When your alternator acts up
You are driving down the road when all of a sudden, your vehicle’s gauges start going haywire, and the electrical system cuts out. You are now stranded on the side of the street and confused as to what just happened. It is at this point that many people automatically assume the worst, primarily because they are unaware on how to diagnose common car problems and about what goes on underneath the hood.
How to diagnose a faulty alternator
If yours has experienced the above issue, you can bet that they have to do with the electrical system, and that means checking the battery and alternator. The purpose of the latter is to maintain continual system charge; it converts the engine’s mechanical energy into electrical, which in turn powers many of the vehicle’s essential components, including keeping the battery fully charged. Therefore, an alternator that refuses to work or that is compromised in any way will ultimately lead to electrical shutdown (not good at any time).
One of the most common causes of alternator failure is a defective serpentine belt. This is a relatively simple fix and prevent, so next time keep an eye out for cracked or frayed areas. An improperly fitted belt (too loose or tight) will also affect the alternator’s rotary speed, in turn causing its performance to be off-point.
Listen closely to the sound of the device when the motor is running. Any squeaking or squealing is indicative of a belt issue, while a loud grinding may be the start of internal rotor failure. It is not uncommon for alternators to demonstrate voltage problems either; under and overcharging both have negative side effects. If you are electrical-savvy, hook up a voltage meter to both the battery and alternator to determine whether voltage regulation is in jeopardy; the part will need to be replaced if so.
There are many other things that could be going wrong with your car’s alternator, such as the bearings and diodes. The trained technicians at Ken Scales Auto have years of experience diagnosing and fixing these types of problems, so feel free to call anytime!