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Symptoms of a Bad Alternator: Tips on How to Spot These Problems

symptoms of a bad alternator

Credit: http://www.kangamotorsports.com/blog/2016/6/24/alternator-adjustment

Alternators work side by side with our vehicle’s battery. Likewise, it’s also connected to electrical components such as the voltage regulator. Of course, electrical wirings are also a part of the alternator’s duty in our car’s startup.

Learning how to spot symptoms of a bad alternator is crucial. Without this skill, you might be scratching your head on why your engine looks dead. Today, we’ll focus on finding these symptoms as well as fixing it. So stay tuned for more information!

The Alternator: Your car’s electrical distributor

Before we go on to list the steps on how to spot the symptoms, it’s important to know how it works first. Knowing the answer to the question: “what is an alternator?”, is vital for all car owners should be aware.

For starters, an alternator works around your vehicle’s electrical system.That’s because it’s responsible for distributing electricity throughout your vehicle’s components. You can sort of think of this as a mini generator inside the engine.

However, alternators don’t produce the electricity of your vehicle. It only distributes and regulates it. Going back to power, always remember that the battery is the one responsible for this. As unfortunate as it sounds, many car owners aren’t even aware of this!

That means that the alternator receives the electrical output of the battery. That is what an alternator does. So now you have an idea how bad this can get if the alternator is faulty. A bad alternator will render any battery useless.

Charging the battery

However, this is not where the alternator stops. It’s a two-way generator so that distribution part is only half of the work. The other task that an alternator does is to supply the charge back to the battery.

So why is there a need for the alternator to do this? Well, if you’re wondering why batteries last more than they should, this is the answer. Alternators prolong the lives of cells. Without it, you might be replacing the battery every month!

When doing this, the alternator charges merely the battery with the electrical output it receives. It brings it back to the cell, but before that, it passes through a voltage regulator. The voltage regulator can be taken literally by its name.

It’s the component responsible for regulating the amount of voltage that the battery receives. Thus, it’s a sort of device that prevents overcharging of the cell. These two functions practically sum up how an alternator should work should it not be faulty!

Spotting the Symptoms

Step 1: Assess the situation

Before anything else, it’s important to know whether your alternator is the one acting up. There can be cases where the symptoms that your car is experiencing can be because of a different component.

To do this, you’ll need a series of checks first that we will further discuss below. But before that, remember that the alternator works with electricity. This means that any misfires, backfires, rough idles, and more are not related to the alternator.

With that said, the main symptoms to look out for involving your vehicle’s battery, dashboard, and electrical devices.

Step 2: Examining the dashboard

examining the dashboard

Credit: http://www.motortrend.com/news/volkswagen-debuts-parking-finder-gesture-control-tech-at-2015-ces/

Your dashboard liters with so many signals that can quickly assess your car’s situation. That’s why it’s placed right in front of your vision, so you’d soon know if something is up.

Read more: https://automotiveward.com/check-engine-light-flashing/

Among all the lights to check, the indicator light is the most crucial when it comes to the alternator. Most probably, you have a view that has a titled of GEN or ALT. This indicator light is most often than not, the starting symptom of a bad alternator.

Step 3: Check if the battery’s lifespan is normal

battery lifespan

Credit: https://crsautomotive.com/11-must-know-dos-and-donts-for-your-car-battery/

The alternator charges the battery to prolong its lifespan. So if you’re noticing some fluctuations in your battery’s performance, then it might mean something. It’s always best to check if your battery is not dead. Or rather, it’s best to know if it’s getting drained quickly.

However, do remember that a faulty battery does not automatically mean a bad alternator!

Step 4: Check for components that rely on electricity

One of the best things about the alternator is that its impact occurs as soon as you can as you enter your car. Since it handles the distribution of electricity, failing electrical parts may mean a faulty alternator.

Check if your car’s windows are working fine. Check if the headlights, signal lights, and tail lights are all flawless. You can start doing an electrical check-up by checking if there are flickering lights. A faulty alternator can easily disrupt the performance of your views and dimmers.

Step 5: Start the engine for signs of rough stalling

The alternator is integral to getting your engine started. Remember, gas or diesel is just half of the story. The battery still needs to supply voltage to the ignition coil to get the spark plugs going. Thus, here comes the alternator that gets this job done efficiently.

If you start your engine, but it stalls, then most probably the culprit is just two. One is a faulty battery, and the other being the alternator. Or, it’s also safe to assume that it can be both since the two are connected.

Summing it Up

So now you’re aware of the top symptoms to look out for when it comes to a bad alternator. With this, you’ll soon be able to do the necessary steps in troubleshooting it. Of course, you can still call a mechanic if you’re in doubt.

The important take away here is to just be alert and observant towards your vehicle. An alternator is easy to spot, but there are other problems that are not. With that said, don’t be afraid to do a daily check up on your vehicle! It’ll make a world of difference!

Steven K. Galloway