What is an alternator and why is it important?
Are the headlights of your car beginning to dim or you can smell burning rubber at times? Chance is, your car alternator maybe failing. This is the component that charges your car’s battery for powering all electrical equipment like starter, radio, AC, etc. But the argument that usage of an alternator to replenish the battery is unnecessary may haunt you. To clear that argument, the engine of a car powers the alternator which produces AC current. It then converts it to DC current which can be stored in the car’s battery and used by car’s electrical systems.
When your car’s battery loses power, the alternator replenishes it. Situated in the engine compartment, if your alternator ceases to work, your car will run only as long as some power is stored in the battery. If left unresolved, the malfunctioning alternator can also harm the battery. So early repairs are advised to avoid huge costs and keep your vehicle running efficiently.
What are the symptoms of alternator issues?
- If the headlights or dashboard lights start dimming while the car is running → This is a clear indication of alternator trouble. You may also notice that the power windows or power seats are operating slower than usual.
- If your dashboard warning light is on → This light may either say ALT or be shaped like a battery. Whether it will turn on or not, depends on the amount of electricity your car is using and how much life is left in the alternator. So, you can only see this when several electrical components are being used and your alternator is going bad.
- If your car’s battery is weak or dead → Please remember that every battery has a certain life span. An alternator won’t be able to replenish the battery if it’s very weak or dead. To confirm the issue, you can charge the battery and restart your car. If the car starts but the lights start dimming, then your battery is the problem. If the car has trouble starting even after the battery is completely charged, there is something wrong with your alternator.
- If there are strange smells → A car’s alternator works with a system of belts. If a belt begins to heat up due to excessive friction, you may get the smell of burning rubber. If the belt is slipping on the alternator pulley, it may reduce its output.
- If you are hearing unusual sounds → Your car’s alternator has a number of parts spinning inside it to generate electrical current. In case they break or wear out with time, you may hear grinding or whining noises. Alternators may have to be replaced as an assembly in this case.
- If you see a belt connected to the alternator is worn, cracked or too loose/tight → This can be deduced by a simple visual inspection. In such a situation, the problem is with your belt and not the alternator.
Look out for these too
The mechanic you consult should test the entire charging system before he decides to replace the alternator. Inspection of the battery and attached cables (for corrosion) should also be conducted. It is a good idea to get the charging system examined during any major servicing. The battery cables should especially be cleaned and tightened. Also remember, if headlights and other electrical equipment starts behaving erratically but upon inspection, you find out that alternator and battery are fine, then it is the equipment’s fault and that needs to be addressed.
A malfunctioning alternator can not only disrupt the working of your car’s electrical components, it can also impact the life of your car’s battery and the normal functioning of your vehicle. Hence, it is advisable to not take any issue regarding the alternator and/or electrical system of your car lightly. If anything goes wrong, all you need to do is log on to services.cardekho.com and schedule an appointment with a mechanic to get the issue(s) resolved.