Auto Care Tips: Spotting A Failing Alternator

Posted on: 20 January 2019

Preventative maintenance is an important part of keeping your car running at its best, but there are some problems that even preventative maintenance can't help you avoid. Wear and tear on the engine and its components can lead to failures, even with the best maintenance schedules. One such part that is susceptible to this is your alternator. Since it plays a key role in the electrical system operation and your car's ability to start, you need to know how to recognize when it is failing. The sooner you identify the problem, the less risk you'll have of being stranded with a car that won't run.

What To Look For

There are some visible indications that your car's alternator is failing. Being attentive to these signs can help you spot the problem early and have the part replaced. For example, when the alternator isn't functioning properly, it will not charge the electrical system the way that it should. In those cases, your car's battery light is likely to come on. If you see the battery light come on, have the electrical system tested by your local auto service shop.

In addition, you may also notice that your car's lights, both interior and exterior, may start to dim. This is because they aren't getting the power required for full illumination. If your lights are all a bit dimmer than they used to be, it's a definite sign of an electrical system issue.

What To Listen For

In addition to the visual indications of a failing alternator, there are also audible indicators that your alternator is failing. If you hear grinding or clicking when you turn the key, even if it's intermittent, that's an indication that your alternator isn't functioning the way that it should. Whining or squealing when you start it could be a sign of alternator problems. It could also be a sign that the belt on your alternator is glazed or damaged.

What You Might Smell

If the problem lies in the belt on your alternator, and not the alternator itself, you may still notice many of the above signs. However, if the problem is the belt, you will eventually start to smell an odor like burning rubber or a heavy, thick smoky smell from the engine compartment. This is an indication that the belt itself is burning and needs to be replaced.

Most people ignore subtle signs like these, especially if they don't know what's causing them. This leads to an alternator problem progressing until you find yourself needing to jump-start your car on a regular basis. Avoid this problem by reaching out to a local auto service shop for a diagnostic and repair, if needed. For more information, contact a company like Action  Transmission today.