As our cars get older, small problems can turn into expensive ones and while diagnosing problems isn’t always easy, getting a little help can prevent unneeded hassle. I’m sure we all have had a dead battery at some point, but there are also other issues with the charging system that the dead battery is a symptom rather than the issue. The car alternator is what keeps the electrical systems in the vehicle running and the battery charged. Pinpointing a charging system issue to the alternator can start with these 5 possible reasons.
- ALT or GEN light or a warning light shaped like a battery (get familiar with the meaning of your vehicle’s warning lights) If this lights up while you’re driving, find a safe spot to pull over as the car could shut off very quickly. Modern cars have so many electrical systems that they cannot continue to run on a low battery or when an alternator is putting out insufficient charge. Check all parts of the vehicle’s charging system. Sometimes the fix can be simply cleaning or securing a power or ground cable.
- Dimming, flickering or pulsating lights. If the lights dim when you press on the brake or turn on accessories, you may have a dead battery or bad alternator. Flickering or pulsating lights may be a symptom of a failed voltage regulator which on most cars is part of the alternator and cannot be replaced separately. Again, safely check the power and ground cables as well because these are the easiest and cheapest fix.
- Take a look. Check for cracked or broken belts and also make sure the alternator is not bathing in oil or coolant that can cause it to fail. There is value to keeping an engine clean and leak-free!
- Strange noises or smells. The car alternator is belt driven and if the belts are loose, cracked, or broken, the alternator will not charge. The belt runs the alternator off of a pulley and if the bearings fail in the pulley it will make more and more noise until it seizes. During this time there may be a smell of burnt rubber coming from the area.
- Dead battery. Often a dead battery is just that, an old battery or one run down a few many times. However, if the alternator is not charging the battery properly or overcharging, the battery will fail prematurely and it will seem like the battery needs replacement all the time.
How to Test an Alternator
Now how to check the alternator? Many auto repair stores will test the alternator if you bring it to them off the vehicle and some may be able to do simple charging system checks with the vehicle running. You yourself can use an OBD scanner, a battery/charging system tester, or multi-meter (mind the settings so it will work properly with the vehicle’s electrical system.) A car alternator output voltage should usually put out 13.8-14.4 volts of power; if yours is lower, say 13.2 volts, try revving the engine slightly and maintaining, for example, 2000 RPM to see if the output climbs. If output is too high, say over 15 volts, the voltage regulator may be failing and the alternator may put out enough voltage to damage sensitive vehicle systems.
After doing all these automotive checkups and you figure out that majority of these bad alternator indicators mentioned above are present, we urge not to wait, and instead get an alternator replacement immediately. Did you know that you don’t have to spend a ton of cash just to get a top-quality alternator replacement? Worry no more because Auto Parts Warehouse has you covered! Click this link to see our wide selection of alternator replacements at discounted prices: https://bit.ly/2tvjPFc