If you’ve ever had car problems, you may have heard someone say, “It could be a problem with the alternator.” If you’re not a car guru, you most likely don’t know what an alternator is or what that means. You might just nod and agree to pay ridiculous prices to have it fixed. It is essential to understand what an alternator does and what you should look out for to determine if something is wrong with the alternator.
What is an alternator?
The alternator generates the electric power in your vehicle and is a major component of the charging system. The alternator’s job is to charge the battery and supply additional electric power for the electrical systems when the engine is running. The alternator is driven by a belt (serpentine belt) and is connected to the engine.
Alternators don’t require maintenance and last for about 8-12 years without any repairs. If the alternator fails, the car can still run on the battery power, but only for a short amount of time. As soon as the battery dies, the charge is completely gone. It can be very expensive to replace the alternator, but many times it can be repaired.
Common Alternator Problems
Since the alternator is part of the electrical system, if the lights look dim, there is a large chance it is due to the alternator. One of the alternator’s main duties is to provide power to operate the starter, ignition, and all of the electronic accessories in your car. You may notice the lights in your headlights or dashboard beginning to dim if the alternator is dying or malfunctioning. Sometimes, other electronic accessories like power windows or power seats may operate slowly as a result of a bad alternator.
When the battery light comes on, it is one of the most obvious and common signs of a problem with the alternator. If you have a newer car, the light may say ALT, for alternator, or GEN, for generator.
When the computer detects a system voltage that has fallen below a certain requirement, it will alert the light to turn on. If the problem is not the alternator, it is probably one of its internal components. The light usually means that computer has detected that the alternator has failed and can’t keep up with the electrical requirements.
The battery light could also mean that there is a very limited life left on the battery. The battery should be able to keep you going for a very short period of time, so find the nearest shop that can help you replace your battery. Once the battery dies, the care will shut off and will need service or a jump.
3.Weak or Dead Battery
Car batteries don’t last forever. Even though alternators are good at replenishing the battery, it can only recharge it to a certain extent. The alternator can’t bring a battery back to life once it has died.
To determine if the problem is in the battery or the alternator, charge the battery and restart the car. If the car continues to run and the lights begin to dim, it is pointing to a problem with the charging system and most likely means that the battery is either weak or dead. If the battery is charged and the car is having trouble starting, the problem is most likely with the alternator.
An alternator is involved with a system of belts. If one of the belts is not turning freely, the frictions will heat up the belt and produce a smell of burnt rubber. If you smell something similar to an electrical fire, it could be a sign that the belt is slipping on the alternator pulley and is causing poor alternator output. Sometimes, the belt just needs to be tightened to fix it. However, if tightening the belt does not fix the smell and alternator output, you should have your alternator evaluated by a professional.
Contact Sergeant Clutch Discount Transmission & Automotive Repair Shop
Any problems with the alternator can quickly turn into problems with starting and running the vehicle, which opens up the possibility of being stranded on the road. If you are worried your car may have a problem with the alternator, visit Sergeant Clutch Discount Transmission & Automotive Repair Shop.
We proudly serve the San Antonio and surrounding areas. It shouldn’t have to be expensive to ensure your safety on the road. We offer discounts for seniors, students, and military. Plus, we offer a free towing and shuttle service. If you can’t make it to us, we will make our way to you. Give us a call at (210) 239-1600, and let us help keep you safely and economically on the road