The winter is hard on your car. From the ice, salt, and cold, your vehicle takes a beating, and that includes all individual components of the engine, especially the alternator.
The alternator is one of the essential elements of your vehicle, but many people do not know what it does. In fact, most people credit the battery for the jobs of the alternator. The battery is only responsible for starting and maintaining power to the engine through the starter motor and fuel injectors. The alternator is responsible for converting mechanical energy into electrical energy to power all of your vehicle’s electronics, including the lights and entertainment system.
Because this auto part is so crucial to the operation of your car, you must know the warning signs of an alternator failure and learn how the winter can affect it. Thankfully, this part has some of the most obvious warning signs.
How To Recognize a Failing Alternator
Since the alternator is responsible for all electronic operations of the vehicle, it is also responsible for charging the battery. With so much responsibility, it is evident when something is wrong. The top three signs of a bad alternator include electrical issues, engine stalling, and failure to start.
Some of the earliest signs of a faulty alternator are electrical problems. The entertainment system, for instance, might power on and shut down randomly. Additionally, the headlights might appear dimmer than usual, and the dome lights might flicker or dim.
If the alternator is not replaced or fixed, it can affect how the engine runs, leading to frequent or unpredictable stalling. When the alternator is not operating at total capacity, it will fail to charge the battery fully. A weak battery can lead to the poor performance of fuel injectors, resulting in stalling.
Finally, a failing or failed alternator will not charge the battery, resulting in a dead battery. A dead battery will result in the inability to start the car.
How the Winter Can Affect an Alternator
Among other car parts, the alternator can have trouble during the winter months. Most of the problems with the alternator correlate to colder temperatures and damp weather. The cold can thicken oil which is a drain on your vehicle’s battery and forces the alternator to work harder, which can damage it.
The temperatures can also cause stiff belts. The serpentine belt can stiffen and shrink, meaning when the alternator starts, it forces the belt into position, causing stress and potentially loosening it.
Winter has no shortage of water. The puddles and ice build-up can result in excess moisture, which can damage the alternator.
How To Replace an Alternator
While you can replace an alternator on your own, it can be challenging for someone with little knowledge of car mechanics, especially with newer vehicles. However, if you must DIY the repair, follow these steps:
- Disconnect the negative battery cable
- Locate alternator and inspect components
- Remove the alternator and compare it to the replacement
- Install it following manufacturer instructions
Are you ready to replace your alternator? Contact a local auto parts store to find the right part and ask any questions you might have.
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