What to Do if You Suspect Alternator Issues

If you've noticed an illuminated light in the shape of a battery on your car's dashboard, you may be wondering what's going on. This warning light is an indicator that there is something wrong with the charging system on your vehicle and in many cases, this means that your alternator is faulty.

What Does the Alternator do?

The alternator is a critical component of every vehicle. It generates electricity for many of the vehicle's primary systems. When the alternator is working correctly it ensures that your battery is constantly at full charge, so that you are able to start the car in the morning when you're on your way to work. The alternator is bolted to the side of the engine and receives its power from a belt which is attached to the engine's flywheel. Typically, these units can operate for several years without any maintenance, but when they fail it won't be too long before your car will grind to a halt. The battery alone will quickly be drained without receiving its power via the alternator.

How Do I Know That It's Faulty?

You can check whether your alternator is working by using a simple voltage tester, which you can get at your local car parts store and keep on hand in your garage at home. Connect the testing probe to the battery terminal when the engine is off and also when the engine is running. You should notice a spike in the reading on the tester when the engine is running as this will indicate that the alternator is supplying the power to the battery as needed. If there is no difference, this indicates a failed alternator.

What to Do Next

There are a number of internal components which could fail or cause problems. These include carbon brushes, contact rings, bearings and the voltage regulator. When you get somebody to repair the alternator all of these parts will be typically replaced or rebuilt together with some other smaller components, as it is best to do this while the unit is disassembled, rather than risk a separate component failure down the road. These days it can be far more cost productive to get your alternator repaired than to replace it with a new one, especially if you were to get the new product from the original equipment manufacturer.

What Can You Do To Ensure That Your Alternator Lasts Longer in Future?

Often, an alternator failure is caused when dirt, grit or water is splashed up from the road and enters the casing. Check to see that the cover or shield which is usually fitted underneath the engine is intact and if not, get this adjusted or replaced in order to keep the alternator dry. Also, remember that when you are washing inside the engine compartment you must ensure that the alternator is always protected from detergent or water.