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Alternator Diagnosis and Alternator Repair

Alternator Problems and Symptoms

What is an alternator?


Alternators provide electricity to power a vehicle's accessories, such as lights and radio, and charge its battery.


The alternator has four main components:

Stator - nest of copper wires

Rotor - basically a magnet or group of magnets that spin inside a nest of copper wires. A magnet spinning within a bundle of copper produces electricity

Diode - changes the electricity from AC to DC current that the battery can use.  

Voltage Regulator - basically a gatekeeper that will shut off the flow of juice to the battery if the voltage goes above a certain level, usually 14.5 volts. This keeps the battery from getting overcharged

So, now that you now what an alternator is and the key alternator components, let’s look at warning signs that something might be wrong with your alternator.


Potential Alternator Problem Warning Signs:


Is It My Battery Or My Alternator?

If your car battery is really weak or dead, you might have a dead battery, or, you might have an alternator problem. A car battery has a definite life span and will not last forever. And, as good as an alternator is at replenishing your car battery; it can only recharge it to the point that it has a decent amount of life left in it and is able to accept a charge. If the battery is really weak or dead, the alternator cannot bring it back to life.


How To Tell:

To troubleshoot whether the problem is really with the alternator or the battery, just charge the battery and restart the vehicle. If the vehicle has difficulty starting after the battery is fully charged, the problem likely is with the alternator. On the other hand, if the battery is weak or dead,and is the problem, the car will start and continue to run but the lights will again dim after a short time.  at American Auto Care in Murrieta, we are happy to charge your battery for you and test it to see if it will hold the charge.


Other Indicators:

Dim lights

As mentioned above, the alternator is part of the electrical system of your vehicle. Its key role is to provide power to operate the starter, ignition and all of the electronic accessories in your car. If the alternator starts to die, you might notice your headlights and/or dashboard lights beginning to dim. Once the dash light or headlights dim, it is a clear indication of potential alternator malfunction. A dying alternator may also cause other electronic accessories such as power windows and/or power seats to operate more slowly than usual a well.


Battery Warning Light or ALT Light Is On

Or GEN (for generator) light might be on. This light may only trigger if you are using multiple electrical components. Whether the light comes on or not is usually dependent on how much life your vehicle’s alternator has left and how much electricity your vehicle is using. So, this light might not come on but if it does, you probably want to have things checked out before you get stuck somewhere.


Strange Smells

Now these two symptoms can be signs of other issues as well, including a lost french fry or piece of pizza. Seriously, alternators, like several other components in your car, work with a system of belts.  If a belt is not turning freely, it will cause the belt to get hot and you might notice a smell of burning rubber. A loose belt might cause poor alternator output. It could be the belt just needs to be tightened, or it might be something else. Bring it in to us at American auto Care in Murrieta and we’ll check it out.


At American Auto Care, we will diagnose the problem, explain what we found, and what the repair options are. Call us at 951-461-2507 to schedule an appointment for car repair in Murrieta, Ca or Schedule An Appointment Online.

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