Top 10 Signs of Alternator Problems


The alternator is a relatively simple component containing only a few parts, but it plays a critical role in the operation of any gasoline-powered vehicle. Phuchit/ThinkStock

It all starts with a few telltale problems: A dash light coming on for a brief moment, maybe dimmed headlights and a few flickering gauges. Perhaps your car even gives off an odd smell, or you hear a growling sound coming from under the hood.

Is this a case of your auto being possessed? No. Most likely it's one of many possible alternator problems, and without some attention, the alternator can cause car trouble ranging from slow starts all the way up to a dead car.

The alternator is a relatively simple component containing only a few parts, but it plays a critical role in the operation of any gasoline-powered vehicle. Essentially, the alternator turns the mechanical energy of the engine's rotating crank shaft into electricity through induction. Wires within the alternator cut through a magnetic field; this in turn induces electrical current. That current is used to power your car's accessories, which can be anything from headlights to the electro-hydraulic lifts on a snow plow. The alternator also keeps the battery fully charged, providing the power it needs to start the car. (Electric vehicles don't need alternators since they are driven by an electric motor and battery combination that provides plenty of energy for the vehicle's normal operations. EVs and hybrids, which do have alternators, often use regenerative braking systems to give the battery an extra boost.)

Because the alternator is connected to (and critical for) other vehicle systems, any mechanical auto problems can have an effect on its function and have an effect on diagnosing car problems. Paying attention to the 10 trouble signs on this list can make it a little easier to diagnose car trouble caused by the alternator.

Keep reading to find out about car problems potentially caused by the alternator.

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