Functions and Failure Signs of Car Alternators

What is a car alternator?

In simple terms, an alternator is an electric generator that is used in automobiles today for fully charging the battery and to power the electrical system of the vehicle while the engine is running. The name alternator was derived from the alternating current (AC). High output car alternators convert mechanical energy into electrical energy by revolving the engine’s crankshaft. Hence, an alternator is an essential piece of equipment for any car.

How the electricity is produced by the car alternators?

It produces electricity from the engine. Today, in almost every vehicle, the alternators are directed by the crankshaft through a serpentine belt. However, in the older models, a separate belt was present and was used to go over the crankshaft pulley that was connected through the alternator.

Here, the mechanical energy is transformed into electricity. The electricity is produced when the rotor spins. There are magnets all around the rotor, placed purposely so that the energy generated during the spins will pass through the copper wiring present in the stator to create magnetic fields. This magnetic field produces voltages that are captured by the stator. Post that, the power flows to the voltage regulator that distributes electricity for the functioning of the vehicle.

Life of a high output car alternators

An alternator is a frequent issue that a customer experiences commonly while using their vehicles. The maximum lifespan of high output car alternators is five years.

When does an alternator need to be replaced?

Here are a few indications of when an alternator needs replacing:

  • When the headlights of the car get dimmer or flutter, it is a sign it is the time.
  • If an unusual sound of growling or a strange odor comes from underneath the car’s hood.
  • Sometimes, people experience dull battery backup, which is also a red signal for a poor alternator.
  • The worst sign is when the car stops moving while driving.
  • Many times people see electrical failures such as slow functioning of power windows, windshields, power locks, heated seats, etc.

People often get confused and encounter a lot of problems while figuring out the actual issue with the alternator. They believe any issue with the headlights or windshields is because of the battery. Surely a poor battery can cause these issues however, it is crucial to diagnose the actual cause, and for that reaching out to a trustworthy car service is essential.


An alternator is a basic necessity for any vehicle. Hence, for the flawless functioning of the alternators and long life span, the engine must be free from dirt and debris. People often use petroleum-based products to degrease or clean the alternator however, it immensely damages the potential of the alternators and thus must be avoided. Always avoid a pressure washer or compressed air while cleaning the alternator. Avoid spraying any cleaning agents directly on the alternators while it is open. If the heat is cornered inside the alternator, it will be damaged. Hence, regular servicing and checkups can prolong the life of high output car alternators.

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