Alternator Problems

Taking care of an automobile is a complicated task, and without some basic mechanical knowledge it’s impossible. Nevertheless, it is possible to know when there’s something wrong under the hood just by following some warning signs. For example, the alternator is a very important piece for the well-being of your car. In order to spot alternator problems on time, there are some signs you can look out for.


Although the alternator is a relatively simple component, it plays a crucial role in any vehicle’s operation, turning mechanical energy into electricity through induction. Because it is connected to other vehicle systems, any alternator problems can affect its functionality. The first sign of alternator problems should be indicated in most cars by a light in the dashboard dedicated to signaling trouble on this specific component. This light is either shaped like a battery or it says “ALT” or “GEN”, meaning alternator or generator. Though most who see this light immediately think there are battery problems, this is not the case. The light is connected to computer systems which monitor the voltage output of the alternator; if this goes above or below a pre-set limit then the light comes on.

The second sign that can indicate alternator problems is a dimming of the lights. Since the alternator supplies a car’s electrical needs, it’s normal they start malfunctioning or altogether stop when the alternator is damaged. Electrical problems may include dimming or extremely powerful headlights and dash lights, or stopping of the speedometers and tachometers. Heated seats or electrically-powered windows may also experience trouble.

The third sign indicating alternator problems consists of three clues that a driver can put together in order to ascertain what is going on: sight, sound and smell. First, a quick visual check of the belt for cracking, excessive wear and other issues can indicate a future problem. Secondly, sounds resembling a “growling” or “whining” noise can be heard shortly before an alternator gives out. Thirdly, the scent of burning rubber or hot wires can indicate alternator failure, so drivers should also pay attention to that.

The fourth sign is not technically an alternator problem, but it can be connected to it so it’s best to take it into account. The sign is a dead battery, and it can mean a faulty alternator because it is also responsible for the starting system. When an alternator begins to spoil the battery starts helping out, but this means it can quickly discharge.

The fifth and last sign are broken or loose connections. If you’ve checked the car for all other signs and nothing is wrong, then the alternator is producing electricity but it isn’t getting where it’s supposed to. In this case you should check for problems with the wires, cables and other connections at either end. Just following these few simple tips anyone can make sure their car is always in a great condition.