What Are Some Ways to Troubleshoot an Alternator?


Quick Answer

Several methods of troubleshooting an alternator include visually inspecting the belt, listening for unusual noises and checking for the smell of burning rubber. Any one of these methods can confirm alternator problems or point to a different issue.

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Full Answer

A vehicle's alternator converts kinetic energy from a running engine into electrical energy which fires the spark plugs, charges the battery and powers all electric components such as headlights and fans. Symptoms of a failing alternator include dimming headlights or dash lights, radio cutting in and out and the electrical warning light on the dash panel remaining on after ignition.

A visual inspection of the alternator can rule out a loose or broken belt. When the engine is running, a failing alternator often makes a whining or grinding sound which may be accompanied by the smell of burning rubber or of hot wires. While a loose belt is easily repaired, a failed alternator requires immediate replacement before the vehicle is drivable.

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