Signs of a Failing Alternator

Car Care
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Don't Let these Signs of a Failing Alternator Go Unnnoticed

The alternator is a pivotal piece of machinery when it comes to your car, truck, or SUV. The alternator recycles the power your car battery uses while driving, restoring the power it has lost while supplying the climate, engine management, entertainment and host of other systems with the power they need to run correctly.

It takes a lot of battery power to make your car run. The battery's power reserve would not last if not for the alternator. Your vehicle's electrical system depends on an optimally running alternator. When the alternator malfunctions or stops working altogether, it can mean inconvenience, expensive repairs, or a break down. Your trusted experts at Coggin DeLand Honda have compiled a list of warning signs to look for in order to help avoid alternator failure.

Alternator Warning Signs

Dim lights

The alternator is part of the electrical system of your vehicle. Providing power to operate the starter, ignition and all of the electronic accessories in your car is the alternator's key role. If the alternator starts to die, you might notice that your dashboard lights and/or headlights beginning to dim. Once the dash light or headlights dim, it is a clear indication of potential alternator problem. A failing alternator may cause other electronic accessories such as power windows and/or power seats to operate a more slowly than usual.

Warning light

Most modern cars have a dashboard warning light that alerts you when the alternator is having issues. Usually, the light will be shaped like a battery, though, some might say ALT (for alternator) or GEN (for generator). This light may only trigger if you are using multiple electrical components. It is generally dependent on how much life your vehicle's alternator has left and how much electricity your vehicle is using.

Weak or dead battery

A car battery will not last forever and has a finite life. As good as an alternator is at replenishing your car battery, it can only recharge it to the point that it has a decent amount of life left in it and is able to accept a charge. The alternator cannot bring a very weak or dead battery back to life. Simply charge the battery and restart the vehicle to troubleshoot whether the issue is the alternator or the battery. If the battery is weak or dead, the car will continue to run but the lights will again become dim after a short time, signifying a problem with the charging system. If the vehicle has difficulty starting after the battery is fully charged, the problem likely is with the alternator.

Strange smells

An alternator works in conjunction with a system of belts. The excess friction will cause the belt to heat up if the belt is not turning freely, which will produce a burning rubber smell. If you catch a hint of a smell similar to that of an electrical fire, this could indicate that the belt is slipping on the alternator pulley, causing poor alternator output. Tightening the belt often does the trick. We recommend having your alternator evaluated by a Coggin DeLand Honda Professional if the situation arises where tightening your belt does not fix the strange smell and alternator output.

Odd sounds

There are many different parts that spin inside your vehicle's alternator to produce electrical current. If one of these parts becomes worn or breaks, this might cause a grinding or whining noise. Specifically, worn out bearings inside the alternator have been known to cause this type of noise. If the bushings that the alternator is mounted on have gone bad, a noise will be produced. Alternators are normally replaced as an assembly.

Visual cues

If you are experiencing problems with the electrical system, the alternator itself might be fine because the problem could be with one of the belts connected to the alternator. By doing a visual inspection of the engine compartment, you can determine if a belt is too loose or too tight. If a belt is cracked or worn, you should be able to spot that as well.