Here on Orozco’s Tires 101 blog, we’ve covered a multitude of car problems. This week, we’re gonna go over a problem that most people don’t think of.
At the beginning, you may only experience a few minor problems. A warning light may flicker on your dashboard, your headlights or gauges may flicker, or you may even notice an odd smell or growling noise coming from your engine. It may be perplexing or even sound like your car is demonically possessed, but most likely it is just a problem with the alternator. Alternator problems, if left unattended, can cause trouble raining from slower starts to a dead car.
Although an alternator is relatively simple, it plays a critical role in the operation of your vehicle. Alternators are essentially responsible for turning the mechanical energy of the crankshaft’s rotation into electricity, which is used to power your car’s accessories, ranging from headlights to power windows to climate control. The alternator is also responsible for keeping the battery fully charged to provide the power needed to start the car. Alternator failure most likely will not cause any major damage, but it can cause you a huge inconvenience if you need your car and it isn’t starting.
There are five common signs of alternator trouble that you can pay attention to:
Most cars made within the last decade or so have a warning light specifically for alternator trouble. This light can be shaped like a battery or read “ALT” or “GEN”, for alternator or generator. Most people assume that this light means they have a battery problem, but in many cases it is actually alternator trouble. If the alternator’s output drops below a preset limit, then the warning light will come on. Because of this, the light may only flicker on for a second or only when you turn on your accessories. As more power is demanded by the headlights, windshield wipers, heated seats, etc., the alternator needs to work harder to maintain the necessary voltage, and once it dips below the preset limit, the warning light will activate.
2. Dim headlights
Since the alternator is in charge of supplying your vehicle’s electrical needs, as it gets weaker so will your car’s accessories. Because of this, your headlights or instrument panel lights may get dimmer, or even your power windows may slow down. In newer cars there is often a schedule of which accessories lose power first based on which are the most necessary. Headlights usually lose power last because they are the most necessary accessory to vehicle safety.
3. Sounds and smells
There are also some less definite signs that may indicate alternator trouble. There may be a growling or whining noise indicating alternator trouble, which is caused by the pulley or belt driving the alternator falling out of alignment. There may also be the scent of burning rubber due to this pulley/belt being out of alignment and creating friction.
4. Dead battery
If you leave an alternator problem unattended for long enough then the car battery may die, even if you don’t leave your lights on overnight. Car batteries are not designed to provide long term power; they are only meant to provide enough power to run the starter motor and set the engine in motion. One easy way to test if your alternator is dead is to jump start the car then remove the cables as quickly as possible. If your alternator is failing to charge the system, the car will die again soon. If the car runs and continues to run, then the problem is most likely with the battery.
5. Broken or Loose Connections
If you don’t notice any other symptoms but your car battery is still dead, then most likely the alternator is still fine but a wire has come loose or disconnected. Alternators route their electricity through cables and wires. A loose or broken wire could lead to the same problems as a malfunctioning alternator.
Here at Orozco’s Tires & Wheels in Long Beach, we can take care of any of your alternator problems and keep your car running efficiently and performing to the best of its abilities. If you think that you may be having problems with your car’s alternator, call Orozco’s Tires & Wheels today at (844)-676-9267. Our team of state certified, professionally trained mechanics can fix any of your alternator problems guaranteed!