Alternator Problems: Three Common Signs of Impending Failure

5 January 2018
 Categories: Automotive, Blog


The alternator is a critical component in the automotive electrical system. This unit is designed and built to convert the energy from the vehicle's crankshaft into useable electrical power for the vehicle. In addition, the alternator is essential for recharging the battery which provides electricity when the engine is not running. Therefore, if the alternator in your car or truck fails, the entire electrical system will be affected. Here are the common issues that indicate alternator damage and imminent failure.

Dimming Lights

The unnatural dimming or flickering of your auto lights is one of the most common symptoms of a failing alternator. When you are driving your vehicle, this component is supposed to produce power to keep your headlights and dashboard lights bright. If it cannot produce sufficient or consistent power, the malfunction will be most apparent in the functioning of light. You might also find that your other electrical accessories such as heaters, radio and AC are no longer operating as normal.

Weak Battery

If your battery is not functioning as expected, the alternator might be failing or malfunctioning. However, this is not always the case. In some circumstances, the cause of weakness and malfunction can be attributed to the failure of the car battery. Simply speaking, auto batteries are long-lasting, but they have a limited service life. Therefore, they will start losing their original 'vigour' after a prolonged period of usage. If this is your case, you will need to plan for replacement.

If your battery is healthy and has a considerable length of life remaining, you should have your alternator checked. As mentioned, this component is necessary for the replenishment of the charge in the battery. If your battery drains and does not continue charging when driving, the cause of the problem is the alternator. You should note that in most vehicles, the failing alternator will have an indicator light on the dashboard indicating ALT or GEN.

Burning Smell

Finally, you should have your alternator checked if there is a burning rubbery smell emanating from your vehicle. This auto component is connected to a belt system. If the belt is not fixed correctly or has become lose, there will be excess friction and the smell will develop. Often, the issue can be fixed by reinstalling or tightening the belt. However, you should note that burning smells can come from other auto parts.

If you have noticed any of the abovementioned problems in your vehicle, you should consult an experienced auto technician to troubleshoot alternator rebuilds.