper mounting bolt on 2.5 L engines with a socket wrench. Otherwise, fasten the pivot bolt and loosely install the adjustment bolt. Place the drive belt on its pulley and adjust the tension. Tighten the bolts.

Connect the electrical wiring as indicated by your labels and connect the negative battery cable with a socket wrench.

Items you will need

  • New alternator

  • Socket wrench set

 How to Replace the Alternator in a VW Beetle

Determine which alternator your VW Beetle will need. You'll want to be sure the new alternator is compatible with your Beetle's engine. The latest generation of the VW Beetle debuted in 1998 and comes in a variety of gasoline engines that include 1.4 L, 1.6 L, 1.8 L (normal and turbocharged), 2.0 L, 2.5 L and 3.2 L sizes. A 1.9 L diesel option is also available.

Disconnect the negative battery cable with a socket wrench. Remove the electrical wiring from the alternator. It may be helpful to label the wires as you do so.

Release the belt tension and remove the drive belt from the alternator pulley. Remove the mounting bolts with a socket wrench if you have a 2.5 L engine. Otherwise, remove the adjustment bolt followed by the pivot bolts for the alternator. This will allow you to carefully detach the alternator from its bracket.

Install the new alternator assembly on the bracket. Fasten the upper mounting bolt loosely if you have a 2.5 L engine. Otherwise, fasten the pivot bolt with a socket wrench and loosely install the adjustment bolt. Place the drive belt on its pulley and adjust the tension. Tighten all the bolts as required.

Connect the electrical wiring to the alternator and attach the negative battery cable with a socket wrench.

Items you will need

  • New alternator

  • Socket wrench set

 How to Replace the Alternator in a VW Passat

Determine which alternator your VW Passat needs. Be sure the new alternator is compatible with your Passat's engine. Models made before 1982 are equipped with a 1.3 L, 1.4 L, 1.6 L or 1.5 L diesel engine.

Look at later models of the VW Passat. Models built from 1982 to 1987 may have a 1.3 L, 1.5 L, 1.6 L, 1.8 L, 1.9 L, 2.0 L and 2.2 L gasoline engines in addition to 1.5 L, 1.6 L and 1.8 L diesel engines. Engine choices for 1988 to 1993 models include 1.6 L, 1.8 L, 1.9 L, 2.0 L and 2.8 L sizes.

Examine engines for recent models of the VW Passat. Models made from 1994 to 1997 have 1.6 L, 1.8 L, 2.0 L, 2.8 L and 2.9 L gasoline engines and a 1.9 L diesel engine. Models built from 1996 to 2000 also offer a 2.3 L gasoline engine and 2.5 L diesel engine. The 2.9 L engine was replaced with a 4.0 L engine for 2001 to 2004 models.

Look at the engines for the VW Passat made after 2005. These models may have a 1.4 L, 1.6 L, 1.8 L, 2.0 L, 3.2 L and 3.6 L engine. This model is also available with a 1.9 L and 2.0 L diesel engine.

Disconnect the negative battery cable with a socket wrench. Label the wires, if necessary, and remove the electrical wiring from the alternator.

Release the belt tension so you can remove the drive belt from the alternator. Remove the mounting bolts with a socket wrench if you have a 2.5 L engine. Otherwise, use a socket wrench to remove the adjustment bolt and then the pivot bolts for the alternator. This allows you to carefully detach the alternator from its bracket.

Install the new alternator assembly on the bracket. Install the upper mounting bolt on 2.5 L engines with a socket wrench. Otherwise, fasten the pivot bolt and loosely install the adjustment bolt. Place the drive belt on its pulley and adjust the tension. Tighten all the bolts as required.

Connect the electrical wiring as indicated by your labels and connect the negative battery cable with a socket wrench.

Items you will need

  • New alternator

  • Socket wrench set

 How to Change an Alternator in a 1974 VW Beetle

Removing the Alternator

Remove the battery cables to prevent an inadvertent electrical shock.

Remove the air cleaner housing's retaining bolt with a wrench, then lift the assembly off the carburetor.

Remove the carburetor's retaining bolts with a wrench, then lift the carburetor off the engine.

Record the location of each of the wires which attach to the alternator, then pull each wire off the alternator.

Remove the large nut on the face of the alternator's pulley with a socket wrench to expose the shims.

Slide each metal shim off the face of the alternator pulley, then pull the pulley off the alternator to release the alternator belt.

Remove the bolts that secure the bottom of the fan shroud housing to the top of the engine with a wrench.

Remove the bolt securing the alternator's metal mounting strap against the alternator with a wrench, then pull the strap off the alternator. The bolt is located on the passenger's side of the strap.

Remove the four bolts that surround the metal plate attached to the back of the alternator. Note that the two bolts at the bottom of the plate can only be accessed by lifting upward on the fan shroud housing.

Slide the alternator away from the engine until the fan blades at the back of the alternator clear the fan shroud.

Installing the Alternator

Slide the fan blades at the back of the alternator into the front of the fan shroud assembly until the alternator rests on top of its pedestal.

Install and tighten the four bolts that surround the metal plate attached to the back of the alternator, using a wrench.

Position the alternator's metal mounting strap around the alternator, then tighten the strap's securing bolt with a wrench.

Install and tighten the bolts that secure the bottom of the fan shroud housing to the top of the engine, using a wrench.

Insert the alternator's belt into the groove within the alternator's pulley, then position the pulley onto the front of the alternator.

Position the metal shims onto the face of the pulley, then tighten the pulley's single mounting nut with a socket wrench.

Plug each of the alternator's wires into their respective positions on the alternator.

Position the carburetor onto the engine, then install and tighten each of the carburetor's retaining bolts with a wrench.

Position the air cleaner housing onto the top of the carburetor, then install and tighten the housing's retaining bolt with a wrench.

Attach the battery cables to the battery.

Items you will need

  • Wrench

  • Socket wrench

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

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