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I've recently done many, many repairs to my RAV4, and I am running up against a wall trying to figure out what is going on. Replaced: both cv axles, struts, shocks, front and rear brake shoes, rear drums, alignment, and now the alternator. I got the labor done at a very reasonable cost of $400.

Problem: When the AC is on the drive feels "funny". It feels as if I am kind of in 2nd gear, like there is a tug or dulling going on in the feel. Nothing dramatic, but it feels different. Maybe nothing is actually wrong? Maybe when I got the alignment done it just drives better and I am not used to the drag caused by AC being on? Also, maybe I just never paid attention before? Both seem implausible, but possible. I definitely feel a different drive when the AC is on compared to when it is off. When I turn the AC off the drive is normal again.

Possible cause: A little while ago I overfilled the AC with refrigerant - just a tad into the "red zone" of the recommendations on the valve. I know. Big no no. The AC button flashed a few times and the AC went off. I quickly discharged some of the fluid when I found out how a few hours later and the AC popped back on as if nothing had happened. Alternator was continuing to work, belt is moving etc.

Solution, that did not work: Went to autozone- the guy hooked up a meter to the battery and promptly told me that my battery was at 40%, and the cause is likely the alternator, and he did a test on that too and said it was only outputting 13.1 and it should be outputting 14. I said, is that bad? He looked confused and said yes it is. I bought a reman alternator and had a guy pop it in. Luckily my battery was still under warranty and costco replaced it at no charge. Went back to Autozone to get it tested- SAME PROBLEM. 13.1 output and still driving like it was kinda in 2nd gear with the AC on.

The guy at autozone told me I probably had a defective alternator! Ok, great. He proceeds to throw a new alternator off the shelf into a testing machine they have. Believe it or not, the machine reads - DEFECTIVE. He does it twice and is befuddled. I have possibly run in to two defective alternators, and ended up going to another autozone to get one that passed the inspection. Why aren't all of their products inspected? Wth?

I just purchased another alternator - and the backyard mechanic who did the initial install is going to do me a courtesy and replace it again. Once that is done I will take it to firestone to get a reading done to see that everything is working alright. A second guy at autozone told me that my battery terminals are connected loosely - and he gave me metal cap to place on to tighten it since further tightening with a wrench didn't do the trick. The store closed before he had a chance to do a second reading once I tightened the terminal; but he also told me that the fuses on the positive terminal connector could be bad, and I should check those as a possible problem. Does this sound plausible???

Does anyone have any idea what this could be? I was terrified that it could be the compressor. I sure hope not. I sure hope hope hope not.
 

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Are there any dashboard lights on after engine is started? When engine is on try to hit gently alternator with wrench and test the voltage if it will up to 14V check brushes and replace them
 
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