How Important is a Car Alternator?

alternator and belts

What is an engine alternator?

An alternator is an important part of a car, just as there are several important components to a car’s operation, each as important and needing each other to work. Without a properly working alternator, the other components won’t work as well as they should. Proper alternator repair is important in order for the other components to function properly.

Let’s take a moment to review these important components that rely on a well-working alternator repair. The engine and transmission consist of a starter which is positioned at the transmission front or engine backside. It is what gives the engine the crank when the ignition is engaged.

The alternator provides your car it’s electrical charge. There are several internal components to an alternator, all placed in an aluminum house so that t can recharge the battery directly. The battery, not least of all important component, it is the electrical system backbone because it powers the starter and alternator.

How long should an alternator last?

With the primary job of keeping your cars electrical system running, the alternator is a hardworking part of every car engine. While the battery starts the car and keeps the electrical components functioning, it is the alternator that keeps the vehicle running. Because of the importance an alternator has on a car engine, proper alternator repair is an absolute must in order for your car to run properly.

An average alternator lifespan is typically seven years or up to 150,000 miles. Some car alternators will have a longer lifespan, some will have shorter lifespan. There are factors that can affect the lifespan of an alternator, as a responsible car owner, you should know what to expect for an alternator going out. Taking your car to an authorized mechanic is the first step in having proper alternator repairs once you notice the issues of an alternator going out and save you from being in a bad place with a powerless vehicle.

What are the symptoms of a bad alternator?

Some key signs you have a bad alternator include:

  • Pulsating headlights while driving at night, going from bright to dim on their own.
  • A weak alternator will stop working when it has several electronics charging at the same time.
  • A burning electrical smell that is coming from the alternator or battery. Most cars have an alternator warning indicator on the dashboard that is a good sign to you need to get your vehicle to an alternator repair service immediately.
  • Other electrical conveniences in your car won’t work properly either if it is needing alternator repair. Electrical components like the air conditioning and the radio. This is usually indicated by a high loud pitch squealing noise coming from under the hood where the alternator is located.

Can I still drive my car with a bad alternator?

As we covered earlier, the alternator important job is charging your vehicle’s battery. Should you drive your car with the alternator going bad? No, but you can drive it until you get to your mechanic’s shop for alternator repair before it drains the battery. To drive a short distance with your alternator going out, follow these steps:  

  • Step One: Turn all auxiliary items off like the air conditioner, radio, heater, lights, and wipers.
  • Step Two: Stay out of high traffic areas.
  • Step Three: Get your car to the nearest mechanic to have your alternator repaired or replaced.

Can an alternator be repaired?

Yes, an alternator can be repaired in many cases as long as it hasn’t been overdriven while it was going out. It is recommended to take it to a repair shop where a professional mechanic will know How to fix a bad alternator.

close up of engine and alternator

How much does it cost to replace an alternator?

The cost to replace an alternator can vary based on the car. A remanufactured alternator can cost up to $400 on average with most costing just under $300.00.  To replace an alternator with a new unit can cost up to $1,000.00, again, depending on the make and model of the car.

So, if the alternator on your car has gone out, are you stuck? Or can you jump start a car with a bad alternator? Yes, it is possible to jumpstart a car when the alternator has done out. This enables you to get your vehicle to a safe place or to your mechanic for alternator repair service. While jumping off and driving the vehicle, do not run any unnecessary electric components.

If driving at night and you’re having alternator problems, the best recommendation is to get your car parked safely and secure the services of a professional towing service. The car can be towed to a mechanic shop where they can perform professional alternator repair or replacement as needed. Call 805-466-3236 today for alternator repair in Atascadero, CA.