How Do You Know When Your Alternator Is Going Out

Alternator is an essential part of a vehicle. But what does an alternator do? Put simply, your alternator keeps your car battery charged, allowing you to turn on your car and use electronic accessories such as your headlights and radio.

If you’re experiencing car alternator problems, you may find that your car won’t start or stay on for more than a few minutes. But before you fall victim to a failing car alternator, here are some few steps to keep you on edge.

Signs Your Alternator is Going Out

1. Dim or Overly Bright Lights

When your car starts showing a dim and overly bright light, it is a sure indication that your alternator is going out.  In some cases, you can experience flickering lights in your headlight and other inconsistent voltage supply to your electronic accessories.

2. Dead Battery

Sometimes your battery is just dead, but in other cases, a dead battery could signify a bad alternator. When an alternator is bad, it won’t charge the battery well when the engine is running, causing the engine to run out faster than usual.  One way to certify if the problem is from the battery or alternator is to jumpstart the car.

If the car continues running after you jump start it, then the battery needs replacement soon. But if you jumpstart it and it goes off after a while, your alternator is bad as it’s not supplying enough power to the battery.

3. Slow or Malfunctioning Accessories

The lack of power to your car accessories or slow, non-function accessory is a result of a bad alternator. If you notice your windows taking longer than usual to roll up or down. Or if your seat warmers feel “off”. Or even if your speedometer and other instruments start going haywire, you may have an alternator problem.

Some vehicles come with inbuilt equipment that  tells the onboard computer where to cut power first. That’s if the alternator isn’t supplying enough electricity. That way, if you’re driving with a failing alternator, you’ll lose power to your radio before losing power to your headlights.

4. Growling or Whining Noises

Cars make numerous noises. Some are harmless while others are not. But if you ever hear your car produce a whining or growling noise from under the hood, then your vehicle is having an alternator problem.

The noise occurs when the belt that mechanises the alternator pulley becomes misaligned or rubs against the side of the pulley. It’s a similar sound produced when the bearings that spin the rotor shaft are going bad.

5. Smell of Burning Rubber or Wires

A burning, foul odour emanating from your car could indicate that some part of the alternator is beginning to wear out. That’s because the alternator drive belt undergoes lots of friction  and tension causing it to wear off overtime. Thus producing an unpleasant burning smell.

Similar thing occurs when your alternator is overworked, it can result in a burning smelling odour like that of a burning wire.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

How much is it to replace an alternator?

An alternator replacement job could cause aout $350 to $400, depending on the alternator product and car model.

Will a car run with a bad alternator?

Though you can technically drive a car with a bad alternator, it is not advised to do so.

What are the symptoms of a failing alternator?

Some of the symptoms of a failing alternator include smell of burning rubber or wire, growling or whining noises, dead battery, dim or overly bright light, and more.

How does a car act when the alternator is going out?

A faulty alternator will keep your car from starting promptly or causing it to stall. There are other wide range of alternator problems that cause a wide range of electrical issues such as flickering light.

What do alternators do?

The alternator sends current back to recharge the battery as you drive. It  also supplies power for your car’s electronics when you’re underway and makes sure the right amount of charge goes back to the battery.

Wrap Up!

Another way to know your alternator is going bad when you hear a whine or the sound goes fuzzy when you hit the gas.

However, if you see these signs and are still in doubt of the problem with your car, contact a professional mechanic to inspect it.

John D. Archer