When you stick your car key into the ignition and twist it, the car battery charges the starter motor and turns on the engine. But the car battery doesn’t have enough power to continue powering the electrical components of your vehicle. That is where the alternator becomes vital.
The alternator charges the car battery and converts mechanical energy into electrical energy for the electrical components. Your car would not function without a working alternator because it is the primary electrical power source of the vehicle. So it is not a problem you can ignore for very long.
Most auto manufacturers claim the factory-installed alternators will last for the life of their vehicles. However, the reality is that most alternators tend to malfunction or stop working after about 3 to 5 years. The lifespan depends on how much you drive the vehicle and the frequency of exposure to bad weather and extreme temperatures.
Repair vs Replace Alternator
The alternator may look like a small auto component, but it is little bit costly to repair, and more costly if you replace it with new one. The average cost of repairing an alternator ranges from $100 to $200.
Replacement Cost (with New Original Part)
But if you need to replace your alternator (replace with new one original part), the average cost is anywhere from $500 to $1,000. Browse around at different auto shops to find the best prices in your area.
Replacement Cost (with Used Part)
Of course, you can settle for a used alternator at the auto shop and pay a lower price. Used alternators are about $150 to $300 each, but they will only last for a couple of years. But if you already have a lot of mileage on your vehicle, it might be more economical to purchase a used alternator to replace your current one.
So the decision is depend on the situation, if you want to use the car for long time, I recommended you to change with new one (original part). But if you will use this car for short time or temporary, such as you will sell the car soon, you can choose to repair or replace with used alternator.
And as alternative between three options above, you can replace it with new one using OEM or replacement parts which is cheaper than the original one. You can find many OEM alternator brands with good quality such as:
When You Need to Replace or Repair Alternator?
When your alternator no longer functions normally, you will have to decide to either repair or replace it. But before you make this decision, you should verify whether you actually have a bad alternator or some other problem similar to it.
A lot of people confuse alternator problems with battery issues. That is why you need to understand the most common symptoms of a bad alternator so that you’ll be able to tell the difference. If you notice at least three of the symptoms listed below, the chances are that you need to repair or replace your alternator instead of the battery.
Below are the top 5 symptoms of a bad alternator.
1) Electrical Accessories Not Working
Modern cars have many electric-powered accessories, such as headlights, air conditioners, stereos, power mirrors, power windows, power locks, satellite radios, and USB chargers. If you have a bad alternator, you will notice a poor performance from one or more of these accessories. They may have low power or no power at all.
2) Vehicle Does Not Start
The alternator needs to charge the battery to start the vehicle. But if the alternator goes bad, you won’t be able to charge the battery. So although you may see some lights flicker for a bit, the alternator won’t produce enough power for the battery.
It doesn’t mean your battery is bad, though. But if you keep attempting to start your vehicle with a dead alternator and live battery, your electrical components will train the energy from the battery too.
3) Dashboard Warning
The dashboard will flash a warning light of some kind. Different car models will have various warning lights associated with a bad alternator. Some of these warnings include ALT, Check Engine, or Battery Light. If it’s either of the last two, it won’t be clear to you that it is an alternator problem until you notice other symptoms too.
4) Burning Smell
Sometimes a bad alternator will cause the rubber components to emit a burning aroma. In other cases, the smell could be coming from the alternator itself.
If you continue to notice a burning smell along with electrical issues, then you should definitely take your car to the auto shop as soon as possible. Otherwise, there might be a fire under your hood if you’re not careful.
5) Strange Noises
The alternator is connected to the engine with a pulley and drive belt. A faulty alternator will cause these two components to have spinning or rotation issues, which could cause squealing sounds and other strange noises.
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Can You Still Drive with a Bad Alternator?
Yes, but you should only drive your car a short distance because you don’t know how much longer the alternator will remain somewhat functional. So use the little bit of time you have left to get your vehicle to the nearest mechanic before the car completely stalls. Don’t drive around longer than necessary.