Do you know when it’s time to replace the alternator? Your car’s alternator is a major component of your car’s electrical charging system. When your engine is running, the alternator charges the battery and supplies power to the vehicles electrical systems. When your alternator begins to fail, you end up with a low or dead battery, and you may have other electrical problems. Here’s how to know when to replace the alternator.

5 Signs That It’s Time to Replace the Alternator

When your alternator begins to fail, you’ll get several warnings. Here are five signs that will tell you it’s time to replace the alternator.

  • Battery Warning Light. If you see a warning light on your dash that looks like a battery, or you see the letters ALT or GEN, then your warning system is letting you know that the alternator needs attention. When the voltage coming from the alternator goes below a set limit, this warning light comes on.
  • Dim Headlights. Have you noticed that you have a harder time seeing at night, or your lights dim and brighten as you drive? It’s likely that your alternator needs to be replaced. You can also notice the issue if other electrical items, like the windows or power seats, experience a slowdown. If you notice these signs, check your alternator.
  • Problems with the Accessory Belt. You can notice alternator belt problems in a variety of ways – it may be visibly loose or cracked, it may make a growling or whining sound, or you may smell burning rubber. If you notice these signs and it’s linked to the alternator accessory belt, it’s time to replace the alternator.
  • A Dead Battery. If your battery is dead without explanation – especially if it’s a newer battery – the problem is probably the alternator. Jump start your car, remove the jumper cables, and then wait. If the car begins to die again while running, then the alternator needs to be replaced.
  • Hot Wire Smell. Sometimes the alternator is producing power, but that power isn’t being delivered to the battery or engine. There may be bad wires or a loose connection. If you notice a hot wire smell or have intermittent trouble with the alternator, it’s time to have it looked at.

Should You Hire a Mechanic to Replace the Alternator?

If you know that you have to replace the alternator, you may feel like you can do it yourself. However, you need several specialized tools – a digital multi-meter to test the battery and alternator, a serpentine belt tool, wrenches, and a socket set, as well as a replacement alternator. Some websites offer step by step instructions, but they may not be tailored to your specific car.

Getting an alternator replaced at the mechanic is generally less than $500. If you buy the alternator at an auto parts store, you’re looking at $125 – $170 by itself, so the difference isn’t that significant. In addition, a trained technician will know exactly how to replace the alternator in the most efficient way. If you don’t already own the tools and have experience working on your own car, it’s probably a good idea to have a mechanic replace the alternator.

If you have concerns about your alternator, or would like to learn more about when to replace an alternator, you can contact Hi-Tech Car Care for help. We’re an AAA Top Shop winner since 2003, and we’d love to help you get your alternator and battery in tiptop shape and back on the road. Call us at 602-224-0941 to make an appointment today!


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