The alternator, which is located on the engine, provides power to the battery and continuously charges the battery and the vehicle’s electrical systems and computers. The primary job is to keep the electrical system up and running in place of the battery. The battery’s job is to start the vehicle, and the alternator keeps it running. Several factors can affect how long an alternator lasts, including the quality of the part, conditions in which the vehicle is driven and how many electronics are being used inside the vehicle.
In some cases, when an alternator is about to die, there are a few warning signs. One of the most common signs of a faltering alternator is when the headlights start pulsating at night, from dim to bright. Some alternators may stop working if they are charging several electronics at once. Other signs may include an electrical burning smell coming from the alternator, or the battery. Also the alternator warning light or other dashboard warning lights could turn on, alerting you of an issue. A struggling alternator may also cause the radio or other electrical components to work intermittently. There may also be a squealing noise coming from the engine of the vehicle.
Fluid leaks in the alternator or a tight belt can also cause damage to the alternator bearings, causing premature wearing. When the alternator goes bad, the electronics try to draw all of their power off the battery. This can cause the battery to die as well. That is why sometimes the alternator, not the battery, is the problem in the first place. If you see the battery light illuminated on the dashboard, make sure to schedule an appointment so we can inspect the alternator and battery for you. You should also contact us if you notice the headlights becoming dimmer, as it is an indication of a part wearing out. By fixing an issue at the first sign, you can help prevent further problems from forming.