Does Ford Transit Have A Smart Alternator? (Explained!)

Ford Transit is the number 1 van in America, an affordable and efficient option for cargo, passengers, or even a camper van.  

It is helpful to know what exactly is inside a Ford Transit if you are planning to buy one or if you already have it and want to get to know your van in detail. 

This article answers the question “Does Ford Transit Have A Smart Alternator?” Let’s get started… 

Does Ford Transit Have A Smart Alternator?

Since 2014, Ford Transit has, from fabric, a smart/intelligent ECU Controlled Alternator. It is a relatively new technology, mandatory to comply with environmental regulations of the US Tier 3 program to control the emissions of light-duty new vehicles. The equivalent program of the Euro 5 (Europe).

For older models, you will find a normal classic alternator with a fixed voltage.

These classic alternators are slowly disappearing from the market as the emissions programs become tighter. 

What Is A Smart Alternator?

The alternator supplies the electrical power to the vehicle needed to run.

Also called “regenerative braking”, a smart alternator uses wasted kinetic energy (from braking and deceleration) to convert into useful energy and store it in the starter battery to use again during acceleration.

This reduces the time when the alternator loads the main engine and therefore lowers emissions. 

Differences Between Smart Alternator And Classic Alternator

The smart alternator controls the output voltage depending on the operating conditions to reduce the electrical load and make an automatic load.

When the engine starts, the alternator raises the system voltage to reach the target.

In acceleration, the voltage becomes lower and, in deceleration or braking, the “leftover” energy (kinetic energy) will be converted into useful energy.

The traditional fixed voltage alternator is becoming less common. They have a higher voltage to be able to charge the battery in the vehicle.

When the engine starts, the alternator raises the system voltage and will aim to hold it and to recover it when the battery starts to make consumption. 

How Do I Know If A Have A Smart Alternator? 

The Ford Transit brings a dual battery system under the driver’s seat (diesel version), or one battery in the gasoline options, and a “small box” attached to a battery terminal.

This small box is the smart alternator shunt. 

Another way of discovering this will be by running a voltage test with an experienced mechanic. 

How Do You Test A Smart Alternator?

The traditional alternator can be tested with a multimeter to check the number of volts.

Although this method is still used with smart alternators, the results may not be so reliable. 

A professional oscilloscope is needed to read the alternator output and the signals from the ECU and it will give a more certain result.

What Does ECU Controlled Alternator Mean?

Electronic Control Unit, meaning, the alternator is controlled electronically and monitors the electric load.

The ECU can control the injection timing to control the emissions, adjust the output voltage, and even turn off the alternator. 

What Is The US Tier 3 (Euro 5) Program?

Tier 3 is the US emissions program made to reduce the impact of motor vehicles on air quality.

Is the equivalent of the programs Euro 5 and Euro 6 implemented in the European Union. They come as an evolution of Tier 2 and Euro 4 programs, respectively. 

The goal of the program is to make the emissions control system and fuel standards more effective to reduce air pollution. 

The vehicle and the fuel must be considered as an integrated system making “cleaner” what comes out of the vehicle by putting “cleaner” into the vehicle. 

The smart alternator was also introduced in this program to lower emissions and improve miles per gallon. 

Why Does Ford Transit Have Two Batteries?

Not all Ford Transits have two batteries.

A single 12-volt battery comes standard on gasoline models, being dual batteries optional. Diesel models come standard with dual 12-volt batteries. And why is this?

The two batteries in the diesel models are for higher cranking amps because a diesel engine requires higher resistance to start.

These two batteries are wired in parallel, meaning, the connection increases the rating but the voltage is the same.

You have more energy to use but it doesn’t increase the amount you use at once. 

Since the batteries are wired in parallel and not separate, they operate together and they can go flat together. One of them doesn’t work as the house battery. 

Jump-Starting The Parallel Dual Battery System Of A Ford Transit

You can make the traditional connection with any of the batteries, either battery will work. But you need a good battery that delivers the correct voltage (12 volts).

As mentioned before: “You have more energy to use but it doesn’t increase the amount you use at once.”

Meaning, even though you have two batteries of 12 volts each, you only need another vehicle with 12 volts, and not with 24 volts. 

Delivering too much voltage can overheat and burn out components and delivering insufficient voltage will not work at all.

Symptoms Of A Failing Smart Alternator

If your Ford Transit is experiencing one of the following symptoms, it might mean a failing alternator: 

  • The indicator light is on in the dashboard.
  • The headlights are flickering.
  • There are electrical failures such as car radio, air conditioning, windows, locks, and dashboard lights.
  • The van stalls or has difficulty in starting.
  • The battery suddenly goes flat.
  • Electrical or rubber burning smell.

What Is The Cost Of A Smart Alternator For The Ford Transit? 

The average cost of work is between $ 100 $ to $ 200. 

And the average cost of the part is between $ 450 and $ 800. 

Giving a total cost between $ 550 and $ 1000. 

Always consult an expert to run proper tests. An alternator should run without problems between 100.000 and 150.000 miles. 

Even when is showing failing symptoms, it can be a small problem, and not the alternator itself.

For example, a very common problem is with the wiring of the three-pin plug in the alternator, meant to send and receive signals and measure the battery voltage.