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FAQs Concerning Alternators
What’s that little symbol on the instrument panel?
Modern cars have a host of warning symbols that correspond to problems detected by the computer system. You need a handbook to decipher some codes, but if the symbol is a car battery, then the problem comes from an electrical issue.
What’s that odd smell?
Many car parts provide visual indicators of pending failure, but sight isn’t the only sense that may reveal a problem with the car alternator. Indeed, the unmistakable smell of an electrical fire combined with weak headlights, may indicate a belt is loose and needs tightening. If the problem persists, then the alternator may be at fault.
Can I swap out an alternator myself?
If you have ever replaced a car battery, doing likewise with the alternator is something you can handle. With your everyday garage tools at the ready, disconnect wires and cables, remove the alternator belt and one or two pairs of retaining bolts. Remove the old alternator, pop in the new one, and reverse the process to get the job done.
Buy replacement alternators online or visit your local Advance Auto Parts store and have one of our knowledgable Team Members help you.
Signs You Need a New Alternator
- Headlights are fading, apparent by greatly reduced range and illumination.
- Odd sounds coming from underneath the hood, evidenced by a grinding or whining noise.
- Repeated jump starts to the car battery only to find the battery has enough life left in it.
- The alternator belt may be loose or too tight. If the problem continues after adjusting the belt, then begin looking for alternators for sale.
Car Alternator Types
- Remanufactured — Not all car parts are suitable for remanufacturing, but alternators are. Remanufactured alternators may be ideal from both a cost and availability perspective. Finding the right alternator for your classic Chevrolet Chevelle SS or Plymouth Barracuda may be easier when you choose remanufactured.
- New — A new car alternator may be the best choice, especially if you need a unit that can serve today’s high-amp consuming cars.
- By the amp — Once you decide between a new or remanufactured car alternator, the next matter concerns amps. Most factory alternators come rated up to 100 amps and that’s sufficient for handling air conditioning, power accessories, headlights, pumps, and certain other electricity-drawing components. Today’s automobiles are more sophisticated, outfitted with high-watt audio systems, navigation, and other power-draining equipment. Your alternator cost will be greater, but you won’t find yourself with insufficient power when you need it.
How to Replace a Car Alternator
Replacing a car alternator is a job you can handle yourself as long as the alternator is within reach. Have a replacement alternator on hand when you begin along with disposable gloves, rags, a socket/ratchet set, and a wrench set. Replace a worn serpentine belt too. Set your vehicle on a level surface with the parking brake engaged and the engine off.
For complete step-by-step instructions, please check out this article “How to Replace an Alternator”.
How to Solve Common Alternator Problems
- The dashboard lights are dim
- The charging system light activates as you turn on the audio system, crank up the air conditioning, and engage one or more power accessories.
- Screeching or whining under the hood.
- Your car stalls out, even after jump starting the battery.
Resolve all four problems by checking the car battery first with a multimeter to ensure enough power is present. If the battery is not the problem, the alternator likely is. Check alternator cost by shopping for a new or remanufactured one today.
What is the best way to troubleshoot a vehicle’s electrical system?
Beyond the car battery and alternator, other trouble spots in the electrical system merit consideration too.
Does the serpentine belt only control the alternator?
The serpentine belt controls more than the car alternator, running every engine-driven accessory. Knowing how to replace a serpentine belt can go a long way to resolving electrical problems in your car.
Is only the alternator responsible for unwanted engine noise?
No, the alternator isn’t the only engine part that makes a racket underneath the hood. We have more in depth information to diagnose engine noise.