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Car alternator functions and its malfunction symptoms

April 27, 2016 | Electrical Repair Info

Car alternator

Every car contains electrical components which must be powered in order for them to function. These components include the headlights, backlights, the dashboard instrument panel lighting, air conditioner and anything else electrical in the car. The three major components of any automotive electrical charging system are the voltage regulator, the battery, and the alternator. The alternator directs power from the battery to the electrical components of a car, which is known as an alternating current.

The alternator also helps fully charge the battery and provides the power needed when you start the engine to turn on the car. It basically converts mechanical energy from the rotating crankshaft of the engine into electrical energy. This is why a bad alternator will prevent you from being able to start your car, even if you have a new battery. When you look at alternators from the outside, they look like very simple devices with only a few parts in them. But they are critical in order for your car to function and operate.

One of the most common problems people have with their cars pertains to their alternator. These devices have a life of about 5 years at the most before you need to replace it in your car and get a new one. You will know when your alternator starts to go bad because the lights of your car will start dimming or flickering. There may even be a growling sound or strange smell that comes from underneath the hood of the car. And of course, the worst case scenario is if this happens while you are driving because it will cause your car to stall altogether. Then you will be forced to pull over to the side of the road and call someone for roadside assistance.

People often have a tough time diagnosing alternator problems because they will assume any problems with the lights in their car have to do with the battery. Now it is true that a weak battery could cause similar symptoms. But if you really want to know whether your electrical problems are because of a battery or an alternator, just have your battery charged at your local automotive shop and see if the car starts up afterward. You could also try replacing the battery in your car with a new battery. If you find that you still have trouble with your car’s electricity in both scenarios then it is clearly a problem with the alternator. At that point, you would need to have the alternator replaced.

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