Signs Your Vehicle Alternator Is Going Bad And An Auto Repair Is Imminent

After my car died, I learned more about cars, and now I like to teach other people how to get a great price on a decent ride.

Signs Your Vehicle Alternator Is Going Bad And An Auto Repair Is Imminent

Signs Your Vehicle Alternator Is Going Bad And An Auto Repair Is Imminent

8 July 2015
Automotive, Articles

Most people in the United States use their cars on a daily basis for basic transportation services. In fact, there are over 250 million registered vehicles on the road in this country, with about six million new cars sold each and every year. If you are like the vast majority of Americans, then you own a vehicle yourself. Statistically speaking, you are most likely the owner of a pickup truck or a sedan. Regardless of the model, your vehicle has a very important part called the alternator. The alternator is a cylindrical part that sits close to the front part of the engine. This alternator produces electrical power that is transferred to the battery, and electromagnetism helps produce this power. The electrical power that is produced helps to run the dash lights, interior lights, headlights, and radio inside the vehicle. If the alternator breaks, then you will need an immediate replacement. Keep reading to find out about some sure signs that an alternator failure is imminent.

The Battery Light Comes On

Almost all vehicles have a variety of warning lights on the dashboard that signal problems within the car. The oil light informs you when your car is need of the fluid, and the check engine light alerts you to any sort of mechanical engine problems. The car will also have a battery light. Most people believe this light indicates that the battery of the car needs to be either charged or replaced, but this may not be the case. Much like the check engine light, the battery light indicates an issue with a portion of the electrical system. This system includes the battery, alternator, and starter.

Lights to Look For

If the battery light indicates that an alternator issue is present, you will most likely see the light blinking, flickering, or staying on for only a few moments at the start of the issue. This happens because an electrical problem is noted when the voltage through the system drops or elevates. When the alternator begins to go bad, voltage output generally drops when the car is first turned on or when the wipers, headlights, or other electrical features are utilized, since the alternator still partially works at this point.

If you have a newer vehicle, then you may see the same sort of warning light issue, but with a light that says "GEN" or "ALT". These lights are different from the battery light and indicate specifically that there is an alternator issue. Usually, you will see this light intermittently coming on as well, in a similar manner as the battery light.

Distinctive Smells and Sounds


The malfunction of the alternator often comes with some distinctive sounds and smells that can easily alert you to a problem. When you turn your car on, you may hear a whining, whirring, or grinding noise. The alternator has a combination of pulleys, belts, bearings and a rotor that work in conjunction to rotate and create electrical power. The belts often wear down over time and make whining noises as they run across pulleys. Bearings, pulleys, and rotors can begin to wear and make grinding noises as exposed metal parts brush against one another. 


When rubber belts start to break and dislodge from their normal position on the alternator pulley assemblies, the materials start to wear away and release a burning odor. A strong metallic odor may be noted as well when the metal pieces grind against one another. Often times, alternator issues also cause the wires within the unit to overheat. This occurs as the other parts heat up through friction and the temperatures transfer to the wires. Overheating issues are common too, as voltage ebbs and flows through the alternator. When this happens, you will smell the wires burning. All of these odors are likely to be quite pungent, even though you will likely not see any smoke, sparks, or other visible signs of burning material.

For more information, contact a local repair shop or visit

About Me
Getting The Best Price On A Used Car

I still remember the first time I started shopping for a used car. Since I was more concerned about looking cool than how much money I spent, I focused on finding a bright red shiny car instead of checking out the engine. Although I was able to track down a pretty sweet looking convertible, the car only ran well for a few hundred miles. However, I was able to turn that bad investment into a lifestyle. After my car died, I learned more about cars, and now I like to teach other people how to get a great price on a decent ride.