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4 Symptoms of a Failing Alternator

What are the signs of a failing alternator?

  1. Warning Lights
  2. Weaker Lights
  3. Quick-to-Die Car Battery
  4. Difficulty Starting the Vehicle


The alternator is one of three major components of a vehicle’s charging system along with the battery and voltage regulator. It works with the battery to generate power for all the electrical parts of the car. This includes all the lights and the dashboard. They are typically found near the front of the engine.

The symptoms of a failing alternator are fairly easy to see and feel. Because of how important it is, a failing alternator can cause numerous electrical problems that can end up malfunctioning your car.

To prevent this from happening, you should always be mindful of the signs that your alternator is already failing.


Warning Lights

There are numerous warning signs on your dashboard that will light up whenever the car senses a problem in its inner systems. For a faulty or failing alternator, it would usually show a battery symbol. In other vehicles, it could simply show “ALT” or “GEN”. They mean Alternator or Generator, respectively.

This light is linked to the car’s inner computer which monitors the voltage output of the alternator. If the alternator’s output becomes below standard, it will immediately light up.

There are times when this light will flicker on and off—particularly when a number of parts are activated at the same time. In some cars, the warning light will turn on when you are using both your headlights and the windshield wipers. But if you only use one of them, the light remains unlit. This happens because even for just a moment, the output of the alternator goes above its normal parameters.

If the warning light turns on even when you are not using any car accessories, that is when you will know that there might be a problem.


Weaker Lights

Weaker Lights

A failing alternator results in weaker and dimmer light overall. That means your dashboard will be darker and your headlights will be weaker. Aside from this, it might affect the speedometer and the rest of the accessories located in the dashboard—some of them even stop working.

The scale of the damage depends on the condition of the alternator and the car’s inner systems. The alternator might not be able to produce enough power anymore or maybe it’s just very near the end of its time. Inner systems, on the other hand, are almost always programmed to follow a prioritized list of important components that must be provided for by the alternator when it begins to degrade.

The priority list is usually based on safety precautions. This is most important for cases when the alternator fails while out on a drive. All the power produced by the alternator, how small it may be, will be pointed towards the most important ones such as the headlights.


Quick-to-Die Car Battery

Without the alternator, all the burden of providing power to the whole car falls on the battery. Instead of the battery acting as a capacitor for the system, it will use up its charge so that the car can maintain its functionality.

That being said, batteries can run out of gas. If this happens while on the road, you might be left stranded somewhere unfamiliar. Bear in mind that car batteries are not meant for long-term use without an alternator. The main purpose of car batteries is to provide the vehicle with a surge of power for when it is started.

A bad alternator will quickly burn through the charge of a battery no matter how new or how frequently it is used!


Difficulty Starting the Vehicle

Difficulty Starting the Vehicle

As with any electrical problem faced by car owners, it will most likely lead to difficulty with starting the vehicle and even times when the car will stall. This is because the alternator is the one that provides the power for the main ignition

If it fails to provide enough power to the spark plugs, then the gasoline will not ignite and therefore it won’t be able to keep the engine alive. This is the most common cause of engine stalls and unresponsive car ignitions.

Bear in mind that as with the previous symptom, it might just be a problem with the battery as well. That is why it’s important to take a look at both these components when you are experiencing these signs.


Key Takeaway

There are many symptoms of a failing alternator, however, most of its signs can also mean there’s a problem with your battery or the whole electrical system of your car! A faulty alternator is no joke. It needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Leaving it for later can lead to accidents and situations where you become stranded.

Always keep an eye out for these signs when on the road or even just inspecting your car before driving. That way you will know when you need to have your car’s engine and electrical system checked!

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