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You are probably not that familiar with the workings and function of your alternator but it is important to know and remember that this is one of the most vital components of your vehicle. 

In fact, bad alternators have been found to be the number one reason why car batteries die and make millions of motorists stuck by the side of the road. This is why it is a must that you got some basic information on how alternators work and what can be done to save yourself from expensive repairs.

How Do Alternators Work?

Alternators are found inside the vehicle engine itself and have a big role of giving power to your car’s battery. Thanks to this, the battery is charged on a continuous basis and the computer and electrical systems remain up and running.

Alternators are found inside the vehicle engine itself
Car alternator

Alternators also work almost as hard as other parts of your vehicle. This is why it will eventually start to wear out. Alternators have an average longevity of about 150,000 miles or 7 years. There are several factors that can affect its lifespan such as the number of electronics that are in used, the quality of the part itself, as well as the vehicle’s overall condition. 

Telltale Signs of Failing Alternators 

Just like other parts of a car, there is no such thing as forever when it comes to using an alternator. Most of the time, this can go out with no warning at all. However, there are several subtle signs that you can keep your eye out for to know if it is time for it to be checked out.

Video: How to Test an Alternator

These indicators are the following:

  • Burning smell that comes from the part
  • Headlights that pulsate at night, turning from dim to bright
  • Squealing sound from the engine 
  • Warning lights on the dashboard that turn on suddenly
  • Intermittent malfunctioning with vehicle electronics like the radio 

Once you notice any or all of the said symptoms, it is always a better judgment to contact a technician who can check your vehicle. 

Tips for Alternator Maintenance 

Aside from watching out for the above red flags, you can also do a few things to ensure that the part’s integrity is preserved and keep it completely functional for the longest time possible. 

Here are some general tips for maintaining alternators:

  1. Ensure that you know how to jump-start your car properly. A wrong jump might end up frying the alternator. 
  2. Improper installation of aftermarket electronics might overload alternators so be extra careful when you install high-tech additional features to your vehicle. 
  3. If a replacement is needed, make sure you go for a brand new one instead of a remanufactured piece. 
  4. Watch out any fluid leaks in this part of your vehicle. You can do this by getting a routine vehicle inspection. 
  5. If there are warning signs that you have a bad battery, address the problem right away. The alternator might be the problem and not really your battery. 

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