Know Your Car: Signs That Your Alternator Is Bad


The alternator is a vital component of your vehicle's charging system. It maintains the charge on your battery when the vehicle is moving. It's therefore important to have a functional alternator so that your car doesn't only run until your battery dies. Having a dead battery can be dangerous, especially if your car breaks down in an unsafe area. For this reason, here are warning signs that your alternator is faulty and requires repair or replacement. 

Dead Battery

A dead battery is among the first signs that your alternator has a problem. However, this could be a sign that the battery itself is the problem. To determine whether it's your battery or alternator, jump start the car and then turn it off again. If it won't start, then the problem is likely the battery.

Smells of Burning Rubber or Hot Wire

Your car's alternator is powered by a system that's composed of an accessory rubber belt and a crankshaft pulley. Limited movement of the belts will result in excess friction, which in turn will lead to excess heat. This excess heat will burn the rubber, hence the smells. On the other hand, the hot wire smell can be a result of an overheated alternator.

Unusual Sounds

Unusual sounds are also other signs of a faulty alternator. Therefore, take your car for service if you hear any rattling, growling, whining, or grinding sounds from your engine area because you might be operating with a faulty alternator. Your alternator has a pulley that is supported by bushings or bearings. If these bearings are worn out or if the pulley is not aligned correctly on the accessory belt, you will hear the noises.

Intermittent Engine Power

If your engine runs weakly for a while and then powers up again, your alternator could be the culprit. This is because when your alternator starts failing, it will start producing varying amounts of charge to power your engine.


Stalling is another vital sign of a failing alternator. The alternator provides the charge required for your spark plugs to ignite the fuel in the engine. Therefore, the power from a failing alternator will not be enough to charge the spark plugs and keep the engine running, leading to engine stalls.

Visual Cues

Erratic electronics are the visual cues you should watch out for. Your alternator supplies electrical energy to your vehicle's electronics and other electrical components. Therefore, if your headlights flicker or you observe fading dash lights, your alternator could be the reason. Other signs include failing of your electric windows or a completely failed speedometer.

For more information or if you think your alternator is indeed failing, visit your local mechanical repair shop, like Timber City Motors.


3 March 2016

Essential Auto Services for Long Journeys

Hi, my name is Katy, and I love to go on long road trips. However, I also know how scary it is to be stuck in the middle of nowhere when your car needs a repair. Because of that, I have figured out which repairs are essential before you go on a long journey. If you are planning a long journey, please explore these posts, tips and ideas. I hope they help you hone on which repairs or services your automobile needs before your next journey. In this blog, I cover everything from services to packing lists and more. Enjoy and thanks for reading!