Signs of a Bad Alternator

Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated August 9, 2012)

The alternator is one of the most, if not the single most, important parts of the engine of a vehicle. Keeping it in good working order should therefore be one of the most important tasks that any driver should remember to do. The sad fact of the matter though is that most people don't really pay all that much attention to the alternator. If you ignore the signs of a bad alternator, you can easily find your car not going anywhere, and the battery you just bought could end up dying within a couple of days. To help ensure that this doesn't happen, keep in mind these common signs of a bad alternator.

  • Belt. The alternator belt is one of the easiest things to check, and frankly one of the first things to go bad on the alternator. Checking the alternator belt to ensure it is in good working condition is amazingly easy, all you need to do is look at it and inspect to make sure that it doesn't look cracked or worn. In addition, you will want to run your hand over both sides of the belt to double check an make sure that there are no teeth missing either.
  • Accessory lights. Believe it or not, but the accessory lights that are on your dashboard can be a sign of a bad alternator. The best way that these can show you that you might have a bad alternator is when you turn the accessory on. If they act slow, don't light up all the way like they should, or if the radio doesn't even play, then you should take a look at the alternator.
  • Volt gauge. Most cars and trucks have a voltage gauge on the dashboard to help you keep an eye on how the battery is working. When the alternator isn't working properly, this gauge will be lower than it should, and can even jump around erratically. If you notice this happening, then you will want to have both your battery and the alternator checked out.
  • Battery service light. A common light that can be found on many vehicles today is the battery service light. If there is a problem with the battery, whether it be electrical in nature, or it is draining too quickly, or whatever, this light will come on. When that happens you will need to check the battery, check the alternator, and check the wiring to ensure that the problem is taken care of.
  • Check with a voltmeter. Another way to check to see if your alternator is working properly is to use a tool called a voltmeter. This tool will measure the voltage that is in a circuit, and will allow you to see whether the circuit is running properly. Typically, all you will need to do is turn the accessories in your car on, and then run the voltmeter over the battery. The reading should not go below 13 volts, and with the accessories off it should be between 14 and 14.4 volts. If it shows up as less than that, you have a problem and will need to replace the alternator.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...


Cleaning Broken Glass from a Tile Floor

No matter how many times you hear it, the sound of shattering glass can cause your heart to drop a little. Flashing ...

Discover More

Removing Stains Left By Moving Blankets

When it comes to moving, one of the biggest problems is protecting your furniture from getting damaged. That's where ...

Discover More

Teaching Teenagers to Save

If your teen loves to spend money, as most seem to, it may be time to begin teaching them the importance of saving. ...

Discover More
More Car Tips

What is a Timing Belt

There are several different kinds of belts that can be found in the average vehicle engine, and all of them have an ...

Discover More

How to Replace Struts

Next to a shock absorber, one of the more common parts that need to be replaced on your vehicle is the struts. While you ...

Discover More

Problems Starting Your Car

You hop in the car, turn the key, and the car doesn't start. What do you do now?

Discover More

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three less than 7?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)