The automobile battery is often the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a vehicle’s power production. However, the battery only provides minimal electricity; the alternator is the part that delivers the most electricity to your car. Thus, when it fails, your vehicle might immediately cease working, requiring an emergency replacement. Today, Driverevolve will answer everything you need to know about alternators, including “What are common causes of bad alternators?”, “how long does it take to replace an alternator?” and “how long do alternators last?”  

How Long Do Alternators Last? 

As previously mentioned in our “How long does an alternator last?” article, the standard lifespan for an alternator is 7–10 years; however, this might vary. 

These rotating electromagnets yield alternating current (AC), which is afterward 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.
The alternator’s lifespan varies.- Auto-Howstuffworks

Overheating, improper usage, water leaks, mechanical breakdown, broken cables, and general wear and tear may all hasten the expiration of your alternator.

Why Do Alternators Go Bad? 10 Most Common Causes  

Bad Battery

Is a weak or failing battery putting too much strain on your device’s charging mechanism? Alternators are not always designed to restore a flat battery; thus, they might fail after just 60 minutes of recharging your battery.

Most alternators are only intended to operate at their maximum power rating for a short period. For the first 5 minutes, your alternator will recharge your batteries at 100%. However, after that, the recharging capacity will decline to 10%.

A weak battery may cause alternator problems, particularly with the rotor coils and the regulators (or rectifiers). Instead of trying to power a flat battery using the vehicle’s alternator, you should take it out, inspect the water levels, and recover it using a dedicated external device.

Battery Short

You may also check the batteries to ensure there are no short circuits. As its name implies, a battery is a giant capacitor, and this device acts as a DC energy storage unit.

If you neglect a battery’s short circuits, it may overheat, catch fire, and discharge scalding sulfuric acid. However, such an occurrence is exceedingly rare. Contacts between electrode particles often result in a delayed drain of the battery due to the increased resistance of the medium.

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.
Battery short might cause alternator-related problems. – Mister Worker 

The battery can function for a certain amount of time since recharging can counteract the pace of a quick drain, but it will eventually be unable to kick-start the vehicle. A weak battery will make it difficult, if not impossible, to start the automobile, and the alternator will become overloaded.

Constantly producing power at maximum capacity causes the rectifier diodes to burn up and collapse, affecting your alternator.

Loose Battery Terminals 

Battery terminals that are slack or rusted (resulting from acid accumulation) might cause an alternator’s breakdown. In this case, your alternator will likely not start recharging anymore, or the voltage may fluctuate rapidly between low and high. Your regulators will falter as a result of this as well.

Ensure the battery terminals are properly coupled and clear of rust. If there are any signs of corrosion, apply the Cola method mentioned in our “Dead Car Battery Tricks” post.

Incorrect Rating

You may determine your alternator’s efficiency (during full electrical charge while the motor is working) by measuring voltages at the cell terminals. This will show you whether your alternator produces enough electricity to meet your needs. 

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.
Wrong-sized alternators might fail sooner. – Kkram

A bigger alternator is advisable if the current voltage level falls under 12 volts. Alternators of the incorrect rating may degrade rapidly, causing you trouble.

Insulation Failures 

Your alternator might experience electrical shorts if its components’ insulation fails. A blown fuse or a burned cable that contacts the ground might trigger this.

If a fuse continues blowing even after you’ve changed it, it is a sign of electrical shorts. A recent electronic control module (ECM) failure indicates an alternator short.

Search for any alternator shorts instead of constantly replacing the batteries. The issue may lie here if you find yourself constantly changing batteries.

Poor Wiring 

There are 2 different kinds of wires within the alternator’s chamber. As the rotor turns, one cable is coiled around it. This coil produces a magnetic field, which generates a current in the other coil (the stator).

The alternator will malfunction or cease operating if any cables become frayed or disconnected.
Check the wiring for any damaged cables. – Mechanic Base 

The alternator will malfunction or cease operating if any wires become frayed or disconnected. 

Corrosion or looseness of the outer wires could threaten alternator efficiency. Voltage drop testing is a reliable method for detecting excessive resistance inside cables.

Incorrectly Jump-starting

Could the alternator fail due to a jump start? True, only if you mess up the process. This is common with jumping vehicles since the alternator itself is turned on.

Jump-starting a car with the reversed polarities of the jumper wires may inflict severe damage to the car’s electronic components, such as the regulators and diodes controlled by the microprocessor. Additionally, the activity of “jumping” (engaging and disengaging) may cause electricity spikes that can damage the vehicle’s alternator.

Extreme Temperatures

Regarding the alternator’s performance and lifespan, the temperature is by far the most important element. This is because when temperatures rise, electrical resistivity increases and the components must work harder to maintain the same output.

Mechanical and electrical parts, as well as lubricating mechanisms, are all affected by high temperatures. During heavy loads, your alternator generates and absorbs a large amount of heat.

Alternators sacrifice roughly 10% of their performance just by heating up. The drive belt and the motor both suffer from the extra stress caused by an overheated alternator. Bearings will have a shorter lifespan as a result.
Overheating is the No.1 enemy of your car’s alternator. – Fox Runs Auto

Alternators sacrifice roughly 10% of their performance just by heating up. The drive belt and the motor both suffer from the extra stress caused by an overheated alternator. Bearings will have a shorter lifespan as a result.

Dust And Dirt Contamination

To ensure proper alternator function, keep it well-maintained and dry. If not, your alternator’s brushes and/or shorts will deteriorate over time due to the accumulation of dust and dirt within the device.

In addition to dirt, grease may potentially dry up and cause bearing failures. If you want your car’s alternator to last as long as possible, get it clean and clear of dirt.

Oil Or Coolant Leaks

Ensure unwanted oil leaks get addressed as quickly as possible since this will also decrease your alternator’s lifespan. How much oil will be required to force your alternator to collapse is unknown; however, the alternator will misfire if oil creeps in via faulty cylinder cover seals.

If the alternator has spilled oil, change it with the cylinder cover seal. A coolant leak might potentially harm your alternator, too.

How Long Does It Take To Replace An Alternator?  

It should take a highly skilled technician around 2 hours to change your alternator, but the duration can vary depending on your car’s brand and model specifics. However, most American businesses will bill you for a whole day’s worth of labor.

DIYing the job without much prior expertise will take anywhere from 3 to 4 hours, depending on the brand and model of your car. Please do not try to change your alternator if you are not mechanically inclined, as you risk injuring yourself and damaging your vehicle.
Replacing your alternators takes around 2 hours to 4 hours. – AutoZone

DIYing the job without much prior expertise will take anywhere from 3 to 4 hours, depending on the brand and model of your car. Please do not try to change your alternator if you are not mechanically inclined, as you risk injuring yourself and damaging your vehicle.

Wrapping Up 

How long does it take to replace an alternator?

The process should take approximately two hours if you’ve replaced your alternator a few times before. Take caution while executing this task, and refer to your vehicle’s handbook to ensure you have everything you require before beginning. When changing an alternator, utilize only OEM (original equipment manufacturer) quality components.

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