A Guide to Your Car’s Alternator

A Guide to Your Car's Alternator, Honolulu, Hawaii

When you take your car in for auto repair, one part you may not hear much about is the alternator since it’s built to last.

However, it plays a significant role in keeping your car on the road, so here is everything you need to know about maintaining this part.

What an Alternator Does

The alternator is bolted to the engine and provides an electrical charge to the battery while your car is running. Driven by a serpentine belt, this compact generator also supplies energy to the rest of your vehicle’s electrical components as you drive, including the headlights, interior dash functions, and radio. It usually requires little maintenance for the life of your car, which can range anywhere between 10 to 15 years.

How to Maintain It

Because the alternator produces so much electricity, it can easily overheat, so it has cooling vents and an internal fan to control its temperature. One of the easiest ways to avoid a trip to an auto repair shop is to keep the vents free of dust and debris.

auto-repair-HIAlso, check the serpentine belt for rips. A torn belt will eventually break, which can discontinue battery charging or even prevent the car from starting at all.

Corroded connections and terminals can cause problems as well. Too much dirt or grease built up on the terminals will make your alternator work harder than necessary. Having an expert mechanic change the belt or connectors will ensure your vehicle continues to run as it should.

Signs You Need Alternator Replacement

Dim lights, stalled engines, odd noises, and overall failure to start are all symptoms of a failing alternator. While it’s natural to assume your battery is the problem, this might not always be the case. Ask your auto repair shop to check both the battery and the alternator.

If they find nothing wrong with the belt, connectors, and terminals, they may check the voltage as well. If the voltage output of the alternator is below 13 volts, you’ll need a replacement.