5 Indications of a Faulty Car Alternator

A lot of importance is given to maintaining the health of the car battery. However, not many drivers pay attention to problems or symptoms of a faulty alternator.

Your battery provides the necessary electrical charge to power the car’s ignition system. Once the ignition is powered up and the engine is running, the alternator takes over and powers the electrical system.

It is also the alternator’s job to charge the battery in the first place.

So, if the alternator develops a snag you can well imagine what it can lead to. At the very least the lights may dim or flicker – if left unchecked, you could face starting problems or have a dead car on your hands.

Here are five signs that your car alternator needs a check-up.

Faulty Alternator – 5 Signs to Watch Out For

The alternator is a mechanical component. Anything mechanical can develop a fault anytime due to a wide number of reasons. But if you know what to watch out for, you can prevent serious damage to the part and your car.

1. Watch out for Dim or Flickering Lights

The electrical system is fed by the alternator. If your car’s electrical system does not have the required juice, it cannot power the starter, ignition, and other electronic accessories.

-Dimming lights is an early indication – you will find that your car’s headlights and/or dashboard lights become dim.

-Car functions that are electrical-based (power windows, etc.) are sluggish in their response.

-Dim lights or flickering lights will carry on for a while before completely shutting down.

2. Battery Performance

Most car batteries come with a shelf-life of 3-5 years. As mentioned above, the job of the alternator is to charge the car battery.

However, this function can only happen if the car runs for sufficient distances. Short trips don’t allow the car battery to get completely charged. 

The condition of the battery is also impacted by its age, its general condition (no battery damage) and the climate – a weak or old battery might charge up, but it won’t be able to hold the charge for long.

If your battery is not charged, the car won’t be able to start – so you will have a dead car on your hand.

If you are unsure whether your alternator is faulty or if it is a battery issue, you can do this:

-If your car is dead, try jumpstarting it and then remove the jumper cables.

-If your car dies again, the problem is with the alternator.

-If the car runs, the problem could be battery-related. 

-In either case, instead of second guessing, it is best to have your car checked by a professional repair service.

3. Warning Lights on the Dashboard Start Flashing

If you find the warning light on your dashboard flashing it could be the computer warning you of a possible alternator failure.

-Your dashboard warning light might read either GEN (generator) or ALT (alternator).

-If your car is loaded with electrical accessories and they consume inordinate amounts of electricity, it could lead to the warning light flashing.

-If your dashboard lights up with the warning signs, shut down any extra electrical accessory and get your car checked up by a professional car technician.

4. Stressed Alternator Belt Can Cause a Burning Rubber Smell

If the running of the alternator belt is not smooth, the friction will heat up the belt leading to burning rubber smell.

If the belt is slipping or it is loose on the alternator pulley, it can impact the functioning of the alternator. Tightening of the alternator belt can address this issue.

If the situation continues even after the belt has been tightened, visit a professional car technician. You don’t want to be stuck out somewhere in a Tucson summer – that would be a terrible experience.

5. Grinding or Whining Noise

If any of the mechanical parts such as the bearings within the alternator suffer from damage or wear and tear, it could lead to them generating a grinding or whining noise.

Damage to the bushings on which the alternator is mounted can also lead to the grinding noise. If this is the cause of the problem, the entire system will need to be replaced.

Car Mechanics you can Trust!

Have you noticed any of the above symptoms of alternator trouble? If yes, then we can help. Give Accurate Service a call today at 520-620-9129 or schedule an appointment online at your convenience!