10 Solid Reasons To Get Alternator Repair Immediately
The main function of an alternator is to keep the battery of your car charged. The headlight and other electronic mechanisms of your car also gain power from this alternator in its running state. The alternator converts the mechanical energy obtained from the rotating shaft of the engine into electrical energy via induction. The alternator has wires which cut through the magnetic field thus produced which in turn generate electrical energy.
So, what an alternator actually does is it generates alternating current. Previously, all cars used to run on direct currents as they all had DC generators. The reason for switching in AC generators is because they keep the battery charged more efficiently even at low RPM. Even while operating through the brushes of the car, an alternator needs quite less power. The brush of an AC generator needs to be replaced from time to time because the direct current output of the generator passes through the brush. For a brush of an alternator to last longer, a very small amount of current is passed through it so that it can last longer.
So, even though an alternator generates AC current, it actually converts it in the middle and puts the DC current in use. The moment this current generation stops due to some fault in the alternator mechanism, you are going to need an alternator repair. Your car won’t be able to function properly if the alternator is not repaired on time because the car’s battery won’t be charged. Due to uncharged batteries, your car won’t start properly, or worse, won’t even run.
5 Factors That Lead To a Faulty Alternator?
- Dead alternator: In general, the lifespan of an alternator is from five to seven years. If after five to seven years your car accessories are facing scarcity of electricity, then it is most likely due to a worn out alternator. Simply replacing your alternator with a new one should solve the problem, after proper diagnosis. However, if your car’s alternator has not been used that long then it must a minor issue, a quick repair work without ignoring it can solve your problem then and there.
- Problem with computerized equipment: All the modern cars have built-in computer systems in them to control various car accessories in a smart way. These computer systems virtually control many components of a car including the alternator. If there is even a small glitch with the computer system, then it might affect the alternator even though the alternator was working just fine beforehand.
- Problems in the wires and cables: Your car consists of numerous wires and cables which are responsible for carrying power from the alternator. If anyone of these cable or wires wears outbreaks, then the alternator might fail to provide the necessary power and even the alternator can fail to work properly. Eventually, this failed alternator will lead to an uncharged car battery and various other inconveniences.
- Fuses went wrong: In many cars, fuses are used for the alternator to work properly. If there is a sudden power surge, these fuses have a huge chance of blowing out. As a result, your car’s alternator will fail to function properly. In case of a bad alternator check whether your car’s model uses fuses for the alternator, if so, then it is probably a bad fuse.
- Broken or missing belt: To generate electrical energy, alternators use the mechanical energy of a belt and a pulley. With prolonged usage, these belts and pulleys wear out which leads to cracked or broken belts. These kinds of faulty belts cause an alternator to function improperly and hence leading to various problems caused due to a faulty alternator.
What Are The Effects of Alternator Problem In Your Car?
Although the alternator of your car is a simple and small device with fewer parts but it plays a very important role in your car. You can detect any problems related to the alternator of your car by some warning lights coming from the dashboard of your car, dimmed car headlights, some funny smell, or a weird sound coming from your car engine. A faulty alternator can cause many car troubles starting from slow starts to your car not running anymore. If you keep ignoring these kinds, then it might lead to some serious car troubles and to come out of it you might have to end up spending thousands of dollars. It is always advisable to fix the problem when it is small and manageable with a few hundred bucks.
If you are facing the following car issues, then there is a chance that there is something wrong with the alternator of the car. In that case, do the necessary diagnosis and repair to fix the problem before it is too late.
1. Warning indicator on the car display
There is a built-in warning light signal in the cars manufactured in the last 10 years dedicated to warning the user regarding any alternator problems. The light is usually battery shaped with writings on it either an ‘ALT’ or a ‘GEN’ meaning alternator or generator respectively. Most people who are not acquainted with these kinds of car signals get confused when this light is on thinking they have a battery problem, but actually it is the alternator.
The turning on or off of the aforementioned light is completely computerized. If the output current goes above or below the threshold limit then this light will turn on by reading the output value of the alternator. If the output, comes within the range then the warning light will turn off again.
Again, the warning light might also turn on in case some extra accessories of the car are operating and it is drawing the power of the alternator more. For an instance, say you are driving and it suddenly started raining. You turn the wiper on and at that moment the warning light turns on. Again, when you turn off the wiper, the warning signal gets turned off; while you may think that there is something wrong with the battery or the alternator when it is just doing its job.
In general, the output range of most of the alternators is 13 volts to 14.5 volts. The moment your car needs additional accessories viz. headlights, wipers, radio, seat heaters, defrosters etc. it means these mechanisms are drawing more power from the alternator itself to function properly. To maintain the normal range of the current, alternator of your car needs to work harder. If the alternator has some problems or is dysfunctional, then it won’t be able to provide the necessary power required to run these extra functionalities. Furthermore, it will go up or down the threshold value which in turn will turn the warning light on. If you are facing something like this contact a mechanic to fix it immediately otherwise your car won’t be able to function properly.
2. Faintly lit headlights
As it has been discussed earlier that the alternator of your car acts as the powerhouse to the battery and other accessories of your car, so the moment it starts losing its ability to provide the sufficient amount of power due to some fault, other functionalities of your car will also be affected, like dimmed headlights. If you are facing some alternator issues, then your car’s headlight might behave abnormally by giving dimmed or extremely bright lights. The speedometer of your car might also stop working due to a faulty alternator.
When you start analyzing the problem or problems, the first thing that you need to observe is the amount of power the alternator is still producing and what minimum functionalities can that particular amount of power help to perform. Then learn how much more time you have in your hands until your car is completely dead.
After that, you need to know how your car is programmed to perform in case of these kinds of emergencies. The modern cars are programmed in such a way that in case of any problems regarding an alternator, it will provide power only to the necessary functionalities which are absolutely required to drive your car safely. For example, in cases, like this, the seat heater or the radio of the car will stop working to provide the necessary power to the headlights, wipers and other necessary accessories; having checked all these, drive your car to a nearest and reliable automobile shop to repair the alternator. And make sure you do it when you still have the chance to drive it till there.
3. Flickering headlights
Apart from dimmed headlights, flickering headlights might also be an indication that your car’s alternator has some issues. Again, instead of flickering, your car headlight might dimly light first then start flickering. All of these problems indicate the scarcity of electricity which means the electricity provider that is the alternator has some problems. If the light is dim or is flickering, it simply means the alternator is unable to generate sufficient amount of electricity to keep these functionalities of the car running. Dimmed or flickering headlights means your car is trying to keep the headlights turned on but cannot do it up to its full potential due to the scarcity of electricity.
You have to make sure that these flickering lights are caused by a troubled alternator so that you can opt for an alternator repair. Check whether this flickering is only happening when you are using something else that needs electricity from the alternator, like the radio, wiper, seat heater etc. if that is the case then it is definitely an alternator problem, if not then there might be other electricity issues that you need to take care of. Whatever may be the issue, contact a mechanic and make sure that you know what is actually causing the lights to flicker and fix it before it’s too late.
4. Battery not working anymore
If your car is not starting properly or is not starting at all then it is an indication of alternator issues. When you turn the car key to ignite and start the engine but instead of starting the car, it produces a series of clicking and clanking noise then you can safely assume that you have a dead battery.
Now the main question is what caused the battery of your car fails like this. When your car’s alternator has started to wear out, your car’s battery to try to run as far as possible, but will eventually lose the power to do so. This is a very dangerous issue; a dead battery can leave you stranded on the roadside.
These car batteries do not have a long lifespan. They are just used to provide enough power so that your car can start properly. If you have a faulty alternator, it can kill your car’s battery even though your car’s battery was working just fine initially.
Analyzing a dead battery is quite simple. Just jump start your car and remove the jumper cables as fast as possible. Then wait to check whether the alternator is able to charge the system or not. If the alternator is not able to provide the necessary power, then your car will die again. However, if your car keeps running even after doing this then there is a problem with the car’s battery.
Dead batteries can be also checked with voltmeters which any automotive repair shop will do for free.
5. Loose connections between wires
In case of broken or loose connections, in spite of the alternator producing sufficient electricity, the car battery might be dead because the current is either not passing at all or it is passing to the wrong direction.
The electricity produced by the alternator is passed to the required accessories via cables and wires of various sizes. If there is a problem regarding the cables or wires, then electricity might not pass or pass at a very small amount. This will lead to various car problems even though your car’s alternator is working just fine. In cases like this, you might occasionally find the smell of burnt wires and cables when the resistance between the wires increases due to the discontinuity.
This kind of alternator problem can also occur due to the diode rectifier of the alternator. An alternator produces alternating current and the various car accessories require direct current to function. If the rectifier is not working properly then the AC current won’t be converted into DC current properly and hence the resulting AC current won’t be of any use to the car accessories leading to dysfunctional headlights, wipers etc.
6. Faulty belts
There are many cases of alternator issues related to hanging off or missing belts. These kinds of bad belts can cause alternator problems. You can always open the hood of the car and check yourself to see if you have a bad belt problem even though you do not have the skill to fix it.
A bad belt can lead to various problems so it should be fixed as soon as it is detected. A cracked or a missing belt is an indication that your car needs maintenance. You are going to need a belt in its proper shape so that your car’s alternator can function properly. The tension of the belt affects the alternator. Too much tension in the belt is also not good for the alternator. You can also check the tension of the belt to pinpoint the origin of the problem. Make sure you let your car cool off first before you open the hood and touch anything.
7. Weird noises
Another symptom of a faulty alternator is growling sound coming out of the car. Now, a weird noise coming out of your car can have many reasons but failing alternator can be a likely reason. Often, alternators give out growling or whining noises before they give up. The alternator is operated with the help of either an accessory belt or a serpentine belt with the help of a crankshaft pulley. The alternator also has a pulley which rotates almost about three times faster than the crankshaft pulley. If this pulley is not proper alignment with the belt and/or the balls and bearings responsible for holding these mechanisms has worn out, then there is a hundred percent chance that the noise is coming out of these faulty parts and it is an indication of the alternator problem.
As stated earlier, strange noises coming out of a car can have many reasons. To pinpoint, the origin of the problem it is better to pair up the problem of the strange noise with other problems. This way, you will be confirmed whether the problem is actually on the alternator or it is somewhere else.
8. Strange odor
If your car is producing some strange smell then it is most probably another sign of alternator problem. It is happening because your car’s alternator is putting too much effort to produce the power necessary to keep the car and all other accessories along with it, running. The smell will resemble an electrical fire or melting rubber. An alternator might also stop working due to faulty wires or belts connected. The smell might come from these wires or belts being melting.
Again, any burning or melting smell does not indicate an alternator problem. There can be many other reasons because of which your car might emit some foul smell. Of course, none of these smells are normal and good for your car. It is an indication that there is something wrong with your car. You should always visit a mechanic whenever you get smells which are not normal for a car.
9. Car accessories working slower than normal
If your car’s power window is not opening or closing according to your command, or the power sunroof is getting stuck then there is probably something wrong with the car’s alternator. Modern cars come with some great features until it gets stuck or does not work properly, then it becomes really painful. All these features are controlled with some complex codes and a computer along with some wires. Finding the exact occurrence of the problem becomes quite difficult in cases like this.
However, if you notice a glitch in these accessories due to power shortage you can immediately conclude that the main culprit is your car’s alternator. As discussed earlier, your car’s alternator is one of the main suppliers of electricity. Shortage of electricity will evidently lead these accessories to function improperly. It may so happen that, you might not even notice that your car has a faulty alternator until you make these additional accessories work which in turn demands additional electricity from the alternator. If you suspect that you might have an alternator problem, then make use of these additional accessories as less as possible before you visit a mechanic and fix this problem.
10. Difficulty while starting your car
One of the prime reasons for your car not starting properly is your car’s faulty alternator. However, there can be many other reasons for your car not starting properly, so it is very important to analyze the problem carefully and then come to a decision.
If you find out that this difficulty caused by your car while starting is in fact due to the alternator, then the main problem might be in your car’s battery. While starting, your car takes up juice from the battery. As stated earlier if an alternator is unable to charge a car’s battery properly then the battery won’t function properly or will die eventually. So indirectly, if you have a faulty alternator then the battery won’t be able to supply sufficient juice to start the car properly.
Even if your car starts after stalling for a few times, it is an indication of a dying battery. Which means you should immediately contact a mechanic before your car’s battery dies and leaves you stranded on the side of the road.
Cost Estimation of Alternator Replacement In US And UK
The cost of an alternator solely depends upon the model of the car. On an average, the cost of an alternator replacement ranges from $200 to $600. If your car’s alternator has been damaged a lot, then it is better to replace it with a well-built alternator instead of repairing it for a long time. Apart from the repair or replacement cost estimate, there is also labor cost per hour which is to be considered.
Labor charge also varies from shop to shop depending upon how skilled their worker is, how fast they deliver your car, how modern their equipment is etc. Following are some cost estimates for alternator repair of some car models:
- Cost estimate of 2007 BMW: $800.
- Cost estimate of 2009 Dodge Sprinter: $600.
- Cost estimate of 2008 Mercedes Benz E350: $1620.
- Cost estimate of 2007 BMW 750: $470.
- Cost estimate of 2004 BMW X5: $670.
Choose The Best Alternator Services For Your Car
Finding a reliable automobile shop might seem like a difficult job but following some tips and traits you can decide which one to choose and which one not. Of course, in this era of internet, everything has become much simpler; you can get estimates, reviews, services offered by an automobile shop without even leaving your house. Following these tips might help you find the perfect automobile repair shop for your car:
- Ask for recommendations: You can always ask for suggestions about some reliable automobile shop from your friends and family. Their suggestion won’t disappoint you.
- Always ask for a cost estimate: Getting a cost estimate before you let the automobile shop start their repair work is always a smart move. This will help you provide a rough idea regarding the type of repair works they are performing, how costly or cheap their service charge is, whether they are overcharging you etc.
- Do not opt for a shop if its estimate is the cheapest: We are not saying that choose the most expensive shop to fix your alternator problems nut then do not choose a shop just because its cost estimate is quite cheap. There can many reasons like inexperienced labor, backdated equipment etc. behind their cheap estimate.
- Check online reviews: Before finalizing a particular automobile shop it is always wise to check the reviews online about the shop from their previous customers if more or less it has positive reviews, then you can safely hand over your car to them.
- Check the certificates for the shop: If a particular automobile shop has a good reputation and has provided quality customer service for quite a long period of time then they receive some certificates and awards. If a shop has these then they will proudly show off these awards. Always try to opt for these kinds of shops. A shop with no such certificate indicates they do not have good customer service.
- Understand your car’s exact problems: Before handing over your car ask the mechanics regarding the type of problems your car is facing, the reason of the problem, its effect, what would have happened if you had ignored this? And so on.
- The shop must not be too far: An automobile should have convenient location form your place. It is not at all safe to drive with a faulty alternator or any other faulty car parts for that matter. The shop must be located in such a way that you can drive your car till there in case of an emergency.
- Look for a shop that focuses on your car’s model: Finding a shop which specializes in the problems of the car model that you own is bliss. This way, the repair work of your car will go even more smoothly and you will get a better service compared to other shops.
It is always better to check for a reliable automotive repair shop in your vicinity in case of emergencies. Also knowing a reliable repairing shop is always helpful because with time your car is bound to face some issues with engines, brakes, radiator or alternators and what not. No matter how small or big the issue is, you are always going to need the help of an experienced mechanic.
Top 5 Best Alternator Services In US
Whitehead’s Auto Repair
Contact: (757) 425-1999
Benefits offered to the customer:
- It is a very old establishment and providing top notch customer service since 1965.
- They have a very experienced and reliable mechanic.
Alternator Service INC
Contact: (214) 630-6771
Benefits offered to the customer:
- They can provide service to any kind of alternator problems of our car.
- Their mechanics are knowledgeable and professional.
Contact: (734) 237-8442
Benefits offered to the customer:
- They provide awesome customer service which is recommended by many.
- They use modern and cutting-edge technologies to service your car.
Hutcherson Alternators And Starters
Contact: (813) 247 4365
Benefits offered to the customer:
- They provide a solution to all and any kind of alternator problem.
- Their staffs are well trained.
Tucson Alternators And Starters
Contact: (520) 622-7395
Benefits offered to the customer:
- They provide great customer service along with tests and warranties.
- They have a great understanding of their customers and provide them value for their money spent.
- They deliver your car on time.
Top 3 Car Alternator Services In UK
Manchester Auto Electrical
Benefits offered by Manchester auto electrical to their customers:
- They provide alternator repair and replacement work for any kind of vehicle.
- They also provide a 12 months’ warranty for their service.
- The service charge is quite reasonable.
Brise Starter Motor And Alternator Technology
Benefits offered by Brise Starter Motor and Alternator Technology to their customers:
- They use cutting-edge equipment and technologies.
- Customers are quite impressed with their service and speed.
- They also offer exchanges.
Starter And Alternator Denso
Benefits offered by Starter and Alternator-Denso to their customers:
- They have car parts and equipment for all kinds of problems.
- They are certified and have well-experienced mechanics.