Do you need a new Alternator? How to tell if yours is bad

alternator in a vehicle

Your alternator is a central component on any engine. The alternator is responsible for powering anything electronic on your vehicle, including the coils that fire your spark plugs (unless it’s a diesel). At Westerville Automotive in Westerville, OH, we know a bad alternator when we see one - here’s how you can spot one too.

What the alternator does

The alternator takes over for powering the vehicle as soon as the vehicle starts. When the engine isn’t running, the battery is responsible for delivering electricity - once the engine starts, the alternator takes its place. A battery would run dead fairly quickly if it were solely responsible for powering everything, starting the vehicle, and running the engine. The alternator spins as the engine runs, generating power as long as the engine is going, and charging the battery in the process.

What happens when it fails

Most of the time, an alternator will either work or it won’t. Sometimes it can fail intermittently, but any time it fails to charge the battery you’ll start noticing an issue. If the alternator isn’t producing enough voltage to keep up with the demands of the vehicle, the engine and electronics will start drawing power from the battery instead. Eventually, since the battery isn’t being charged, it’ll run out of juice. Problems will manifest in a few different ways. You may notice that once the engine is shut down, there’s not enough power to start it again - if the battery is in good shape, the alternator is a likely culprit. If you notice the headlights are dim, especially when at idle or running multiple electronic components, that’s another symptom of a failing alternator. You might notice the radio or other electronics begin acting erratically, or the engine itself runs poorly, especially when you turn on high current components like the headlights or heater fan. Try turning all the electronics off and see if the vehicle performs better, especially if you need to make it off the road before the battery dies completely.

What to do about it

Diagnosing a bad alternator can be tricky without the right equipment and knowledge. Sometimes problems appear intermittently, or if it’s barely beginning to fail, it may take a long time between moments where the vehicle is running long enough to kill the battery. The best way to diagnose a bad alternator is with a multimeter - if you test across the battery leads or to the back of the alternator with the engine running, and it’s not reading well over 12v, the alternator isn’t doing its job.

Specialized equipment for testing and diagnosing an alternator makes the job even more simple and concise - a professional technician with the right tools can often tell you what’s wrong in just a minute or two. At Westerville Automotive, we can diagnose and replace a bad alternator in no time, and get you reliably back on the road. Our crew wants to ensure your safety on the road, so we make sure our repairs and service guarantee reliability and quality.

No matter your repair or maintenance needs, we’ve got you covered. For the repair and service shop in Westerville, OH, call or stop by Westerville Automotive today.



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Westerville Automotive providing top automotive repairs and service in Westerville Ohio for 20+ years with top trained ASE technicians in 2 locations.  From oil changes to transmission repairs, our team will get you on the road and keep yoou traveling safely.  Our goal is your complete customer satisfaction.   Westerville Automotive is a Preferred Jasper Engines & Transmissions Owner Installer with NAPA AutoCare Center backed by exceptional customer services. 

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Our Main Shop - Westerville South:  5591 Westerville Road (614) 890-0707 |  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Schedule Online

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Westerville Automotive

5591 Westerville Rd
Westerville, OH 43081

location small (614) 890-0707
Email the Shop

Westerville Uptown

31 East Main Street
Westerville, OH 43081

location small (614) 890-6700
Email the Shop

SHOP HOURS

Weekdays:   8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Saturdays: 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM

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