2011 Sienna Alternator Removal – Mistakes were made - Toyota Sienna Forum - siennachat.com
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-17-2017, 10:30 AM Thread Starter
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Exclamation 2011 Sienna Alternator Removal – Mistakes were made

Hello dear Sienna community!
1st time Sienna owner here, bought mine used with 120k miles about 3 weeks ago. I can say after only 3 weeks of driving it I absolutely love this van! It had always had some issues starting up, and after a volt check I found out that both the battery and alternator needed replacing. Before owning a Sienna, I've owned GM cars (mostly) – Olds Silhouette, Intrigue, Pontiac Bonneville, Chevy Lumina, Saturn Vue... I've replaced alternator/battery on all of them at some point, so I thought "Piece O' Cake, I'll have it done in an hour or so!". After all, my record for alternator replacement was 15 minutes with the Bonneville – and most of that was spent monkeying with the tensioner.

Well, 4 hours pass and I still hadn't wiggled the bad alternator free. This is when I should have just gone to bed, got my energy back, and came back the next day with fresh eyes... Instead, I took my failure as a reflection of my character and just got frustrated instead – mistake 1. I eventually got all of the mounting hardware and wiring off and just started coercing it to my determined will. What I failed to notice was a section of wiring harness that was sneakily clipped to a bracket attached to the alternator – a bracket I removed from the engine block side instead of the alternator side. You can probably see where this is going.

My will overcame the alternator, but ripped out the wiring heading in the direction of the AC & Water Pump area in the process. Yep.

Good news is, if there is any, there are only two wires pulled so I could feasibly re-solder and insulate without too much hassle. Bad news is, they are pulled out at a pretty crappy spot. Attached are photos.

My question to this community is this: On a scale from 1 – Engine Rebuild, How completely screwed am I?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-19-2017, 06:30 PM
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Re: 2011 Sienna Alternator Removal – Mistakes were made

Sorry for your troubles. I wish I were able to comment on a possible fix. Since nobody has jumped in, I thought I might, even if all I can offer is sympathy.

I do find that cars are harder to work on then they once were. I could probably swap an alternator on my '95 Dodge Neon in 5 minutes. I got so that I could have the head off that car in less than 30 minutes... Japanese cars were packaged differently. I remember thinking my 1990 Mazda Protege was designed to come apart. Remove the correct bolt and the entire car would auto-disassemble. Some cars are like that, though. They were designed with the mechanic (home mechanic, even) in mind. (Both the Neon and Protege were SCCA Showroom Stock C race cars.)

I have basically stopped working on cars, however, as 1) I am older and tired-er and don't want to be hunched over an engine bay any longer than it takes to check the oil--that thrill is gone; and, 2) cars are packaged much more efficiently than they once were, meaning that my joints need to bend in ways God did not intend that I might work on modern cars. I might need to cut a notch in my forearm to get into a tight spot. At one time in my life I was willing to do that, but the way cars were constructed, I did not usually have to resort to those extremes. The engine compartments of today's cars are congested, and I yearn for those wide open spaces...before the under-hood equivalent of the Cray-1 Supercomputer and the gobs of attendant wiring were shoehorned in there with the I/C engine. Probably a small price to pay for the overall improvement in reliability and durability.

I wish you well with the repair. Tell us how it goes...

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-20-2017, 04:44 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 2011 Sienna Alternator Removal – Mistakes were made

Well Sienna fam, the van is back up and running. Boy has it been an eventful 48 hours...

So I suppose here is the best place to outline the whole process to those in a similar predicament:

First things first – go to techinfo.toyota.com and buy a two-day access ($15) to all documents related to your repair. If it's the alternator you're looking to replace, note that Toyota refers to it as a generator. Save as many pdfs from that site as possible, the diagrams are super accurate and their step-by-step instructions are actually pretty easy to understand!

Secondly, if you are going to change an alternator on your 3rd-gen (2011-2015) toyota Sienna, make peace with the fact that you are going to need to remove most of the front end. You cannot avoid it, cutting corners will cost you in this project. I know you've probably seen that 1.5 hour youtube video where the guy struggles the whole time and eventually gets it out with a ton of maneuvering, but his is a 2nd-gen Sienna and has a little bit more wiggle room in the front. You must remove your radiator/condenser/fan assembly in order to swap your alternator out. Luckily, there isn't much to removing the radiator in this model!

If you're reading this and wondering whether or not you should just bite the $1,000 bullet and take it in to a shop (roughly $400 parts if new battery is also needed, $600 labor), that last paragraph may have sealed the deal for you. If you're like me and know that you can hardly afford the parts alone after dishing out a ton of money for this van only weeks ago (dealer claimed they didn't know about alternator issue – even though it struggled to start AT THE DEALERSHIP and it was obvious someone in their service department monkeyed with both battery and alternator – and refused to work on it), fear not! You can do all of the necessary work to replace the alternator with basic tools. It's just going to be a bit time consuming. Which leads me to my next point.

TAKE YOUR TIME. Don't let yourself be frustrated. It isn't worth it. As soon as the f-bombs start flying around your garage, walk away and come back later. You'll wind up missing something critical and yanking out a wire that you didn't know was still connected.

• 10mm, 12mm, & 14mm size wrenches (I recommend ratcheting wrenches, MUCH easier in tight spaces)
• Flat Screwdriver for clamps
• Bent-nose pliers for hoses
• Jack & stands
• Tire iron
• Allen wrench to keep tensioner in place
• two gallons or so of coolant

WED – hard starting diagnosed as bad battery & alternator.
THUR – buy new battery, alt, and belt & prepare for a quick swap after kids go to sleep
FRI @ 2 a.m. – still unable to remove alternator from engine bay, became frustrated and accidentally ripped camshaft position sensor wire & ECM ground from engine block terminals. wept/died inside.
FRI @ noon – Posted dilemma here, did some light research, decided to buy TIS manuals from Toyota's tech site, realize I did everything wrong
SAT – bought necessary tools & equipment, set to work taking apart the front end (bumper, radiator, condenser, etc.). Took a bath in coolant & freon, Successfully removed alternator & AC Pump, retrieved splayed engine block terminals. Rejoiced.
SUN – taught myself to solder, successfully rejoined alt wires with terminals, installed new alt, new belt, re-installed AC Pump, radiator, condenser, front bumper assembly, passenger tire, battery, and refilled my fluids.

1.) Disconnect battery
2.) Lift van onto stands
3.) Remove front passenger tire
4.) Inside that wheel well, remove two bolts and one clip holding the access panel in place.
5.) Locate tensioner, loosen, hold in place using allen wrench (there’s a convenient little hole in the part that moves that corresponds with a little hole in the engine block)
6.) Remove plastic protectors under front end. While you’re at it, drain coolant from the radiator, disconnect oil cooler hoses (2 small ones), and lower coolant hose (1 large one).
7.) Discharge AC line. (Toyota has a procedure for this, though I just did it by accident and wound up smelling like Freon for two days)
8.) Remove air intake, metal bar, grille, and wire harness from the fan assembly.
9.) Remove Upper and Lower AC lines to condenser
10.) Disconnect horn & hood latch assembly, remove or loosen and push aside.
11.) Lift Radiator/condenser/fan assembly out and set aside
12.) Toyota recommends that you remove the bumper, however that step was entirely unnecessary in my experience.
13.) Disconnect the wiring components first, and make a huge mental note that there is a hidden clip with wiring attached BEHIND the bracket holding the alternator to the engine block
14.) Remove the three bolts holding the alternator in place. The two on the belt side are 14mm, the one connecting the bracket to the block is a 12.
15.) Remove the bracket from the old alternator and install it in the new one.

Reverse the steps and top off your radiator with 50/50 coolant.

There really isn’t a whole lot of info out there on this particular van, and I think that is because most ‘11–’15 Siennas are still under some sort of warrantee, and owners are still more apt to just take it in to a shop to get it done. It won’t be too long until these minivans will be passed along to kids, and by the time it gets to that stage, the cost/benefit of DIY may just tilt in it’s favor. When that day comes, at least this post may encourage some poor soul who feels over their head and down on their luck. There are a lot of steps, but it is possible!
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-20-2017, 10:55 PM
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Re: 2011 Sienna Alternator Removal – Mistakes were made

NICE JOB and write up!
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-21-2017, 03:41 AM
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Re: 2011 Sienna Alternator Removal – Mistakes were made

did the condenser really, really need to come out?? I would think the depth of the fans and radiator would have been plenty.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 09:23 AM Thread Starter
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Re: 2011 Sienna Alternator Removal – Mistakes were made

Originally Posted by 2014SiennaLE View Post
did the condenser really, really need to come out?? I would think the depth of the fans and radiator would have been plenty.
I agree that there would be plenty of room once the fans and radiator came out, so its possible you could get away with it. The condenser is only held in place via four bracket points to the radiator though, so you'd likely need to support it some other way after separating it from the radiator.

If you wind up trying it, let us know if it works!
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 10:09 AM
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Re: 2011 Sienna Alternator Removal – Mistakes were made

Wow, thanks for sharing. I have done quite a bit around cars and have not seen anything like this. Just hope my alternator last forever. the alternator in my 2004's lasted 181K miles until it got totaled.

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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 01:06 PM
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Re: 2011 Sienna Alternator Removal – Mistakes were made

Glad you got it back up and running. Extra thanks for posting the details of how to replace the alternator!
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 12:00 AM
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Re: 2011 Sienna Alternator Removal – Mistakes were made

I did this job on a 2nd Gen. I saw plenty of videos of guys swearing, one dude removed his bumper skin, etc...
It wasn't easy, but I did write up a method to remove the alternator without removal of the radiator, condenser, bumper, etc. on my 2007 model.

The trick was to loosen the upper radiator support (color matched sheet metal) and rock the radiator forward. This piece wasn't intended to be loosened as there are hidden bolts requiring a flat 10mm gear wrench. The removal of the alternator support bracket and such in just the right sequence, and I was there.
It was tight enough to believe that any slight change to design (3rd Gen) and that method may not work.

Sorry for your pain!

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