When car owners think of their car’s electricity, they frequently consider the car battery. However, the battery is only a tiny problem. The headaches only come if your alternator fails. Today, Driverevolve will answer a few questions about this car part (like “How long does an alternator last?”) and reveal 7 clues about a broken alternator!
What Does An Alternator Do?
Although the battery is responsible for starting your vehicle, your alternator keeps operating. While traveling, your alternator supplies direct current (DC) electricity to most of your vehicle’s electrical parts and recharges your vehicle’s battery to ensure everything works correctly.
Your alternator turns mechanical power into an electrical current. Once you start your vehicle, it operates a belt tensioner connected to an alternator sprocket. This same sprocket rotates the rotor shaft of your alternator, which spins a sequence of electromagnets around a coil.
These rotating electromagnets yield alternating current (AC), which is afterwards routed to the rectifier of your alternator. This same rectifier transforms the alternating current electricity into direct current electricity, which powers your vehicle’s electrics.
How Long Does An Alternator Last?
Alternators usually last 7 to 10 years, but this is not always the case. Normal depreciation, overheating, misuse, water penetration, mechanical failure, or damaged cables can all cause your alternator to fail sooner.
7 Symptoms Of A Defective Alternator
Dim Or Overly Bright Headlamps
When your alternator starts to break down, the voltage to the computerized gadgets gets inconsistent. In most cases, this manifests as under- or over-performing electronics, such as headlamps that are either too faint or too luminous.
You may also notice flashing lamps or lamps that fluctuate between bright and dim.
Often a dead battery is simply a dead one – it’s hit the end of its lifespan after several years of service — or you may have mistakenly left the headlamps on overnight. However, in worse cases, a dead battery might hint that your alternator is failing.
A faulty alternator will not recharge your battery adequately while your engine is operating, making the recharge dry up more quickly than usual. Jumpstarting your vehicle is one method to see if your problem is with the battery or the alternator.
If you jumpstart your vehicle and it manages to operate, your battery might need to be repaired or replaced. If you jumpstart your car and it dies soon after, it could be because your alternator isn’t supplying enough electricity to your battery. In other cases, check for different reasons if your car won’t start with jump.
When the alternator isn’t offering enough electricity to your vehicle’s electrical components, your accessories will usually be slow or non-functional.
If the windows take more time than usual to move upwards or downwards, your seat heaters feel “not good enough,” or your fuel gauge and other devices begin to malfunction, you might be experiencing an alternator issue.
Most cars today also include a priority list of gear that informs the inbuilt controller which part to power down first if your alternator isn’t offering enough energy.
For example, if your alternator fails while traveling, you’ll run out of electricity for your stereo (or other non-essential gadgets) before your headlamps.
Difficulty Starting The Engine
As explained above, difficulty starting your vehicle could indicate that your alternator is struggling to recharge the batteries. Whenever you switch your key in the ignition hole, everything you would notice is a clicking noise rather than the purr of your motor.
If your vehicle usually stalls while traveling on the flip side, it could indicate that the spark plugs aren’t receiving enough electricity from the alternator to maintain your engine’s performance.
Growling Or Whining Sounds
Vehicles produce several strange noises, a few of which are benign, while others might suggest severe mechanical failures. If you ever notice snarling or whining sounds from underneath your hood, you may encounter alternator troubles that should be addressed by an expert as soon as possible.
Whenever the belt that converts the alternator’s sprocket is not in the proper order or rolls against the edge of your sprocket, it produces a growling or whining noise. You might also hear this noise if the bearings that turn your drive shaft failed.
Burning Plastic Or Wires Stench
A burning plastic or wire stench might imply that components of your alternator are starting to deteriorate. Since your alternator’s drive belt is constantly under strain and abrasion — and since it sits near the car engine — it might degrade and release a nasty burning plastic stench.
Likewise, if your alternator is overloaded or involves ragged or broken cables, you may notice a smoldering stench close to that of a circuit blaze. An overstressed alternator strives to force too much power via its cables, making them overheat and blisteringly hot.
Broken cables also obstruct the stream of power supply, which causes the wires to overheat and release an unpleasant stench.
Battery Alert On Dash
Whenever the battery alert appears on display, it’s often misdiagnosed as a battery-related problem. In reality, it signifies that there may be an issue with your vehicle’s overall circuit system, including the alternator.
Alternators are built to operate at a given voltage, usually from 13 to14.5 volts. If your alternator fails, this number might fall below, making the battery alert come up on your dashboard. Likewise, the battery alert will flash if it exceeds its voltage level, depending on how great the pressure is.
The battery alert may flash on and off based on the power pressure from your vehicle’s gadgets (headlamps, wipers, stereo, etc.) as the alternator goes up and down of its designed voltage ability. Although this only appears to be a slight inconvenience, it is advisable to have an alternator check-up rather than to become stranded on the side of the highway.
How Much Is An Alternator Replacement Cost?
A top-notch alternator should cost between $130 and $250. Expertly reconditioned alternators are available at a lower price, while new alternators delivering higher amps for modern cars are available in the premium segment.
And how long does it take to replace an alternator?
Overall, replacing an alternator by yourself will require approximately 120 h, although this may differ depending on your expertise in auto mechanics. If you bring your vehicle to a store to change the alternator, timing may vary slightly, and you might be required to leave your car there for an entire day.
How long does an alternator last? How does it work? And what are the signs of an alternator failure? Hopefully, our post has answered all of these questions.
The alternator governs the power supply of all electrical parts in your car; thus, no one should neglect issues related to them! If you witness any alternator problem, contact the service for a detailed diagnosis. Good luck!
For more knowledge about car parts, refer to our Fun Autopart section.