You Shouldn’t Ignore Alternator Problems
Your Vehicle Won’t Start
If you notice that your vehicle seems sluggish when you turn the key or you are constantly needing to jump start your car, the alternator might not have been able to fully charge the battery, leaving it with just enough amperage to start the engine. As the alternator begins to fail, the rate at which it recharges the battery slows down. This means it may require more time driving on the road or operating at higher RPM to keep the battery charged.
This effect can be even more pronounced during successive short trips, where time between starts is insufficient to re-charge the battery, eventually making it unable to start the vehicle. If this is the case, you may want to keep the vehicle running until you can find a place to stop where you can safely jumpstart the battery.
Always find a safe place where you can jumpstart your battery if necessary. Avoid stalling the vehicle if it has a manual transmission, and do not turn the car off unless you know that you have access to a jumpstart, as the engine might not start again.
Your Headlights are Dim
Driving at night tends to put more demand on your vehicle’s electrical system, with interior illumination, light up displays and gauges, and headlights all requiring electricity. A failing alternator will often make its presence known by the intensity of the headlights. As the alternator generates less current, the car’s battery has to make up the difference. Over time, the lights will dim.
When your vehicle begins to show signs of alternator failure, it’s important to drive the vehicle to a spot that is safe to park. When you turn off the engine, it might not start again. Avoid attaching another battery, jump box, or other ad hoc remedy, as this may lead to unsafe conditions and possible damage to your vehicle’s electrical system. Instead, make arrangements to have the vehicle brought to where it can be diagnosed and repaired safely and effectively.
The Battery Warning Light Is On
Often an early indication of battery failure is the battery-warning icon displayed on the dashboard, typically in the driver’s information display. Don’t assume when this light comes on that your battery is the culprit. This warning light will also be triggered if the battery is being charged at a reduced rate due to a failing alternator. Replacing the battery with a new one may temporarily fix the problem, but before long, you are likely to see the warning light again. Repairing or replacing the alternator is often the solution when the battery icon displays in your vehicle.
Failure to heed these warning signs can leave you stranded on the side of the road.
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