Dodge Caliber, Caravan Alternator Noise – Cheaper Fix…

2:22 pm Alternator, DIY, Dodge Caravan, Drivetrain and Noises


© Summary: DenLors car Auto repair article covering a common problem with Dodge Caliber and Caravan alternators causing a loud noise – may sound similar to a diesel engine. A video with sound is in this article demonstrating the noise that could be heard. Premature alternator failure or de-coupler clutch pulley gone bad? Read on to learn about the possibility of a less expensive solution when the knocking noise is coming from the alternator area.

Caliber 2

A mechanics stethoscope can usually be used to help pinpoint under-hood noises.

Pinpointing the noise can be done with the help of an inexpensive mechanics stethoscope. Careful though because the noise may sound like it’s coming from an idler pulley or belt tensioner that is located near the alternator. Many of the “close by” pulleys have been replaced by very experienced auto techs, without getting rid of the knocking! The noise transfers from the alternator through the mounting bracket and is very misleading. Removing the serpentine belt and briefly starting the engine is the next step to help diagnose where the noise is coming from. Check to see if the noise is gone with the serpentine belt off and the engine running. If it’s gone, then it is reasonable to say the cause of the noise is coming from an accessory and not behind the timing cover. With the engine OFF and the belt removed, try spinning all the pulleys including the alternator – this is normally the best way to feel for roughness. Keep in mind, the alternator on this car has a freewheeling clutch type pulley (also called an OAD – Overrunning Alternator Decoupler pulley) which may NOT feel rough. (See our related article at the end of this car repair article for more specific information on this type of pulley and how to trouble shoot.) Because of the design, an alternator that uses the OAD type pulley cannot be checked as easily as a conventional solid pulley type alternator. This is because of the design of the decoupler clutch. In many cases the alternator may be perfectly fine and the problem could be with a faulty freewheeling clutch pulley. Most shops will not gamble on the decoupler pulley alone fixing the problem! It’s much easier for the repair shop to replace the alternator assembly with a new clutch pulley already installed. This is where the less expensive FIX might be gained. There’s a good chance (on cars with 60,000 miles or less) that replacing just the de-coupler alternator pulley will fix the car and save hundreds of dollars. The key point is knowing how to check the pulley. There is also a chance that the alternator may need to be replaced if there is a NO CHARGE condition present (meaning the alternator is not charging properly). The gamble may be worth it for some, to try replacing just the pulley first and see if the noise goes away. Learn how to check the pulley by reading the article in the related link below the video. At the time of this article we have learned from a local Chrysler dealer that 7 to 800 alternators are needed in North America every week to keep up with demand for Calibers, Caravans and Town-N-Country’s. I have to wonder how many of these just need the decoupler pulley!

Removing the Alternator

On the Dodge Caliber, removing the alternator requires taking off the A/C compressor for access. The AC does NOT need to be discharged to move the compressor out of the way for changing the alternator. *Caution, do NOT remove the AC hoses without. The AC system is under pressure.  ALLData has good diagrams for Caliber models showing how the compressor should be positioned to allow for alternator removal and replacement. A single car subscription is available for ALLDatal DIY that can provide this access. Also there is a specialty tool needed to change these type of pulleys. See the related links below for more information on this. The Calvan 750 Kit covers ALL alternator types in production, not just the one in this article.

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Related Automotive Repair Articles and Tools

Overrunning Alternator Decoupler – Clutch Type Alternator

Calvan Tools Alternator Pulley Kit


57 Responses
  1. ED :

    Date: January 10, 2011 @ 1:12 pm


  2. Jeremy :

    Date: September 10, 2011 @ 11:59 pm

    If I do not have to discharge the system on a dodge caliber, can i disconnect the two hoses without worry?

  3. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: September 11, 2011 @ 7:27 am

    Jeremy, the compressor can be moved without disconnecting the hoses at all – no need to disconnect the AC hoses. Releasing refrigerant into the air is illegal and harmful to the environment. Even if you think there is no refrigerant in the system, it may have some. That’s why the only safe way is to recover the refrigerant with an AC RRR (Recovery, Recycle, Recharge) Machine. But again, if all you’re doing is the alternator (or pulley), I would leave the AC hose connected as the article says to do. Good Luck.

  4. Ron C :

    Date: September 16, 2011 @ 10:33 am

    Is it possible to change the alternator without the INA pulley kit for just R&R?

  5. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: September 16, 2011 @ 11:59 am

    Ron, if you get a new alternator that comes with a pulley sure. The article is showing that a lot of alternators are being replaced needlessly. In many cases it’s just the clutch pulley that is faulty.

  6. Hodge :

    Date: October 1, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

    I know absolutely nothing about cars, and taking my Caliber to the mechanics is scary. Especially when they bring me an estimate over $500.00 for a new alternator. My car has been making this diesel engine noise for over a month, and it still starts just fine, the lights are not dimmed, stereo isn’t turning off and I have never had a dead battery. So This tells me my alternator is still charging my car. So why do I need a new alternator? Thank you so much for showing that most repair shops are doing the easy expensive repair. When all I need is a De-coupler clutch pulley.

  7. Gerardo :

    Date: October 13, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

    My car just started making this noise that you describe. It is a 2007 Dodge Caliber with 79350 miles on it. I don’t think the alternator is faulty but from your article I gather its the pulley. Having such high miles is it worth it to just change the alternator since I will already have it off. I don’t want to spend the money but don’t want to have to do it all over again in six months when the alternator goes bad.

  8. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: October 13, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

    Gerardo, it’s a judgement call. If you plan on keeping the vehicle and have extra money lying around, you may want to replace the assembly (alternator and clutch pulley). If money is tight and you have more time than money or may not keep the vehicle, you may want to replace just the part that is bad at this moment. Good Luck.

  9. Justin :

    Date: November 6, 2011 @ 8:41 am

    A mechanic charged $200 to replace the pulley but the noise remained (that ‘diesel’ noise others described). I’m going in to replace the alt assembly myself now.

  10. Manny :

    Date: November 11, 2011 @ 11:44 am

    2008 Jeep Compass 2.4 CVT
    When on Drive and stopped, there is slight-moderate vibration with noise
    too; when driving and/or in neutral vibration and noise is gone. Replaced all the pulleys except alternator, timing chain; did not replace the shorter chain. NOISE and Vibration are still there(when in Drive and stopped).

  11. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: November 11, 2011 @ 11:55 am

    Manny, it’s really hard to diagnose without being there. But you may want to check out our article on vibration causes. It could be many different things; I would check motor mounts for starters. Good Luck.

  12. Timothy :

    Date: December 11, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

    My 2007 dodge caliber started making the same noise a month or two ago. I Looked under the hood and it sounds to me like it is the alternator as well or the pulley. The car does seem to be running sluggish since the noise started. Sometimes when I am stopped at a stop light, It seems to idle down a little and a couple of times I thought it was going to die on me.It also shakes a little when it does that. If i put it into neutral it seems to run better at stop signs and lights but the noise is still there most of the time.The noise has stopped a couple of times for a short period of time but starts back up. It doesnt seem to dim the lights or anything but just runs a little rough. Would the alternator do that if it wasnt sending the correct voltage or such?
    I checked the local store and the Alternator is 220.00 but I should come with the pulley attached, right? also, will it eventually sieze up on me and break the belt? It is our only transportation for a short while.
    any info would be handy. thanks

  13. Timothy :

    Date: December 11, 2011 @ 5:56 pm

    So, from what i have read so far. if i do the repair for myself and replace the entire alternator and pulley, I dont have to pull off the hoses on the ac unit?
    How difficult is the replacement and how long do you think it would take?



  14. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: December 11, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

    Timothy, go to the local parts store and have the charging system checked. While you’re there ask them if the pulley comes on the replacement they are selling. As far as the flucuation in idle – could be from other things or could be completely normal.Good Luck.

  15. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: December 11, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

    Timothy, that’s right. The time it takes varies upon the experience of the person doing the job. Good Luck.

  16. Carolyn Smith :

    Date: January 13, 2012 @ 7:37 pm


    I’m Carolyn Smith and have a 2007 Dodge Caliber and have that loud noise that was demonstrated in the video. I’ve had 3 mechanics diagonos my car and only 1 mentioned the pully being bad, everyone else said that it’s the alternater. Do you have an estimate of what it may cost and can it be done with having to replace the alternater. I don’t have any problems with my lights or radio or anything that the alternator is used for.

    You no they like to tell woman anything they think the will fall for.

    Please respond at your earliest convenience.


  17. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 14, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    Carolyn, the pulley that made the noise on the Caliber in the video was the “free wheeling clutch pulley”. It’s a common mistake to replace the idler pulley which is right next to the alternator. Be sure that the one mechanic that said something about a pulley is replacing the one that is making the noise. The labor is around two to three hours multiplied by the shop rate which varies. The parts prices can be checked separately. However, most shops will not install customer supplied parts. The labor “charge” is about the same regardless of, if you are having the alternator replaced or just the “free wheeling clutch pulley” which is attached to the alternator. As far as mechanics (remember I was one for 25 years) telling women anything they think they will fall for… I’d rather not paint them all with the same broad brush. See my article that goes more in depth on how shops determine repair amounts. Click the image below for that article.

  18. Marlon Castro :

    Date: January 16, 2012 @ 2:28 am

    I have the same noise going on on my Dodge Avenger 2010,it just started about 2-3 day ago. I just want to know how much is this gonna run me up to, with that being said I would need to save up some money, and I would like to know how long can I run with that sound before it completly breaks. Also how long would it take for them to replace the pulley or the whole alternator, I really cant be without a car for too long.

    Thank you,

  19. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 16, 2012 @ 6:33 am

    Marlon, I’ve known of people driving with the noise for several weeks.You could call your regular repair shop and get an estimate of the cost for parts and labor. This repair should be done in less than one day as long as the shop has the tools to change the alternator clutch pulley. The tool kit below is a complete set that can change the clutch type pulleys on ALL alternators in production today, click the image for details.

  20. machell :

    Date: January 24, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

    Will engine light come on if pulley is faulty?

  21. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 25, 2012 @ 6:20 am

    Machell, the engine light will NOT come on due to a mechanical problem alone.

  22. veronica :

    Date: February 16, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

    Is it safe to drive when your pulley is bad and for how long?

  23. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: February 17, 2012 @ 6:36 am

    Veronica, like I said before I’ve heard of people driving with the noise for several weeks. It can be dangerous to put this off because of a possible engine compartment fire. If the excess friction creates heat and maybe a spark, I could see a possible fire if you also had an oil leak in combination. Good Luck.

  24. tommy :

    Date: March 6, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

    what tools are needed to do all this? plz inform me thanks

  25. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: March 6, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

    Tommy, regular hand tools and the clutch type pulley tools (like linked above in picture) a couple of comments up. Good Luck.

  26. tommy :

    Date: March 6, 2012 @ 10:48 pm

    i am replacing the alternator, i did it the expensive way… :(

  27. tommy :

    Date: March 6, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

    i need tips on removing it.

  28. tommy :

    Date: March 6, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

    i heard its a tight fit so before i dig in i need some tips on this one.

  29. Paula :

    Date: May 5, 2012 @ 2:03 am

    Hi, I ordered a new clutch pulley and just recieved it yesterday. Now waiting to find out a step by step way of removing the old one and replacing the new one. I have a 2007 Dodge Caliber and its been making this noise for the last month and a half and has gotten so bad now I wont drive it until its fixed. I hate to pay an arm and a leg to have a mechanic install it and have chosen to have my son try to do it. Ive heard its kinda tricky to take the alternator out, but havent heard if the entire alternator needs to be removed to replace the pulley??? Im going to see about renting the tool to remove pulley, as I would hate to have to also buy a tool that I will never use again. My question is, could anyone tell me how to do this, step by step, does the entire alternator have to be removed to do this, and is it possible for a amateur to install(my son is 18 and does know a little about autos. ha!) Much appreciation in advance. :)

  30. Caleb :

    Date: June 22, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

    Same thing happened to my 07 dodge had the loud noise for about a month then one day on my way home broke down, I live in Australia and a new alternator from the dealer is $980 plus fitting it is $200. I’ve ordered one on eBay from the US for $200 hopefully it all goes well

  31. Jake A :

    Date: August 29, 2012 @ 11:17 pm

    My 08 dodge caliber sxt started makin the noise described by everyone else and we payed it no mind for a couple months. Finally we took it to autozone and had them check the computer to see if it could tell us whats wrong. They said nothing was wrong. We got down the street and at a stoplight, it started trippin outta and all the lights started flashing then it completed died with no power at all. We took the battery to get it checked and they said we needed a new battery altogether. I put the new battery in and it worked jus fine for about an hour. The battery warning light in the dash stayed lit the whole time. Finally on the way home it tripped out again and died the same way. When we tried to jump it, it wouldnt stay charged whatsoever. The only time it stays on now is when another car’s jumper cables are connected to the battery. should I jus get another alternater altogether or should I take other actions? Your help is deeply appreciated. Also where can I go to get step by step instructions to safely remove the alternater myself?

  32. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: August 30, 2012 @ 6:34 am

    Jake, The alternator is not charging. I would replace the alternator and pulley assembly in your case since it’s noisy and not charging. It depends on your mechanical skills, if it would make sense to change the alternator yourself or not. Refer to our car repair manual page (linked at the top of the page) to obtain an on-line subscription for details on step by step instructions for this and other jobs for your particular vehicle. Good Luck.

  33. Jake A :

    Date: September 7, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

    well we changed the alternator out and put a new one in as well as a new batttery. and its still actin like it did when it killed the last battery and havin the lightning bolt light and the check engine light. what do u think it is?

  34. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: September 7, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

    Jake, I would check the fuses. The old alternator may have caused a blown fuse. If fuses are good check to make sure there’s power to the alternator. It’s also possible that you have a defective alternator but check fuses and power to it before jumping to conclusions. Good Luck.

  35. Jake A :

    Date: September 7, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

    how do i check if the fuse is blown? sorry if thats a dumb question

  36. Jake A :

    Date: September 7, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

    and exactly which fuses should i check?

  37. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: September 7, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    I would use a test light and check them all – refer to your owner’s manual for the fuse location. Good Luck.

  38. Jake A :

    Date: September 9, 2012 @ 11:03 pm

    All the fues r good. A mechanic told me he thinks that my starter is the reason the power isn’t gettin too the alternator. Is that possible? Somethin bout a cillanoid*

  39. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: September 10, 2012 @ 6:18 am

    Jake, if the starter solenoid is bad there may not be power going to the starter – this has nothing to do with power going to the alternator. If I were you I would let the mechanic do electrical testing to verify power to the alternator and go from there. Good Luck.

  40. myron :

    Date: September 11, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

    My alternator is making the same noise u referred too, called around to the parts stores some have the decoupler pulley I also asked for the clutch pulley, am I asking for the wrong thing?

  41. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: September 11, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

    The decoupler pulley and clutch pulley are the same thing. Good Luck.

  42. Alex :

    Date: November 21, 2012 @ 3:46 am

    This has help me so much.I was ready to trade my car in.I have had this issue for a month now.Will try to take the car in today thanks!!!!!

  43. Michelle :

    Date: January 9, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

    Had alternator replaced..”bearing” going..diesel noise..then car wouldn’t start at lunch time the next day. They say now STARTER? How can a starter and alternator go on a car 5 years old with 74k miles?? Dodge Caliber 07

  44. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 10, 2013 @ 6:59 am

    Michelle, weird coincidence however, it’s possible. If the battery was fully charged and power supplied properly to the starter and it doesn’t turn, it’s got to be bad. Situations like this is precisely why having a regular mechanic that you trust is so important. If you trust the mechanic (or shop) and something breaks, you can comfortably blame the car not the shop.

  45. Chi :

    Date: May 9, 2013 @ 11:49 am


    If I buy a new/refurbished alternator, should I still replace the decoupler pulley on it?

  46. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: May 9, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

    Not if it comes with a pulley.

  47. Becca J :

    Date: September 7, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

    I heard this same sound in my 07 caliber starting a week ago. My brother happened to be in town and took a look under the hood (he is no mechanic but has done his fare share of work on cars) and he noticed grease all over one of the pulleys on the serpentine belt. His guess was a cracked bearing and the grease the result. Then I found this article and was happy to go to a mechanic with an idea and some vocabulary to boot. I was set to go to a mechanic tomorrow and got in my car this morning when low and behold it won’t start! The lights all came on and as the car was trying to start they all flickered and began to die :( from other articles I have read in addition to this one, can I be pretty certain I have an alternator problem? I was so sure it was going to be just a the pulley since before today I had no issues with a/c, radio, lights or anything like that…let me know what you think! Thank you!

  48. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: September 7, 2014 @ 5:25 pm

    Becca, it’s possible the battery just failed. Batteries fail at about two years old in many cases. They can charge the battery and load test it to see if it’s bad. The shop can also do a test to see if there’s a parasitic draw. More than a 1/2 amp is too much of a power draw, which could kill the battery and could mean the alternator is at fault. Good Luck.

  49. Becca J :

    Date: September 10, 2014 @ 9:12 am

    Thanks for your help! I went to the auto parts store and they tested the alternator and battery, turns out its just the battery and the alternator is fine! Yay! That saves me a couple hundred $$. I still have that ticking/rattling and grease on the pulley indicative of a cracked bearing. I will replace that pulley and the belt and see if the problem is fixed. Thanks!

  50. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: September 10, 2014 @ 9:39 am

    Your welcome. Yes, the grease could mean that the bearing is failing and causing excess heat which could make a seal leak allowing the grease out.

  51. Justin :

    Date: September 11, 2014 @ 5:14 pm

    Thank you for all of the info, Dennis. It’s sounding like it’s the alternator as well on my ’07 Caliber.

  52. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: September 11, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

    Justin thanks for the comment. Good Luck.

  53. Annie :

    Date: June 19, 2015 @ 10:24 pm

    Hi, I’ve been hearing this noise for a few weeks now took it to jiffy lube he told me it may be decoupler so when I took it to Firestone and Michaels tire plus I told them what he said and they kinda jus blew me off Michaels tire told me it was tensions belt for sure $230 well came to pick it up still same noise the didn’t charge me and gave me the parts free and free labor but no fix :/ I’m taking it to best one auto tomorrow how do I tell them I think it may be this without being rude? My car runs great other than this noise?

  54. Annie :

    Date: June 19, 2015 @ 10:26 pm

    Oh and I should add my car is 2008 dodge caliber automatic not clutch does that matter?

  55. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: June 20, 2015 @ 7:39 am

    The clutch on the alternator has nothing to do with the fact that your car has an automatic transmission. I’d tell them that the noise was misdiagnosed before and that you found a video with the same type of car and noise. If you have a smart phone, play a bit of the short video. They may already be familiar with the problem. If not, they will be after your visit. Good Luck.

  56. Annie :

    Date: June 20, 2015 @ 10:25 am

    The place today said they would have to replace the whole alternater and it would be $400 is that a high Price?

  57. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: June 20, 2015 @ 3:27 pm

    Not bad for the whole assembly, but if the alternator is still charging why not replace the decoupler pulley for a lower cost? They may not have the knowledge or tools. But it’s simple really. Good Luck.

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