Alternator or Car Battery: How to Tell Which Part Is the Problem | YourMechanic Advice

Alternator or Car Battery: How to Tell Which Part Is the Problem

When you need to go somewhere and your car won’t start, it’s not unreasonable to think that you could have a car charging problem. A jump start might fix it in the short term and get you to work on time, or to your appointment, but ultimately, you’re going to have to find the origin of the problem and have it corrected. The problem could be in the battery, or the alternator, or even somewhere else in the car electrical system.

You can check out a few things yourself before you get in touch with a mechanic.

  • First, take a look at the battery. Start with this because battery problems are very common, especially in cold weather.

  • Look at the dashboard battery gauge to make sure that the car is still getting a charge even when it’s switched off. If the light is dim and flickering, then likely there’s a problem with the car battery.

  • Turn off everything, and check your battery connections for corrosion. Sometimes the problem is simply that there’s not enough contact.

  • If it looks like corrosion is the problem, you can remove the battery cables and use a bit of steel wool to clean up the corrosion.

  • If a cleanup solves the problem, great, but if it doesn’t, you may have a dead battery, or a bad alternator.

  • You can check the alternator by simply starting your car and then disconnecting the negative battery cable. Be careful doing this, though, because there are a lot of moving parts in your engine compartment that could cause injury. If the car stops when the battery cable is disconnected, the alternator is the likely culprit.

If the alternator is faulty, you’ll need to contact YourMechanic. Sometimes alternators can be rebuilt, but more often, they need to be replaced. YourMechanic can also test your battery to find out if it’s the reason why your car won’t start.


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Bryant

11 years of experience
407 reviews
Bryant
11 years of experience
Ford Fusion - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Indianapolis, Indiana
Bryant has done great work on my car before, the latest work is no exception. He's very flexible, and goes the extra mile to get you back on the road.
Scion iA - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Carmel, Indiana
This is my first time using this service. I am very happy with it. Bryant was very knowledgeable and did quality work. I will use this service more regularly.

Augustine

11 years of experience
57 reviews
Augustine
11 years of experience
Volkswagen Passat - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Albuquerque, New Mexico
He’s amazing! Did a wonderful job on my brakes and was extremely knowledgeable, and a real fun guy to be around as well!

Jimmi

25 years of experience
68 reviews
Jimmi
25 years of experience
Mazda CX-9 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Orlando, Florida
Jimmi was wonderful. He was on time, knowledgeable, and completed work in a timely manner. He went above and beyond with helpful tips and recommendations. We will be using him for all our family vehicles.

Robert

3 years of experience
4 reviews
Robert
3 years of experience
Toyota RAV4 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Tacoma, Washington
Came right on time! Had all the necessary tools to finish the job. After the test drive, he gave me an update on my car. Topped off my fluids and disinfect the inside. Well recommend!!

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