The alternator is one of the crucial electrical components in a vehicle. It is a component that's bolted directly outside the engine block, and its role is to generate electrical energy and power a running car. The alternator provides a steady source of electricity to the vehicle's ignition system and electrical accessories, such as the music system and AC. Therefore, if the alternator isn't working, your car may start but won't run. But how do you know whether you have a faulty alternator? Here are the top telltale signs to look out for.
Dead Car Battery
A dead car battery is a problem on its own, especially if the component has outlived its usable life. However, if you have a relatively new battery and your car won't start, the alternator could be the problem. The alternator charges the battery when the vehicle is running. If the alternator isn't working, it won't charge the battery properly, and your car may fail to start the next time. Note that a dying battery can also stress the alternator and accelerate its failure. Therefore, it's advisable to have both components checked.
Car Starter Cranks Slower
When you turn on the ignition, the battery starts the engine and the alternator keeps the vehicle running while recharging the battery. If your car stalls when starting or fails to start, the alternator could be the problem. If it's faulty, it won't supply enough electrical energy to keep the vehicle running, and this will cause it to crank slower or fail.
Now, it can be hard to know whether you have a faulty alternator or dead battery. To distinguish the two, try to jumpstart the vehicle. If the car runs perfectly, your battery is the issue. However, if it starts and then stalls after a few seconds, the alternator is unable to supply enough electricity to keep the car running. You need to replace it with a new one.
Erratic Functioning of Electrical Systems
The alternator is the primary source of electrical power in a vehicle. It powers everything, from your music system to the headlights and interior lights. If it isn't able to provide enough energy, you may notice your lights dimming when they should be working correctly. In some cases, the alternator is simply unable to support multiple systems at once, while some alternators fail to work altogether. Electronics start to behave erratically and warning lights come on even when nothing is wrong with the vehicle.
Some accessories that draw additional power from the alternator can cause it to fail as well. These include off-road lights, heated seats, window defrosters, robust stereo systems and blower fans. If you regularly use air conditioning, you can expect the extra load to cause premature wear of the alternator. If you use these accessories, get your alternator checked regularly to prevent electrical failure.
Contact an auto electrical contractor for a proper diagnosis if you suspect that your car has a faulty alternator.