Today’s automobiles make use of two different power sources: mechanical and electrical. Your engine generates mechanical force through combustion, thus providing the power needed to move your wheels. Meanwhile, an array of other systems from your headlights to your radio rely on electrical power provided by your battery.
These two systems interact by means of the alternator, which transforms mechanical energy into electrical energy, thus keeping the battery charged. When an alternator stop working correctly, a wide range of problems may ensue. This article takes a closer look at four commonly experienced symptoms of a failed alternator.
1. Car Won’t Start
A dead battery almost always lies behind a car that won’t start. If you jump start the car and it runs correctly, the problem likely stems from the battery itself. In some cases, the battery may have just become drained — for instance, if you forgot to turn your lights off. In such cases, jumping the battery and allowing your car to run for a few minutes fixes the problem.
If your car remains running once jumped, yet won’t turn over the next time you try to start it up, you may need a new battery. Because the car continues to run once started, you know that the alternator remains capable of performing its function. Instead, the battery does not seem capable of holding a charge with the engine off.
If your engine dies again within seconds or minutes of jumping the battery, the fault probably lies with your alternator. In fact, your alternator may have died completely. Installing a new battery may relieve the problem for a short time. Yet, once the new battery has discharged its power you’ll be stuck with a car that won’t start again.
2. Engine Stalling
A dead alternator almost always leads to a car that won’t start. Yet, before things get to that point, you may experience a range of other problems. A faulty or dying alternator may only work in fits and starts. As a result, the alternator may not have what it takes to keep your battery fully charged — even with your engine running.
As a result, you may find your car stalling out at odd times. The immediate cause of such stalling often lies with the fuel injectors, which require electricity to do their job. If a faulty alternator fails to keep your battery consistently charged, the fuel injectors may not fire, causing your engine to stall.
3. Electrical Issues
A dying alternator can lead to a wide range of other electrical issues. Generally speaking, such issues manifest as an inability to perform at normal power. For instance, you may notice that your headlights seem dimmer than usual — or even that their brightness fluctuates inexplicably.
Other signs include dash and dome lights that may also flicker or appear dim. Automatic windows may open and close much more slowly than usual. Or, your radio and/or entertainment centers may shut themselves down periodically.
4. Unusual Sounds
Bad alternators often produce loud or unusual sounds. An alternator receives its mechanical energy from the engine by means of a belt. If this belt has become misaligned or excessively worn, you may notice odd squeaking sounds coming from beneath your hood. A worn belt may fail to turn the alternator rapidly enough to generate adequate power.
The inside of the alternator contains bearings that allow the internal stator to spin in tandem with the belt. Over time, these bearings become pitted and worn, producing a humming sound. This sound intensifies as the bearings degrade further and further.
If you have noticed any of these symptoms, seek professional assistance as soon as possible. Even if your car continues to run, the alternator may soon fail completely, leaving you stranded. For more information on how to recognize a faulty alternator, please contact the automotive repair experts at Evans Tire & Service Centers.