What is an Alternator?

When you start your car, it’s the battery that supplies the push needed to get the engine running. Once the engine is running, though, it’s the alternator that supplies the electricity needed to to run the engine, lighting, air conditioning, and radio, as well as to keep the battery fully charged. The alternator, also called a generator, is driven by a belt connected to the engine.

Why is the Alternator Important?

While the battery under the hood of your car is indeed powerful, it has limited capacity. You might be able to run the radio for a few hours, but if you leave the lights on, it’ll drain the battery overnight. Similarly, the engine uses a lot of energy while it’s running, such as to fire the fuel injectors and spark plugs, and this would quickly drain the battery. Add in headlights, defrosters, and air conditioning, and you might be able to get just a few minutes out of the battery.

The alternator generates electricity when the engine is running, which is more than enough to keep the battery charged and run everything. With the alternator at full working capacity, your run time is no longer limited by a small 12 V battery, but by the size of your fuel tank. If the generator fails, however, you’re quickly going to run out of “juice” and you won’t be able to go very far.

What are Some Common Problems with Alternators?

The alternator includes and depends on mechanical, electrical, and chemical systems, and a fault in any of these areas may lead to alternator failure. Usually, you would be alerted to an alternator problem by the battery light. Here are some common problems with the alternator:

  • Worn or slipping belts may make noise and may not drive the alternator 100%.
  • A faulty battery may overload the alternator, leading to premature failure.
  • A short circuit may blow a main fuse, preventing flow from the alternator to the electrical system in the vehicle, including the battery.
  • The alternator bearings may fail, and you may hear excessive noise under the hood while the engine is running.
  • Some alternator pulleys feature a one-way clutch. If the clutch fails, the alternator will not spin or generate electricity.

What can Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers Do for You?

At Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers, we have the training and tools to keep your car running right, including the alternator, battery, cables, fuses, and drive belt. If you’ve been experiencing startup problems or your lights are dimming, maybe this is a good time to have it checked out by an ASE Certified automobile repair technician at Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers.

“You Can Depend on Dobbs” – Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers, Home of the Fixed Forever Service Warranty. Locally and Family Owned Since 1976