The Difference Between a Dead Battery and Bad Alternator


We have all been in situations with our cars when we try to start up the engine, but the car won’t power on. This doesn’t mean the engine is faulty, but rather the battery or the alternator is having problems. But which one is it? People can easily misdiagnose their power problem by thinking they have a bad battery when they really have a faulty alternator, or vice versa. So, how can you tell which one is causing the power problem in order to save yourself money from replacing the wrong part? Let’s look at a few ways that you can tell which part is giving you this problem.

When you notice that you’re having power problems, the battery is the first thing you should check. Fortunately, a lot of newer cars have computer diagnostic systems built into them which will let you know if you have low battery power. But you shouldn’t always rely on them because they don’t always give you the right information. For starters, have someone give you a jump-start to see if it gets your car running. If it does, this means you have a bad battery. So, all you would do in this circumstance is drive your vehicle to the nearest auto body shop or auto parts store and purchase a new battery for your vehicle.

If you have a failing alternator, your car will show symptoms like dim lights, strange sounds, and even strange smells in some cases. When you jump-start the vehicle, it typically won’t start up in this circumstance. If it does start up, the car will shut off after about a minute of being turned on. You see when an alternator goes bad, the battery’s power begins to compensate for the power that is not being generated by the alternator. But this power compensation won’t last long because batteries are not meant to supply power for long periods of time. So, when a battery is forced to do that, it will wear out quickly and cause the car to break down.

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A lot of people find this out the hard way when they purchase a new battery even though they have a bad alternator. They’ll put the new battery in and the car will start up just fine. But then when they pull out of their driveway, the car will conk out by the time they make it around the block. Therefore, what you want to do is just jump-start your vehicle and then remove the cables quickly. Leave your vehicle running for a few minutes and see if the power stays on. If it is a bad alternator, then your vehicle won’t stay on.


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