Virginia Auto Service

How to Identify Car Alternator Issues

how to identify car alternator issues

The car battery is responsible for generating the initial electrical charge to power up the ignition. However, to keep the car running, a lot of power is required.

The battery cannot sustain the required supply of power over extended periods of time. This is where the alternator plays a pivotal role. The job of the alternator is to charge the battery and power the electrical system of the car.

It’s not a stretch to think of your car alternator as a generator. Here’s why – an alternator belt is fitted around a pulley which is connected to the alternator. The crankshaft is connected to the other end of the pulley which allows both the crankshaft and alternator to rotate together to generate energy.

This energy is essential to running the car’s electrical system. Any time the alternator fails or malfunctions, it can lead to a break down or high cost repairs. You can avoid alternator trouble by watching out for certain signs.

5 Signs of Alternator Trouble

All mechanical parts and components experience wear and tear in the normal course of their functioning. The alternator is susceptible to damage as well. The following signs are a good indicator that you could be facing potential alternator failure.

Dim or Flickering Lights

The alternator is vital to the electrical system in your car for the simple reason that it delivers power to run the starter, ignition, and various other electronic accessories. If the alternator starts to die, here’s what could happen:

  • Your headlights and/or dashboard lights start to dim.
  • Dimming lights are one of the first indications of a potential alternator issue.
  • You might also notice that other electric-based operations such as your power windows tend to respond slowly.
  • The dimming or flickering of the lights will happen for a while before the power completely shuts down.

Warning Lights

You might notice the warning light on your dashboard go off alerting you of possible alternator failure.

  • The light could either say GEN (generator), be shaped like a battery, or simply show up as ALT (alternator).
  • Using all the electrical components in your car, could also trigger the light to come on; this of course depends on the longevity of the alternator and the amount of electricity being consumed.
  • If you notice the light come on, it is best to shut down any extra power accessories and have the issue checked as soon as possible.

Weak or Dead Battery

Your car battery comes with a shelf-life of 3-5 years. The alternator will of course charge the car battery as long as the car covers a sufficient amount of distance, enough to complete the battery charge.

If, however, the battery is weak, old, or impacted by other issues such as climate, the ability of the battery to get charged can be affected. To distinguish if the issue is with the alternator or the battery do this;

  • Jumpstart your dead car and remove the jumper cables.
  • If the car dies again, then the issue is with the alternator.
  • If the car continues to run, then it could indicate an issue with the battery.

Burning Rubber Smell

If the alternator belt is unable to run or if the running is not smooth, it could lead to friction which in turn could heat up the belt. If this happens, you will notice a burning rubber smell. Keep the following in mind:

  • If you notice this burning rubber smell it could be because the belt is slipping or is loose on the alternator pulley which in turn will impact the functioning of the alternator
  • The simple fix to this issue would be to tighten the alternator belt.
  • If the situation does not improve even after the belt has been tightened, it is best to have it checked-up by a professional mechanic.

Grinding or Whining Noise

Multiple parts work in conjunction inside the alternator in order to generate electrical energy. An issue such as regular wear and tear with any of these mechanical parts could generate a grinding or whining noise.

  • When the bearings inside the alternator wear out, you will hear a grinding or whining noise.
  • Again, bad or faulty bushings on which the alternator is mounted will also generate similar noises.
  • If this is the issue you are facing with your car’s alternator, the entire system will have to be replaced as an assembly.

Alternator Factors

The alternator is crucial to your car’s electrical system. If you notice any of the above-mentioned issues, it is best to have your car checked by a professional car repair service as soon as possible.

Faulty or failing alternators might cause harmless slow starting issues at first. If, however, the issue is not fixed, it could leave you with a dead car.

Reliable Car Maintenance with Professional Auto Experts!

Alternator issues can land you in serious trouble. If you have noticed any of the above indications or signs with your car, give Virginia Auto Service a call today at 602-266-0200 or schedule a visit with us online at your convenience.