What is an alternator?
An alternator comes into play whenever your engine starts to run; bolted to your vehicle’s engine block, the alternator gets charged by a belt-driven pulley. Your vehicle’s battery stores electricity to help you start the engine, whereas it’s the alternator’s task to generate electricity for your battery, ignition system, and all other accessories in your car.
Almost all cars have an engine-driven means to recharge their battery. For many years, the generator performed this task, which produced DC (Direct Current) voltage. Back in the early 1960s, we replaced this generator with an AC alternator.
Nowadays, we use an updated version of the same alternator in our vehicles. The main benefit of using an alternator over a traditional DC generator is the greater output necessary for modern cars with their higher electricity demand.
With time, just like every other component, these alternators are also subject to engine heat, wear, and the outside environment. This will ultimately need you to either get your alternator repaired or replaced no matter how good you are at maintaining your vehicle.
Ideally, alternators offer a long lifespan, which is why they are never considered a preventative maintenance item that is automatically replaced at preset intervals. Nevertheless, climate, usage, and numerous outside influences can end up affecting its overall lifespan.
In this blog, our team will discuss all the various things that can cause your alternator to wear and how you can test if you need to get it checked. Our experts from Express Auto & Tires will tell you if your alternator needs to be replaced or if it can be repaired.
Five signs that suggest you need a new alternator
- Your vehicle has difficulty starting.
- Your battery keeps dying.
- Your vehicle has dimmed accessory lights.
- You hear whining or grinding noise.
- You can smell burnt rubber.
Now we will explore in detail all these five common signs of a dying alternator that you, as a driver, can easily detect.
Since your car often won’t start when the alternator is faulty, it can be easily confused with a dying starter or battery. You may not notice all these symptoms, but you will ideally see at least two or even three of these telltale signs.
Difficulty starting your car
If your vehicle is having a problem starting up as it keeps turning before starting, the chances are that it’s your alternator that is wearing out. In this case, your voltage regulator is likely malfunctioning, or a few of your brushes are unable to reach the coil where they are supposed to.
Dimmed light accessory
If you start your car and notice that the dome light, the dash lights, headlights, or/and the radio get a little dimmer when you try to start your vehicle, it could be a sign that your vehicle’s alternator is unable to handle all the load as efficiently as it used to.
Similarly, you may even notice your accessories dimming when you hit the accelerator or dim and brighten several times like they are slowly blinking.
if you notice that your vehicle’s battery keeps dying or if your car is unable to start every single time you try, it would be best if you got your alternator checked out by a professional from Express Auto & Tires. Even more so if you have already gotten your battery tested.
This may happen as a result of your alternator cannot recharge the battery, and it is critical to get this fixed. If your vehicle’s battery keeps draining and needs to be jump-started several times in a week, it could end up ruining your battery. If that happens, you will have both an alternator and a battery to replace, and sometimes the starter as well.
Smelling burnt rubber
Even though this is a common sign of having a faulty alternator, it is still less common than the other signs. If your alternator belt is unable to rotate on your pulleys freely, it can create friction, which can cause your belt to heat up.
If this happens and your belt gets hot enough, you will be able to smell burnt rubber. Reach out to your closest mechanic immediately to get this problem sorted out.
Whining or grinding noise
Grinding noises are usually caused by a dirty, broken, worn-out bearing. In comparison, a whining noise can be heard if the voltage regulator keeps telling the alternator to generate more electricity than it should.
Alternatively, it can also result from your battery being unable to send enough electricity to the alternator. So, if you hear a whining noise, it would be best if you double-check your car’s battery just in case.
Smell electrical burning?
Smelling what smells like electrical burning can also indicate that your belt is slipping and might need tightening.
Even though you won’t have to get your alternator changed, if tightening the belt doesn’t resolve your problem or ends up increasing the overall output of the alternator, then it’s time to visit a mechanic.
Suspect that your alternator has failed or is failing? Get in touch with Express Auto & Tires today!
Here at Express Auto & Tires, we have top-quality mechanics and high-end equipment to diagnose and repair any problem with your car’s electrical system. This includes:
- Voltage Regulator
- Driver Belt
- Ignition System
- Battery Cables & Terminals
- Neutral Safety Switch
Give us a call at 972-636-4903 or contact us online to schedule your appointment to have your alternator or electrical systems checked for safety and performance today! Serving all vehicle owners living in Irving, TX .