What Does an Alternator Do?

Alternator with flat drive belt at modern truck engine

Your car’s alternator is one of those things that seem simple until you try to explain it—it does stuff with electricity, right? What precisely it does with electricity as you drive around Fort Pierce, how it complements the battery, and how to spot problems with the alternator are a bit more complicated than that. So what does an alternator do? According to the Vatland CDJR service center experts, an alternator is basically a generator that uses your vehicle’s gas engine as its source of energy. Let’s dive into that a bit deeper, shall we?

Common Alternator Problems

Understanding how your alternator works as a generator will help you diagnose problems. Basically, your car’s alternator uses the propulsion from your gas engine in combination with a spinning rotor and magnets to utilize electromagnetic induction. AKA, your car moves, things spin, magnets dig that those things spin, magnets create electricity. That electricity is then used to power your car’s electrical systems.

It’s just that easy!

Many assume any and all electricity problems have to do with the battery, but the alternator is just as likely the suspect. What should you look out for? If you see any of the problems below, schedule a service appointment:

  • Devices not charging
  • Whining or screeching sound after the vehicle has started
  • Unable to start
  • Battery warning light appearing on the dashboard
  • Dim headlights or interior lights
  • Burning rubber smell under the hood

Failing Alternator vs. Battery

If your failing electronics aren’t the battery, then how do you determine for certain it’s the alternator? The easiest way to diagnose the alternator as the cause is with a dead car—not exactly the ideal situation, but it’s telling. When your car dies, get a jump start. Once you remove the jumper cables, you’ll know if the problem is the battery or the alternator. If your car dies immediately, the problem is likely your alternator. At that point, you should find a Palm Bay-area certified technician to take a look at your Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram vehicle.

How Long Does an Alternator Last?

Alternators should last a good, long time—usually 80,000 to 150,000 miles, or about seven years. Your alternator might wear out prematurely due to several factors:

  • Driving conditions
  • Power drain on the alternator
  • Alternator quality

How Much Does it Cost to Replace an Alternator?

Since different cars require different alternators, pinning down an exact alternator price for your vehicle is not easy. If you call Vatland CDJR at 772-567-6633, or reach out to our parts department online, we’ll be happy to provide a free quote. Our parts and service departments use genuine OEM parts, so you can rest assured that your alternator will last for years to come.

Choose Vatland CDJR as Your Local Service Center

Whether you’re wondering how to price a used car, want to know how often to change your oil, or have any other service or warranty questions, Vatland CDJR is happy to offer advice to Sebastian drivers and beyond. Even if you need help resetting your check engine light or if you wanted to learn more about the 2020 RAM 1500 fuel economy, we’re here to help! And if repairs prove to be too much work or money, we’ve got a rotating selection of new vehicle specials for those looking to upgrade to a new Jeep Renegade SUV or Chrysler 300 sedan.

Vatland CDJR 27.588183, -80.379000.