Your car uses an alternator to tap into an enormous amount of energy generated by your engine to create its own electricity. Think of it like a hydroelectric dam: it takes advantage of an enormous amount of pre-existing movement to create its own power.
Without it, you would soon need to pull your car to the side of the road as different systems began shutting down.
If you believe your car may have been sold to you with a defect, reach out to us at 833.4.CARLAW for a free consultation and we will investigate the problem.
The Alternator’s Responsibilities
A general misconception is that car batteries power the electrical components in the car. But that’s far from the truth. The battery’s primary responsibility is to help the car start. After that, the alternator generates the majority of electricity needed for your lights, dashboard, and other components.
Here’s how it works: when the engine runs, it spins a belt attached to the alternator. This then turns the alternator, which essentially contains an electromagnet—making it a sort of generator. The electricity feeds into the rest of the car, including the battery.
Problems with the Alternator
Under the right conditions, an alternator should last between 8-12 years, or about 100,000-150,000 miles. Warning signs that there are issues with the alternator include:
- Control panel lights dimming when the engine is idling
- The battery indicator illuminates, or you see “Alt” (alternator) or “Gen” (generator) on the dashboard
- Strange smells coming from under the hood (burning rubber could be a sign there’s an issue with the serpentine belt)
- Strange sounds coming from under the hood (grinding or whirring may indicate the belt is coming off or something is wrong inside the alternator)
Watch for these warning signs at all times. Ignoring even one of them could leave you stranded on the side of the road, as important components like lights and power steering rely on the alternator. A dead alternator could even stop the car altogether.
Solutions to Alternator Issues
If you jumped your car and it runs for a short time and then loses power, your alternator is likely to blame. If the car continues to run indefinitely without issue, you probably have problems with the battery.
If you think you’re having problems with your alternator, it is time to take your car to your dealer. At the dealership, a technician will typically run a voltage test to see how much electricity is being generated. If there isn’t enough, you will either need to repair the alternator, replace the alternator, or replace the serpentine belt.
Finally, you can also peek underneath the engine to see if the undercover is intact. This blocks water and sediment from the road shooting up and entering the alternator, where it can cause premature wear and tear. If the undercover is damaged, consider replacing it.
Avoiding Repeated Alternator Problems
If you have constant issues with the alternator or electrical systems in your car, you may have been sold a lemon. Robison Lemon Law Group can help you navigate both the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and lemon laws to ensure you receive the justice you deserve. Our experienced legal team will work with you to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.