By: Adam Fertig. 10/2003
If you have a early model Toyota 4Runner or pickup (same parts work for 3vze and 5vze) and the charge and brake lights on the dash light up at the same time, there is a good chance that your alternator will soon need replacement. This is exactly what happened to me. The brake light first came on for a day or two. I checked all of the brake components and could find no problems. Then all of the sudden the charge light and brake light lit up at the same time. This was puzzling since the battery read 13 volts while running. After a few days I encountered a major problem. On my way home from work, the CD player quit working, and my dash lights went dim. I looked at the volt meter in the dash, which was at the half way point. I began to put the turn signal on to get into the other lane, and the voltage dropped below half. Next the motor cut out, and the headlights went dim. This was a sure sign of a bad alternator. Had the battery been the culprit, the problem would not have been likely surface while the vehicle was running.
Fortunately there is a low cost alternative to a new alternator. All that is likely to be needed is a new set of alternator brushes for $10-$20! You can find these brushes at most major auto parts stores, or directly from the dealer using part number 27370-35060. The part from Toyota is a complete brush set, including the bracket that holds the brushes. The parts store piece consists of only the two metal brushes, with a long wire attached to each. The brushes have copper leads attached to them that runs though the middle of a spring, and then goes out the back of the brush holder, and is soldered in place. The Toyota part requires no soldering, as it is a drop in unit. The parts store piece requires removing the old brushes, routing the copper wire though the spring and out the back of the holder, and soldering it back into place. Save yourself the trouble and order the Toyota part as soon as your charge light comes on. Retail is $23 for the genuine Toyota part and $9 for the parts store piece.