Understanding Your Vehicle’s Alternator

The Component that Keeps The Lights On

Are you in need of an alternator repair, or are you unsure if your battery is the cause of your engine trouble? Total Performance in Tacoma, Washington, specializes in diagnostics and repairs for your vehicle. However, while they will happily fix your car, it is useful to understand the purposes of different components so you have a better understanding of what may be happening when something goes wrong. Therefore, take a little time and familiarize yourself with your alternator.

The History

While many people take the alternator for granted, it was not always a part of vehicle manufacturing. In fact, before the 1960s, alternators were only used in special-use vehicles for the military and to help power radio equipment during World War II. However, in 1960, Chrysler began using alternators in vehicle production, starting with the Valiant. Ford and General Motors wouldn’t follow suit for several years. Now, every car with an internal combustion engine is produced with an alternator. It is a vital component to the continued operation of your vehicle and its accessories.

Your Car’s Generator

The alternator is essentially a generator for all of your car’s electrical components, and it is also responsible for charging the battery. Many vehicle owners mistakenly believe that the battery is the primary power source for the car, but in actuality, the alternator is what provides consistent energy through the vehicle’s electrical systems.

Signs and Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Alternator

The most definite sign that something is wrong with your alternator is the illumination of one of the warning lights on your dash. The light can vary by make or model. Some cars have a light shaped like a little battery, and others will have lettering, such as “GEN” or “ALT,” that signal something is wrong. However, if a warning light does not appear, some symptoms of a failing alternator are dim lights or failing instruments and gauges. Also, you may smell burning rubber or hear screeching, growling or whining.

Determining If Alternator Repair is Necessary

Because the alternator and battery are so closely linked, it can be challenging figuring out which is the culprit of your engine trouble. However, despite the apparent relationship, there is a reasonably easy way to tell which device is causing your problem. Use jumper cables to charge your dead battery and start the vehicle. Then, remove the cables and let the car run. If the car dies shortly after disconnecting the cables, then the alternator is likely causing the problem. However, if the vehicle continues to run, then you can assume that the battery needs to be replaced.

Your vehicle’s alternator is a vital piece of equipment, responsible for the operation of every electrical part in your car. Also, the alternator keeps your battery charged so you can start your engine. If you have been experiencing issues with the ignition of your vehicle, dimming lights, or failing electronics, then contact Total Performance to schedule an appointment and discuss possible remedies. The expert mechanics can diagnose your electrical problems and determine if an alternator repair is necessary.

Written by Total Performance

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