Every vehicle has a battery that helps to crank the engine up while powering the ignition and fuel pump at startup; after that, it is the alternator that starts to spin and provide power to your vehicle. This is the reason why you can often jump-start your car if the battery fails, allowing you to drive your vehicle to the nearest auto parts store to get a brand new one.
One of the most common issues with your alternator that could go wrong is undercharging. Nevertheless, an undercharging alternator can often be caught in the early stages, giving you some time to rectify the problem before it gets to the point of no return.
If you notice that your car’s headlights appear to be dim when the engine is idle and tends to get brighter when you rev it, it means that your alternator is not putting out enough power.
Overcharging is not an issue with your alternator itself but rather an issue with the voltage regulator, often built into the alternator. An overcharging alternator can end up killing your battery while boiling all the fluid out of it.
No charge at all
No charge may look like an undercharge, but even reviving the motor will not do anything if your alternator has no charge. It would help if you got in touch with a professional from Express Auto Care as quickly as possible since all modern cars can only run for a short while before the battery dies completely.
This category of alternator failure mainly involves wearing out and squealing bearings or seizing up in some extreme cases. Besides not correctly charging the battery, this can also result in overheating your vehicle.
Like all other rotating machines, the bearings in the alternator have a limited life and are eventually going to go bad. You can choose to minimize the chances of your bearing going bad prematurely but keeping the tensioner and the drive belt in proper working condition.
Nothing will kill your bearings quicker than a tight belt; however, a loose belt is not suitable for them either.
If your vehicle has a spring-loaded tensioner, you need to get it professionally inspected after 50 000 miles when you get your belt changed. If you drive an old car with a manual tensioner, you need to ensure that it is tight enough to match the specifications found on your driver’s manual.
If you notice that your battery fluid is leaking or can smell something acidic, it may result from your alternator overcharging. You can quickly check this by measuring the total voltage of the battery with your vehicle running. This voltage should not go anywhere above 15 volts, even with your engine revving.
Start by checking all the wires connected to your regulator and alternator to ensure they are correctly connected and do not have any damage.
If your vehicle uses a voltage regulator, either built into the alternator or separate, it is not expensive or difficult to change. If you have a car that uses an ECU to regulate the voltage, you may have to get in touch with a professional from Express Auto Care to get it looked after.
An alternator that does not put out a minimum of 13.8 volts needs a repair or even a replacement. Nevertheless, low output combined with a squealing noise suggests that you may have a slipping serpentine belt that needs to be put back in place.
If your belt seems to be in good condition, then a low output can be caused by your insulation breaking down or even worn brushes; either way, your unit needs to be taken out and torn apart for a thorough inspection.
Finally, if your alternator has no charge at all, there can be several issues. It is possible that your driver-belt has come off the pulley or broken, or the tensioner has gone bad.
Alternators put out an alternating current which goes through a voltage rectifier that converts it to direct current since that’s what your battery needs to charge. A faulty voltage regulator can end up stopping an alternator from charging.
A no-charge situation can mean an internal break in the windings, burned-out slip rings, or bad brushes. If the external wiring looks normal, the chances are that you have an issue inside the alternator itself.
The only thing that an average vehicle owner can do to keep their alternator functioning properly is to keep it clean and dry. Dirt and dust can get inside your vehicle’s alternator and cause wear on the brushes over time. If you feel like there is an issue with your alternator, it would be best to let professionals take a look.
Need a professional mechanic? Contact Express Auto Care today!