Given that we see a number of alternator issues at Sundance Automotive Repair in Lakewood, we want to share some information on alternator problems and repair that would be helpful to you as a vehicle owner. Issues with an alternator are common enough that at some point during the life of your vehicle, it will probably need a replacement. The alternator is part of your car’s charging system, which is essential to the workings of all things electric in your car. If it’s not working properly or fails, you will likely find yourself stranded on the side of the road.
Basics of How Your Alternator Works
The alternator helps maintain the battery of your car. Essentially, the alternator uses the engine’s power to create electricity then sends it to the battery to keep the battery charged.
The engine’s power arrives at the alternator via the serpentine belt, also known as the engine drive belt. Because of this, it is important to keep the belt tight and running well. This is also why you should replace this belt as soon as a new one is needed. Most people don’t realize that your car uses a great deal of electrical power: windshield wipers, lights, the radio, and other parts rely on and use a lot of electricity, especially when combined. If all these things are operating at the same time, it would drain the battery in your car fast. The alternator stops the battery from being run down and keeps it fully charged at all times.
Signs Your Alternator Might Have a Problem
It can be hard to diagnose an alternator problem without any tools. Problems with the battery are very similar to problems with the alternator and vice versa: for example, the car doesn’t start, your battery goes dead, the battery light goes on and the serpentine belt squeals. Other signs include: having to jump-start your car frequently and dimming lights while operating the vehicle. These are the most common signs that you might have an alternator problem or a potential battery problem. It is important to take care of this quickly because it can create problems and failures with other systems in your car.
Check Your Alternator Voltage
To confirm that the issue is a faulty alternator and not the battery, you will need to use a digital voltohmmeter or DVOM. The DVOM is also called a voltmeter. This tool will allow you to check quickly and easily to find out how much voltage your alternator is putting out.
- The first step is turning your engine off. You will need to restart your vehicle later for another test, but for now, it needs to stay off.
- The red lead of your voltmeter should be placed on the positive post of your battery and the black lead should be placed on the negative post.
- Set your voltmeter to read DC volts if it is not already at this setting. The reading should be above 12.65 volts. This reading would confirm that the battery is fully charged. If the reading is less than 12.65 volts, then either your battery or alternator has an issue.
- Next, take the leads off and start your car. Then, return the leads to the appropriate posts on your battery, being careful not to catch the leads on the serpentine belt or any other engine part. If you get a 13.5 to14.5-voltt range, then the alternator is probably not the issue. It is possible that the alternator is intermittently bad. That does happen on occasion, in which case, you would need to perform the test several times. If the volt range is consistently good, then you have a battery problem and it is time to get your battery tested.
Repairing a Defective Alternator
You can bring your vehicle and alternator into a repair shop, such as Sundance Automotive Repair in Lakewood, or you can perform the repair yourself if you have a bit of knowledge about your and car repairs in general. While swapping out your alternator for a new one isn’t very difficult, putting the serpentine belt on correctly definitely requires a diagram to ensure you replace it right. If it isn’t replaced just right, you’ll continue to experience issues with your electrical system, even damage or destroy the belt.
Diagnostic and repair information for your specific vehicle is imperative to alternator repair, as well as maintaining, troubleshooting, and fixing your vehicle yourself. To get the diagnostic and repair details specific to the year, make and model of your vehicle, ALLDATAdiy is a good online resource that will help you locate information for your vehicle. It’s also less expensive than buying a factory manual. Additionally, the site offers detailed diagrams and step-by-step instructions that are more thorough than what is available in most printed manuals.
To replace your alternator:
- First, you need to disconnect the battery.
- Next, take out the serpentine belt (be sure you have that diagram).
- Finally, loosen and remove the bolts for the alternator and take off the wiring connectors.
- To reinstall the new alternator, connect the wiring to the alternator and replace the bolts holding the alternator in place.
- Follow the serpentine belt diagram carefully to replace the serpentine belt. Double check that the belt is put in place correctly.
- Finally, reconnect the battery.
Alternatively, if you decide to have an auto-repair shop perform alternator repair, it is generally not one of the more expensive repairs and does not take very much time.
Ultimately, knowing more about how the alternator in your vehicle works in conjunction with the battery will help you understand better how to troubleshoot issues with your electrical system. Knowing more about alternator problems and repair will also help you determine if this is a project you want to undertake yourself or if it is something you would rather leave to the experts at Sundance Automotive Repair in Lakewood. If you decide to bring it to us, you can rest assured that we’ll provide quality work at a fair and honest price.
Contact us today to schedule your appointment.