Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Alternator

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The electrical charging system is one of the most important systems on any vehicle. The charging system is made up of several components, including the alternator and battery, that work together to supply all of the vehicle’s electrical needs. The alternator is what specifically generates the amperage and electricity required to meet the vehicle’s electrical needs, including keeping the battery charged.

Because the alternator plays such a vital role in keeping all of the vehicle’s electrical components powered, any problems with the alternator can quickly develop into problems with another system or component on the vehicle. Usually, a defective or failing alternator will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential issue, allowing time for the driver to service the vehicle before a bigger problem occurs.

1. Having to jump start the vehicle on a regular basis

One of the first symptoms of a bad or failing alternator is the need to jump start the vehicle on a regular basis. It is the job of the battery to provide the power to crank the engine and start the vehicle, however, it is the job of the alternator to make sure that the battery stays charged. If the alternator is beginning to have problems or has failed, it will not be able to meet the vehicle’s electrical needs, including keeping the battery fully charged. A low or uncharged battery will not be able to keep up with the load required to start an engine multiple times, and will result in a dead battery. Continuously having to jump start the vehicle may be a sign that the alternator may not be charging the battery and is therefore unable to successfully start a vehicle.

2. Dim lights

Another symptom of a potential problem with the alternator is dim or flickering lights. If you notice any sort of flickering or dimming of the lights when operating the vehicle, it may be a sign that the alternator is not generating enough power to keep up with the vehicle’s electrical needs. The dimming or flickering may coincide with certain actions when operating the vehicle, such as dimming when pressing on the gas pedal, turning up the volume on the stereo, or turning on another light. This symptom may be indicative of an alternator that is unable to keep up with the needs of the vehicle’s electrical system while it is running, and when additional loads are placed on it.

2. Battery Light comes on

One of the most common symptoms of a problem with the alternator is an illuminated Battery Light. The Battery Light will usually come on when the computer detects that the system voltage has fallen below a certain requirement. This usually means that the alternator, or perhaps one of its internal components, has failed and it is no longer able to keep up with the vehicle’s electrical requirements, and it has been detected by the computer. An illuminated Battery Light also indicates that the vehicle is now running on limited battery life. Depending on the condition of the battery, and how long the Battery Light has been on, the vehicle should be able to run for a short amount of time before the battery finally dies. At that point, the vehicle will shut off and service will be required.

The alternator is among a vehicle’s most important components, as it essentially serves to provide the electrical supply for the entire vehicle. Any problems with it can quickly translate to problems with starting and running the vehicle, which opens up the possibility of being stranded on the road. If you suspect that your vehicle may be having a problem with the alternator, or it is displaying any of the symptoms above, [have the battery and alternator carefully inspected] by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic. They will be able to determine if an alternator replacement is necessary, or if another issue needs to be addressed.


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Yoel

7 years of experience
71 reviews
Yoel
7 years of experience
Mazda Protege - Battery is dead - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I have used this service in the past, and continue to be amazed by the excellent service. Additionally, I have recommended “Your Mechanic” to others. My mechanic, Yoel Leyba, was professional, courteous, and patient. He arrived on time, providing first class service. After diagnosing the problem, he fixed my vehicle, looked it over and suggested several maintenance repairs I should take care of in the future. There was never any attempt or pushiness to sell me on extra services. He even took the time to explain how some of the parts in my car work. I will definitely get the flush and oil change he recommended. This was a terrific experience. I wish all companies operated in this manner. Satisfied Customer, Kathryn M.

Peter

41 years of experience
1231 reviews
Peter
41 years of experience
Dodge Ram 2500 - Battery is dead - Cave Creek, Arizona
Peter worked on our truck on an extremely hot day (over 100) in our yard in direct sun! He was proficient and gave us confidence that he is highly qualified to do the job. He worked for 2 hours figuring out our problem and explained every step along the way. He was very polite and congenial throughout. He also took time to explain to us how to continue on after he was gone. We think he went the extra mile to solve our problem!

Chris

20 years of experience
1610 reviews
Chris
20 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz S550 - Battery is dead - Winchester, California
communicative on arrival and thorough in review of the car and assessment of needed correction. Thank you

Colin

25 years of experience
94 reviews
Colin
25 years of experience
Toyota Corolla - Battery is dead - Clearwater, Florida
Colin was extremely professional and courteous. He easily diagnosed the issue, and went above and beyond the ordinary level of service. He's an outstanding tech.

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