How To Tell if Your Alternator Is Dying

A dying alternator can prevent your car’s battery from recharging as you drive. This critical component may not require daily maintenance, but it’s important to understand the signs of a dying alternator. Maintain your vehicle and avoid sudden alternator issues with this guide.

What Is an Alternator?

Your vehicle’s starter and electrical devices are powered by an automotive battery. This battery stores enough power to start your vehicle, but will become quickly drained if you attempt to start it multiple times without a recharge. That’s where an alternator can help.

This dynamic component turns mechanical energy from your engine into electrical energy. It uses this electrical energy to power devices in your vehicle and recharge your battery. Just like other key auto parts, a failed alternator can prevent you from starting and safely driving your vehicle.

Listen to Your Car

For many people, one of the first signs of a bad alternator is starting issues. Listen to your car to check for one or more of these unusual noises. You may be able to spot these sounds before your battery completely dies:

  • Growling or whining sounds: Misaligned or damaged alternator pulleys can emit a distinctive growling sound. Inspect and, if necessary, replace your alternator at the first signs of these noises.
  • Clicking when starting your car: A clicking sound as you turn the key in your ignition can mean your battery hasn’t been properly charged.

There are many reasons your vehicle’s noises may change. Whining, growling and squealing noises don’t necessarily point to the alternator, so be sure to perform a thorough inspection before you order this component.

Watch Your Headlights

Another sign to watch out for is faded lights. As the electrical system begins to malfunction, it can lead to dim lights around your car. Flickering headlights can become a hazard in low-lit conditions, so treat this issue seriously and inspect your alternator as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Of course, flickering headlights could also be a sign that your headlight bulbs need to be replaced. Consider testing your alternator or replacing your headlights to determine the source of the flickering issue.

Check Out the Warning Light

Most vehicles have a battery warning light. This light illuminates when the voltage coming from the alternator drops below a predetermined amount. This amount varies but is usually between 13 and 14.5 volts.

If you don’t have a warning light, or are curious about the state of your alternator and battery, then consider picking up a battery tester. These helpful devices monitor the charge and lifetime of a battery and can be a great early warning sign that your battery isn’t fully charging. You can also stop by a trusted auto parts store to have your battery tested for free.

Find a New Alternator Online

Explore highly rated alternator options online to find a convenient and effective way to restore your vehicle. Search for parts that match your specific car and research helpful how-to videos and articles to prepare for an alternator replacement project.