Getting stranded on the side of the road is never fun. Yet, when your alternator dies on you, that’s exactly what can happen. You may be wondering if there’s a simple trick to learn how to test alternator. While some people rely on a multimeter, can this tool accurately test your alternator?
What Is An Alternator?
Typically, your battery will start your car and power your accessories when the car isn’t running. Once you start your car, the alternator takes over to supply electricity and recharge your battery. Thus, your car’s alternator is a type of electrical generator that takes mechanical energy and converts it into electrical energy.
Generally, alternators last between 80,000 and 150,000 miles. However, neglecting maintenance can put a strain on engine parts leading to accelerated wear and tear. You may even experience decreased fuel efficiency and reliability.
How To Test Alternator
Some home mechanics recommend a test you can do at home to test your alternator. This requires a piece of equipment called a multimeter. You simply connect this device to the battery and start the car. If the multimeter shows an increase in voltage, the theory is your alternator is fine.
The problem with using this test is that it doesn’t actually check the health of the alternator. It only checks whether the car battery is receiving voltage from the alternator. Other problems such as electrical fuses or the drive belt can also prevent the battery from receiving electricity. Using a multimeter won’t uncover these issues and you may change a perfectly good alternator.
Instead of struggling with learning how to test alternator, bring your car to Havoline® Xpress Lube of Kernersville. We’ve been servicing domestic and foreign vehicles for over 25 years. Using the latest diagnostic equipment, we’ll pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with your car.
Signs Of A Bad Alternator
Often your alternator will give you signs that it is starting to go bad:
1. Your Dashboard Indicator Light Illuminates
Automakers equip modern cars with dashboard indicator lights that light up when you have a problem. The charging system usually looks like a car battery or has the letters “BATT” or “ALT”. If this indicator light illuminates, you have an issue with your charging system.
2. Your Headlights/Interior Lights Are Dim Or Overly Bright
Generally, most car owners experience diminishing charging when an alternator goes bad. However, a failing voltage regulator can cause overcharging. Either condition can leave you stranded.
3. Vehicle Won’t Start
Your car needs a jolt of electricity from your battery to start. If your alternator is failing, it can’t recharge your battery. However, some other engine problems can also cause issues with starting. Always have a certified technician diagnose your issue.
4. Unusual Noises Coming From Under The Hood
Anytime you hear strange sounds coming from your engine you should be concerned. Many parts make odd noises when they’re about to die, including your alternator.
Routine Maintenance For Your Alternator
Primarily, all parts of your car’s engine interconnect. Thus, when you perform routine maintenance on one system, it keeps the entire engine healthy. Likewise, neglecting servicing can negatively affect your efficiency and cause early failure of parts.
For example, not changing your serpentine belt on schedule can cause premature wear on your alternator. The serpentine belt delivers power to the alternator. As this part ages, it can peel, crack, or fray. This may cause the belt to slip. When it does, it causes the alternator to work harder to compensate.
Additionally, some automakers locate the alternator on the bottom of the engine. In this position, it’s subject to de-icing chemicals. Neglecting to wash your undercarriage can leave your alternator susceptible to corrosion.
How To Test Your Alternator – FAQs
Are you experiencing some automobile issues that may indicate a problem with your alternator? Bring your car to Xpress Lube and let our experts examine your car. Below, we answer a few commonly asked questions about your charging system.
When Should I Change My Serpentine Belt?
Generally, serpentine belts last about 50,000-100,000 miles. Manufactured from rubber, heat, humidity, and pollution can accelerate its deterioration. Another part that requires replacing when you change your belt is the tensioner. This part keeps the serpentine belt at the correct tautness to prevent slipping.
Does It Make Sense To Buy A Rebuilt Alternator?
To save money on expensive parts, some car owners like to buy rebuilt parts. Remanufacturers take apart, clean, and add new or refurbished parts so that components function like new.
Although more expensive than rebuilt alternators, new alternators generally have a good warranty and are more reliable. Plus, brand-new ones also have greater efficiency and better performance.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace An Alternator?
As with many automobile parts, the price varies based on the make and model of your vehicle. Since manufacturers configure engines differently, yours might be difficult to access costing you more in labor.
Additionally, alternators differ in power output. Today’s modern cars have more electronics than even just a few years ago. These devices require an alternator that can power them and recharge the battery. However, high-output alternators also tend to be more expensive.
If our technicians determine you need a new alternator, we’ll discuss the best option for your vehicle. Moreover, we’ll give you a detailed estimate before we begin to work on your car. While you’re free to take your car elsewhere, we think you’ll love our friendly service.
Don’t wait until you’re stranded on the side of the road! Call Havoline® Xpress Lube of Kernersville today at 366-993-7697 to make an appointment.