September 16, 2020

Experts recommend to change your car alternator when you see these signs

Most of us think that the battery powers the electrics in our car, but that’s not the case really. The battery provides electricity needed for the starter motor to start the car. When the car is running, the alternator is the component that generates energy to feed the electrical system and charge the battery.

Q. So what exactly is an Alternator and what does it do?

The alternator is a component located in the engine itself and plays the critical role of providing power to the battery. It keeps the battery continuously charged and the car’s electrical and computer systems up and running. Bolted to an engine block and powered by a belt-driven pulley, an alternator is in motion whenever the engine is running. Essentially, a vehicle’s battery is tasked with storing electricity to start the engine, while the alternator’s job is to produce electrical power for the battery, ignition system, and other electrical components.

Alternators typically have a long lifespan; hence they are not considered a preventative maintenance item that is automatically replaced at preset intervals. However, usage, climate, and other outside influences can affect their lifespan. In this article, we’ll discuss things that cause alternator wear, how to recognize symptoms of a failing alternator, and how to confirm if replacement is necessary.

Signs of a failing alternator:

1. Warning Indicator:

This is often the first indicator that the alternator is going bad. The vehicle’s charging system will show an issue as the battery-shaped warning light comes on your dashboard. If this light doesn’t come on, the “CHARGE” icon could also come on while you’re driving. This warning light typically comes on when you turn the ignition, but it should turn off as soon as the engine has started fully. The charging system warning light doesn’t point directly to a failed alternator, although alternator problems are very common. Your auto mechanic will need to do further testing to pinpoint the defective part.

2. Flickering Headlights:

Dimming or flickering headlights is one of the early signs that your alternator is starting to malfunction. If you notice that as you increase or decrease the speed of your engine that your headlights will grow brighter and dimmer, this is a red flag. An alternator that is in good working condition will maintain bright headlights no matter what speed you are traveling.

Lights that are dim across the dashboard are also indications of a problem. Both flickering and dimming are strong indications that your alternator is no longer capable of generating adequate power. 

3. Strange Sounds:

An alternator with malfunctioning parts will make an audible growling noise as it spins. Open the hood and listen closely near the alternator with the engine running. If one of these parts starts to work ineffectively or breaks off, you may hear some unusual sounds. If you’re hearing a grinding/rattling sound in your car, this could indicate that the bearings in the alternator may be worn-out. Your car can also make a whining sound when the voltage regulator is sending signals to the alternator to charge more than is necessary. If you hear any type of whining or grinding sound that’s a good indication that your alternator needs to be checked by a professional auto mechanic.

4. Strange Odour:

Some of the more obvious indications that you should have it checked is a burning rubber type smell. Yeah, that’s another possibility, thanks to the rubber belt that keeps the alternator going, as well as the rubber sheaths on the wires that connect everything in your electrical system. A pulley that isn’t in alignment or not turning freely will cause more friction on the belt, which creates heat and then the smell of burning rubber. Sometimes it could smell like an electrical fire which is an indication that a belt is slipping and may need to be tightened. In the event that tightening the belt does not resolve the smell or increase your alternator output then it is time to visit a mechanic. 

Additional Read – Car repair quotes – fair or not?

5. Dead Battery:

The alternator is responsible for recharging your car’s battery. Car batteries can (and do) fail on their own. However, a bad alternator can cause your car battery to drain and not be recharged. Although it is normal for a car battery to die at the termination of its life cycle, if yours is a brand new one and has died, then your alternator could be the issue. If you find yourself jumpstarting your car frequently or your battery dies, be sure to have your alternator checked. 

6. Difficulty Starting:

Your car battery requires an electric spark to start which is provided by the alternator. If the alternator is not recharging the battery properly, the battery won’t be strong enough to confidently and smoothly turn on the car. If you’re stalling even after the car has been running, the spark plugs might not be getting enough power from the alternator to keep the engine going. In other words, your battery isn’t dead yet, but it’s well on its way. This is an important sign to get your alternator checked out before you actually get stranded.

7. Electrical Problems:

Are your power windows operating slower than usual? Is the stereo swallowing CDs or did the power sunroof get stuck open? Like we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the alternator is responsible for providing power to your car’s different electronics. Things like power windows and power seats might start operating at a slower speed than normal or stop working altogether. A dying alternator may also cause your car’s radio and internal lighting to stop working.

Most of us think that the battery powers the electrics in our car, but that’s not the case really. The battery provides electricity needed for the starter motor to start the car. When the car is running, the alternator is the component that generates energy to feed the electrical system and charge the battery.

Remember that even a good, well-cared-for alternator can have issues. It’s important to keep a watch for any red flags as well as make routine auto maintenance a habit and have your trusted local technician ensure your vehicle is safe.


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