Tom's Baja Bug

VW Beetle Repair
and Photos



FAQ 53

Question: For my 16th birthday I have inherited a 1968 volkswagen beetle. From the first time I turned it on a light on the dash has light up. It kept me guessing for a little while until the car died, at which time I knew it was the generator. Please don't laugh. My family is not mechanically inclined at all and I was hoping to possibly pick up cars as a hobby. I would like to replace and install the generator myself rather than pay $250 to take it into a shop and fix it. A trusty retailer in my area has offered to sell me the generator and regulator for $90 together. Though everywhere I look I am meeting with confusion. I don't even know the key differences between a generator and and alternator or what the advantages or disadvantages each holds. Any help, guidance or direction you could offer to me would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: First a little safety tip: disconnect the NEGATIVE battery terminal before starting any electrical repairs.

You need John Muir's book "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive". It has step by step instructions for most common VW repairs. He doesn't cover converting to an alternator, but he does talk about the charging system.

See my review at:

Get the book, and I think you'll be fine.

Does that alternator come with instructions?

Also, see my FAQ about alternator hookup. Not much there, but if the wire match, it's a pretty easy connection.


Alternators use alternating current which can be generated more efficiently. They change the AC to DC with large diodes. Since they are more efficient, they provide power better at idle. Since they are AC, they don't have brushes so they last longer.

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