It is important for you to determine if a problem you are experiencing with your car is caused by its alternator. A working alternator is essential for providing electrical current to your car's electrical components and recharging its battery.
How Your Car's Alternator Works
Through a process called induction, your car's alternator converts the motor's rotational energy into electrical current. The current produced by your car's alternator is used to continually recharge the battery so that it will start your car when you need it to. The alternator is also responsible for powering the electrical components in your car, such as the defroster, radio, and headlights.
How You Can Tell a Problem is Caused by the Alternator
When your vehicle's alternator is failing, you will notice a whole set of problems with your car, such as:
- headlight brightness dims during driving
- flickering dash and internal lights
- burning rubber smell coming from under the hood
- loud grinding metal-on-metal squealing noises from under the hood
In addition to the above symptoms of an alternator malfunction, a car that will not start may also be suffering from an alternator problem.
How to Test and Troubleshoot a Possible Alternator Problem
Thankfully, there is a simple way to test the alternator in your car. If your car is not running at all, then you can jump the battery with another vehicle and a pair of jumper cables. Jumping the battery will start your car, but if the alternator is not recharging the battery as it should be, then your car will not run. If your car dies after you jump it and will not restart, then the alternator is bad and it's recharging the battery as it is designed to do.
If your car is in running condition but making noises or has a smell, you can check for an alternator problem by test driving your car at night. Drive down a dark road and watch the brightness of your headlights. If the headlights alternate between being bright and low, then the alternator is likely not getting enough electrical current to the bulbs because it needs to be replaced.
How to Fix and Alternator Problem
Replacing an alternator is a fairly simple DIY auto repair project if you have some basic mechanical skills. However, if you do not know how to replace the alternator safely, then you should take your car into a licensed auto repair shop and have it professionally inspected and repaired.