How Does an Alternator Work?
The stored power inside a vehicle’s battery is not sufficient to power its electronic features. The battery provides the energy needed to start your car. Once the vehicle is running, the alternator works as a generator, using the engine power to create an electric current that is sent over to the battery to keep it fully charged as you drive.
A fully-functioning alternator not only gives you the luxury of listening to your favorite music or podcast the entire time you are driving, but also provides energy for crucial functions of your vehicle, like keeping your headlights shining and your air conditioning running so you can stay cool on sunny Conyers days.
Almost all passenger cars and light trucks contain an alternator, which can be found near the front of the engine and is approximately the size of a coconut. Alternators are crafted with an aluminum exterior and contain cooling fans that regulate the vast amount of heat generated from producing electric power. Most alternators last around seven years, or for around 100,000 to 150,000 miles, and provide the energy your vehicle needs to function smoothly. There are several signs to watch out for that may indicate a failing alternator.
How Do I Know If My Alternator Needs Repairs?
Like any complex system, it is the sum of many parts that keeps your vehicle running smoothly. When one part of the system is down, it can affect multiple parts of your vehicle. Here are some signs that your alternator probably needs repairs:
- Your battery light is on.
Luckily, our vehicles have a built-in system that lets you know when something is wrong. If the light shaped like a battery is on, this could indicate a failing alternator. If your vehicle does not contain this light, there will be an “ALT” (alternator) or “GEN” (generator) warning signal. Because the alternator generates electric power to power your vehicle’s battery, when there is not enough energy dispensed by the alternator, your car will give you a signal indicating a battery issue. The light may turn on when more than one electric feature is activated. For example, you may have no issue if you are driving at night with your headlights on, but if it starts to rain and you then use your windshield wipers, the warning signal turns on. The increased energy needed to perform two tasks at once is too much for the alternator to handle, indicating that there is an issue.
- Your vehicle’s electronic accessories have slowed down.
One of the most common signs of a failing alternator is dim or flickering headlights. Similarly, your vehicle’s windows may roll up and down more slowly than usual or your backup camera may have glitches. Of course, it is possible that there is something wrong with the accessory itself, but if you are experiencing issues with more than one accessory at the same time, there is a high possibility the problem is the alternator.
- Your vehicle’s serpentine belt is loose.
The serpentine belt is one long, snaking, winding belt that keeps your alternator and other parts running smoothly and effectively. If you are experiencing the signs outlined above, it may be a good idea to open the hood of your vehicle and check your serpentine belt. If this belt is loose, we strongly suggest you bring your vehicle to us so we can tighten it.
- You hear strange noises coming from your vehicle.
Negative sensory cues are a sure indicator something is wrong with your vehicle. If you are hearing grinding or whining noises, this could mean one of the parts inside the alternator is worn out or broken.
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to bring your vehicle to Auto Tech Service Center in Conyers today.
How much will an alternator repair cost?
Here at Auto Tech Service Center in Conyers, we are very transparent with our pricing. For a complete alternator repair, you would be paying for the part replacement as well as for labor. On average, an alternator costs around $400. The amount of labor required to replace the alternator will depend on the size and model of your vehicle. You can bring your vehicle to us to get an estimate.
Your vehicle’s alternator is vital to a safe and enjoyable drive, because it provides the energy needed to power all the vehicle’s electronic accessories. If your vehicle’s electronics have slowed down, your battery light is on, and/or you hear strange noises coming from your vehicle, do not hesitate to bring it into our Conyers office for an inspection.