Important Shortcuts for Auto Service and Repairs

3 Common Signs of a Bad Alternator

by Emilia Latvala

The primary function of your vehicle's alternator is to charge the battery when the engine is running to ensure it has enough power to start your car next time you need it. Besides charging the battery, the alternator supplies power to other electrical systems in your car. However, just like any other component of your car, the alternator may become faulty at some point. The sooner you identify a bad alternator, the better because it will save you from costly repairs. If you are a new car owner with little knowledge of how some parts of your car work, identifying a failing alternator can be a challenging affair. To help you, here are some of the signs to watch out for. 

Weak/Dead Battery

A weak or constantly dead car battery is one of the obvious signs of a failing alternator. Car batteries are typically not designed to function over an extended period, which is why they have to be charged as the engine runs. Your car battery alone doesn't have enough power to meet the electrical demands of your car, and that's why it will die within a short time if the alternator is faulty. However, before you start looking for alternator repair solutions, you need to understand that the battery itself could be the problem here. A simple jumpstarting test will help you pinpoint where the problem lies. Jumpstart your car and remove the jumper cables as soon as the engine starts running. If the engine runs only for few minutes, the alternator is the culprit because it's not charging the battery. 

Hard-Starting Car

A weak or dead battery will in most cases be accompanied by a hard-starting vehicle. There's a range of reasons why you may find it more difficult to start your car. A faulty alternator is one of those reasons. That's because the alternator also supplies power to the spark plugs, which is necessary to ignite the engine. A fault somewhere in the alternator can result either in insufficient power being supplied or no power being supplied at all, making it harder for the engine to ignite. 

Failing/Erratic Electronics

Your vehicle's alternator acts as the main source of electrical power, which means electrical failures are a clear indication that it's going bad. There's a range of things you will notice regarding electrical failures. Heated seats, power locks, windshield wipers, electric windows, etc. are some of the vehicle components that will be affected. You may also notice dimming or flickering headlights or dash lights. 

Contact a mechanic to learn more about car motor repair, including how to repair a faulty alternator.