Your Alternator: Crucial Signs You Need to Replace It

All things are impermanent, and this is especially the case for our car parts. The alternator is a key component of your vehicle that keeps it running. There will be warning signs you should look out for when this starts happening to it, and we’ve laid them out in this article for you.

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Alternator

How an Alternator Works

Alternators are not very complex mechanical components. They provide power to the battery and charge it continuously and the electrical system and computers. Their primary role is to keep the electrical system running in place of the battery. The battery’s job is to start the vehicle. The alternator usually lasts about seven years or 100,000 to 150,000 miles. There are some mechanics who say that they typically see them last about 80,000 miles, though. There are some factors that affect how much it lasts, like the quality of the car and how many electronics are being used in the vehicle.

Signs Your Alternator May Be Failing

So how do you know when your alternator is failing? If you identify them in time, you can have the car checked by a mechanic. This will save you from being stranded on the road. If you see the headlights pulsating at night, this is one of the first signs to look out for. You should keep in mind that if you’re charging several electronics at the same time, your alternator might stop working. Some other signs include an acrid smell coming from it or the battery, the alternator warning light, or other warning lights turning on. A faulty alternator may also cause your radio or other electrical components to work on and off, or perhaps cause a strange noise in your engine. If you ignore your car stalling, eventually it won’t start at all. A bad alternator also might cause your battery to drain because it’s failing to recharge it. If it stops working, make sure to have your alternator checked when replacing the battery. Low voltage output is also a potential sign. There aren’t many other signs that indicate a faulty one that don’t require a more detailed diagnostic tool.

Alternator Maintenance

There are several tips that can prevent your alternator from failing early. Just starting your vehicle the wrong way or installing an accessory inside that overloads it can do it. Fluid leaks in it or a tight belt can also cause damage. When it goes bad, the electronics try to draw their power off the battery, and that causes the battery to fail as well. This is why the alternator is usually the problem, not the battery.
If you happen to see the battery light on, you must get it addressed. If the headlights are dimming, make sure to run a charging system test.
The average price of replacing it with a remanufactured one is 400$. A remanufactured one is about 300$ to 500$. The price of a new one runs from 500$ to 1000$.
You should find quality parts and go for a brand that comes with a decent warranty. Check with your mechanic how long the warranty is and what it covers. Many reconditioned ones come with a warranty for up to three years. Some may carry a limited lifetime warranty.

What Does Your Alternator Do?

It has one important job, as we’ve previously said: keeping the battery charged. Besides that, it also keeps the electrical system working optimally. Without it, your battery would drain in a few minutes, and your car would stop running. It works by turning mechanical energy into electrical energy. When the alternator isn’t failing and is working properly, your battery is charged, the spark plugs have a lot of spark, and all the accessories run without issues. But if it isn’t working properly, you will experience many issues that will be impossible to ignore. They should typically last the lifetime of your vehicle, but there are exceptions to the rule. There are many factors that can cause it to experience issues much earlier, which is why proper maintenance is really important.

Battery or Alternator?

Like we’ve mentioned already, a faulty alternator can, unfortunately, take down a perfectly good battery. The alternator is unable to revive a battery that is weak or already dead. Many owners in these situations ask themselves whether it’s a new alternator or a new battery that they need. You can actually find this out on your own! You just need to determine which component is the guilty party by testing it with jumper cables. Your first step needs to be jump starting the car. Then you must remove the cables. If your vehicle is stalling, the alternator is probably the culprit. But if it continues running after around five minutes, it’s likely that the battery is at fault.

Making Your Final Decision

If you’ve concluded that your alternator is the one that’s at fault for the issues you’ve been experiencing, it’s time for a new one. Besides taking the car to a trusted professional who can take care of this for you, you also have the option of trying and replacing it on your own. In general, that would take around two hours to do, minus the necessary preparation you need. The time it takes is an advantage in this case because if you take it to a mechanic, you might have to leave it there for a day. The tools you will need are the new alternator (obviously), a belt tensioner, basic hand tools, voltmeter, replacement serpentine belt, rags, and gloves. There are step-by-step guides you can find online. Some of the first steps are:
• Saving the memory on your vehicle’s electronics.
• Disconnecting the negative battery cable.
• Loosening the belt tensioner.
If you decide to take the car to a mechanic, make sure to check the reviews online and go to a respectable place with experienced professionals. You should also compare the prices between places if you want to save some money. Good luck!

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