The alternator is a critical component of your car's electrical system. It replenishes the battery after starting your car and provides electricity to other components while the car is running. Like other parts, alternators can wear down and need replacement. Usually, it shows signs and symptoms before a complete failure. Here are some key warning signs and how to fix them.
Signs of a failing alternator
Since one of the jobs that an alternator does is to keep the battery charged, the first sign may be that your battery seems to be dying or dead. A simple test that a home mechanic can do is to use a voltmeter to determine whether or not the battery is charging when the car is running. Check the battery's voltage with the car turned off. A good battery should then read just over 12 volts. When the car is started, the voltage should drop for a second then immediately climb to about 13-15 volts. Other signs of impending failure may include:
A glowing battery or alternator dashboard warning light
Dim headlights that brighten when the car is accelerated
Strange behavior in the dashboard components
Strange smells, such as a burning rubber smell
A loud whine coming from the front of the car even when idling
Reasons why an alternator will fail
Usually when an alternator fails, it's due to wear and tear. The brushes and diodes burn out with frequent use. A loose or broken belt can also cause an alternator to stop working. Loose or worn ground connections can reduce the effectiveness of the alternator. Loose wires and connections to and from the battery can also cause problems. A bad battery can make it difficult for an alternator to push through a charge and cause poor performance.
Fixing an alternator problem
If you have done visual checks and have ruled out a bad battery, ground or belt, you may want to take it to auto repair shop, like Gwizz Auto Group, for more precise diagnosis. If the cause is due to a bad alternator, the best choice is to replace it. Rebuilding an alternator can be time consuming and take some expertise depending on the brand or type. Most shops can completely replace an alternator is a short amount of time for most vehicles.
Alternator and charging system problems aren't anything that should be ignored. If you suspect an alternator problem, take your car into an auto repair shop for further testing and diagnosis.