You may not know it, but your car battery does not create electricity. It only stores energy. In fact, the only things your battery is responsible for is starting the car and powering electrical accessories when the engine isn’t running.
The alternator is the primary source of electricity for your car once it’s up and running. Its primary function is to charge the battery and relay electricity to the spark plugs. It’s what powers all of your cars electrical components once the engine is running. It does this by converted AC (alternating current) power into DC (direct current) power, which can be used throughout the car.
An issue with your alternator can spell disaster for your vehicle. That’s why it’s important to be able to recognize the warning signs.
Symptoms of a Bad Alternator
- Stalling. Engine stalling or cutting while driving may be a sign of problems. The fuel injection process requires electricity, and if there are issues with your alternator they can impede this process.
- Dash light. Your service engine light coming on is the simplest way to recognize there is an issue. It will illuminate on the dash as “Check Engine” or “ALT”, depending on the model.
- Weird sounds. Squealing sounds coming from under the hood could be an issue with the serpentine belt, which spins around the alternator. When it wears out and stops spinning effectively it can lead to poor change. Lower, grinding sounds could be a sign of a worn our internal bearing.
- Other lights. Flickering or dimmed lights are another common sign. This goes not only for headlights, but for internal lights on the dash as well. An easy way to test this is to increase speed quickly while taking note of the RPM meter. If the lights brighten up as the RPMs increase then there is a likely alternator issue.
- A dead battery. If you just put a brand-new battery in and your car isn’t starting, it could be an issue with the alternator. Since the alternator is responsible for changing the battery, a faulting one means that the battery can’t charge. This means that the car will use all of the energy stored in the battery until it is depleted.
Mileage is another important thing to consider when trying to understanding whether or not you need a new alternator. Alternators last between 60,000 to 150,000 miles. This range depends on a variety of factors such as the year your car was made, with newer cars on the higher end of that spectrum.
Still not sure what’s causing your car’s issues? Come to Beetlesmith Valley Auto Service. Our friendly, trained technicians will help diagnose your car and provide solutions. Request an appointment here today!
For more great information on how alternators work, check out this “Stuff You Should Know” article.