5 Signs of a Failing Alternator

December 3rd, 2021 by

Even if you are not a car expert, you’ve probably heard of an alternator. This piece of machinery is an essential part of keeping your vehicle running. It recycles the power that the battery uses while driving and restores it while also providing other systems with the power they need from the battery. Your vehicle needs a lot of battery power to stay running, and it can’t do it without the alternator. It can mean extensive repairs if it stops working, but if you know the signs of a failing alternator, you can avoid a complete breakdown.

Dim Lights

The alternator provides power to the electrical system in your vehicle. If you notice that either the headlights are dimmer than normal or the dash lights don’t seem as bright, it is most likely the alternator. A failing alternator might also cause other accessories such as the power windows or the power-adjustable seats to move slower than usual. If you notice any dimming lights or sluggish accessories, make sure to contact your dealer’s service department.

Flickering Lights

If your lights are not dim but you notice flickering, it is still an indication that the alternator is not working properly. Flickering lights mean that the alternator is not generating enough juice to keep them going at full strength, and instead of dimming the lights consistently, it is trying and failing to maintain the full amount of lighting output.

The Warning Light Goes On

Most vehicles have a warning indicator that will light up when the alternator is not functioning correctly. It might say ALT or GEN, which is the first indication that the alternator is going bad. Never ignore this indicator light, even if you don’t see dimming lights or any other problems.

Strange Sounds

There are many moving parts within the alternator, and many of these spin to produce an electrical current. If one or more of these parts breaks or becomes worn, it can cause a grinding noise or make a whining sound. The bearings inside the alternator are a common cause of these noises. Another source could be the bushings that the alternator is mounted on. If they go bad, it will make a noise.

A Dead Battery

If your car doesn’t start because of a dead battery, it can be the result of a failing alternator. The battery will try to take on the job of producing power instead of acting as a capacitor and eventually run down. Since it needs the power from the alternator to recharge, even the best ones don’t have the ability to do this long term. You can diagnose a dead battery vs. a failing alternator by jump-starting the car and then removing the jumper quickly. If the alternator isn’t charging the system, the vehicle will not stay running.

The alternator is an essential component of any vehicle, so it’s important to know the warning signs of a failure. Make sure to bring it to your service center at the first signs to avoid a complete failure.

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