What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Or Failing Alternator?

While each component of a vehicle plays its own part to make it work normally, some of these have a  more significant one. An alternator has a critical part in the car’s power system. And if doesn’t work, greater problems may arise as a result. Therefore, it is important that the problem with the car alternator must be figured out as soon as possible.

What is an Alternator?

If you do not have a lot of knowledge about cars, you must be wondering what exactly is an alternator. To answer that, the alternator provides electric supply to your vehicle that requires a lot of electricity to start the engine. Some of this power will also be needed by other parts, which are unable to be supplied by the battery because of its limited supply.

Meanwhile, the alternator can also charge a battery when the engine is running. This is done by converting the mechanical energy produced from the spinning pulley to electrical current. Since a lot of hard work is involved to do so, the rotor, brushes and other parts wear out with time. Hence, at some point, they do need replacement. We have listed the reasons and signs of a bad alternator that signify it must be examined by an expert.

Reasons of a Bad Alternator

Following are a few causes why an alternator might not be working properly.

  • A loose belt is the most common reason for a bad alternator.
  • Diodes are unable to transmit the required voltage when they go bad.
  • The bearing can also wear off and keep the alternator from working properly, as they are where the alternator rotates.
  • An issue with field voltage received by the alternator may also cause an issue with the component.

Signs You have a Bad Alternator

Headlights Flickering

The most common sign of a faulty alternator is when the car’s headlights seem to be dimmer than usual or when they begin flickering. This can be noticed particularly when the car’s velocity changes.  If the alternator is in optimal condition, the headlights will stay bright regardless of the speed you are driving at. Another symptom to look out for is when the lights across the dashboard become dim, you should have an alternator test done to get them checked and repaired thereafter.

Weak/Dead Battery

Another sign of a failing alternator is a weak/dead battery. The alternator can charge the battery but not prevent it from dying. However, with this, you also need to understand the difference between a weak battery and a bad alternator.

There are several ways to check this situation. One, check the battery gauge present on the dashboard without starting the car. If the strong charge continues, it means your battery is good. Once there is an issue with the alternator, other electrical devices will try getting power from the battery which means it will die faster than usual.

Weird Sounds

Just a few moving parts are present in an alternator that must spin while working properly. nevertheless, when one part begins to work ineffectively or breaks off, it may make some eccentric sounds. If you particularly hear some grinding sound, it is a sign of a bad alternator implying that the bearings have worn out and are creating this bizarre sound.

You may also notice a whining sound from your vehicle when the voltage regulars send unnecessary signals to the alternator while changing continuously. Hence, either of the two sounds can signify an issue with your car’s alternator.

Electrical Failures

The main source of electric power in a vehicle is its alternator, therefore any electric issues are traced back to it directly. You may observe these issues in a number of ways, for instance, the power windows may operate slower than usual, the seat may be heating, power locks, and windshield wipers may also be affected.

All of these are warning signals for a bad alternator, but you must ensure that this is the only root cause of the problem in your car by getting it tested. Those familiar with vehicles are aware of the fact that tests can be done easily at home, but it is still preferred to visit the garage for it. A professional mechanic will know the exact issue and its fix.

Issues with Starting the Car

Among the reasons why your car may be taking longer to start, one reason is a bad alternator. A weak battery may also cause this, so it has to be ruled out before concluding that you have a bad alternator.

There is a warning light in most cars, which goes on when the alternator doesn’t work appropriately. The light may just go on and off periodically when the alternator has not become fully dysfunctional.

Checking the Issue with Your Car

One of the greatest problems is either with the car battery or alternator as both work together. You can try one of the following to check this on your own:

  • Remove your car battery’s negative cable and leave the engine running. If the vehicle stalls, there is an issue with the alternator, else the battery is faulty.
  • Check the headlights and turn the vehicle on. While keeping it on parking more, step on the accelerator. If you see the headlights have gone dimmer or simply switch off, the alternator is faulty, else it is absolutely fine.

You may ignore a bad alternator in the beginning, but once any of the above signs show up, you must get it fixed quickly. You can only be sure of having an adequate amount of energy required by your car.