While an alternator plays a small role in the functioning of your car, it is a crucial one. Your alternator maintains your car battery’s charge, providing power to your car’s starter and any of your car’s other electrical features.
A failing alternator can prevent your car from starting, and can even cause it to turn off after running for a few minutes. To avoid getting stranded somewhere or having your car stall, pay attention to these signs of a failing alternator, and get your car checked out by a mechanic as soon as you can if you notice any of them.
All car batteries wear out eventually and need to be replaced. However, sometimes a dead car battery, especially if it is fairly new, can be a sign of a bad alternator. If you get a jumpstart and your car quickly dies again, it is likely that your alternator needs to be replaced.
Lights too dim or too bright
Because your alternator regulates the power to all of the electric elements of your car, unusual and inconsistent operation of your headlights — such as beaming too brightly or too dimly, or flickering between brightness levels — is a sign that your alternator is failing and should be replaced.
There are multiple issues that can cause your car to start slowly or to stall — one of these is a failing alternator. The alternator is responsible for recharging your car’s battery, and so if it is not functioning, your battery may not have enough power to start the engine or keep it running. If your car is having difficulty starting, it is a good idea to have a mechanic check out your alternator.
Strange smells or noises
A failing alternator also often comes with some distinct noises and smells. If you hear a growling or whining noise coming from your car, or smell the hot wire scent that often accompanies an electrical fire, it is a good time to get your alternator checked out by a mechanic.
Electronics not functioning
Since a car’s alternator supplies power to its electronic accessories (power windows, heated seats, dashboard instruments, radio, etc.), these will start to operate slowly or not to work at all if your alternator is failing. If more than one of these electronics is operating strangely, it is a good sign that it is an issue not with the particular accessory, but with your car’s alternator.
Battery warning dashboard light on
A lit-up battery warning light can signal a number of issues related to the electrical system of your car, and one of these is a failing alternator. A failing alternator can cause changes to the voltage of the electrical system that will trigger this warning light.
What to do if your alternator is failing
If you suspect that your alternator is failing, you should get your car looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible to prevent your car from stalling or being stranded somewhere. If your call does stall, however, you are not out of luck. A mobile mechanic can bring the expert services of an auto shop to you, replace your alternator and get you back on the road.