What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Alternator?

When the alternator is working it charges the car battery and helps supply power to the electrical systems. A bad alternator experiencing issues means that the electrical components of the car cannot work correctly. The car alternator will also not be able to charge the battery correctly so starting the car will be difficult. Here at Peninsula Auto Clinic, our mechanics will perform Car Repair and alternator replacement services for any car. 

The symptoms of a bad alternator are:

  • Lights being dimmed or overly bright
  • A dead battery
  • Car electrical accessories being slow or not working
  • Frequent stalls or difficulty starting the car
  • Wining or growling noises
  • Burning rubber or wire smell

What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Alternator

What is a Car Alternator?

The alternator is the system that keeps the car and engine running when in use. The car battery system is what will help start the car while the alternator runs other electrics of the vehicle. These include the brake lights, headlights, dashboard elements, heated seats, power windows, windscreen wipers, electric steering and the radio system. It provides direct current power to these systems and also charges the car battery when driving. 

The system works by using mechanical energy and converting it into electrical energy. A drive belt is powered when the engine is in use and rests on a pulley that is connected to the alternator. This pulley is what will turn the system’s rotor shaft, spinning magnets around a coil. This is what generates alternating current and then is channelled directly to the rectifier. Then the alternating current is converted to direct current and will help power the car’s electrical systems. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Bad Alternator?

The alternator will last the general lifespan of the vehicle but at times can become damaged and will need a repair or replacement. This can be from heat damage, wear and tear, being exposed to water, being overused or faulty parts and wires damaging the system. There are many signs that indicate there are alternator problems occurring which can lead to an alternator failure:

Lights Dimming or Being Extremely Bright

When the alternator fails to  starts then the lights, including the headlights, brake lights, interior lights and other systems will begin to dim or be overly bright. When the system begins to not work correctly then electrical problems will start to occur , including parts over-working or under-performing. The lights are a common system that will make it easy to notice that the alternator is failing to work as they flicker, dim or are unusually bright.

 Battery Died

The car battery will run out at the end of its lifetime but the reason why it may have died is from a problem with the alternator. A bad alternator might not be able to properly charge the battery which leads to it dying early. Jumpstarting the car will help determine if it is the battery or alternator’s fault. If the car starts then the battery might need replacing soon but if it stops then the alternator is not being powered enough. 

Slow or Not Working Electronics

If the alternator is experiencing issues then the electrical systems of the car may not be receiving proper power levels. This can be evident when these electrical systems are slower to work or do not function at all. This can include the windscreen wipers wiping slowly, the radio does not work or the heat warmers are not as strong. 

Most modern cars will ensure that if the system is failing that more important systems, such as the headlights, receive the remaining power, therefore shut off power to less important parts, such as the radio. This list of what is more important than other parts is programmed in the car’s computer, so when some electrical systems are failing to work while others are working then the alternator may be to blame. 

Issues with Starting the Car

When the battery is not being charged correctly due to a bad alternator then the car will struggle to start. It is important to have the car diagnosed by a mechanic as the spark plugs may actually be the problem. The alternator will often be the cause of the issue but knowing if the spark plugs or the car battery is not receiving power is important. 

Unusual Noises

Whining or growling noises coming from under the bonnet means that a mechanic should look at the system as soon as possible. The alternator may be the cause of this sound but there are also other systems that could be damaged.

Burning Rubber & Wire Smells

The smell of burning wires and rubber can mean that the alternator is wearing out. The drive belt will often be worn out as it is always under tension and due to the engine’s heat can cause the burning smell to form. Wires with the system may also be frayed or damaged and can cause the smell to occur.

How Much Will it Cost to Replace the Alternator?

An alternator replacement service will on average cost $100 to $400 for the labour. To purchase a new one to replace the old bad alternator will cost around $200 to $500. The model and year of the vehicle will change the price and how difficult the process is will also influence the final cost of the alternator replacement. 

Replacing Bad Alternators for Northern Beaches

Peninsula Auto Clinic offers fully qualified mechanics to perform alternator replacement services for locals. Our team will replace or repair a bad alternator on any type of car. We offer our alternator and Car Service work to the whole Northern Beaches, including Palm Beach, Avalon and Warriewood. Located at 7 Perak Street, Mona Vale, we are here with professional mechanical alternator services!