Your car is comprised of many parts, all of which play a pivotal role to help keep your car operational and keep it the dependable piece of machinery you have either grown to love or that has become the money-draining thorn in your side. One of the main stars in your car’s daily operations is the alternator, once your alternator has failed don’t expect your car to leave your driveway unless it’s on the back of a tow truck. While you are racking up the miles from the tow truck be prepared to shell out more money as alternator replacement costs will cut your wallet deeply. The average alternator replacement cost ranges from $500-$1000
What Is An Alternator?
We’ve all seen those medical dramas on TV, someone is flatlining and outcome the lifesaving paddles to jump-start those heart monitor beeps back into action. Imagine that an alternator serves the same purpose as those life-saving paddles. An alternator is the spark of life that your car depends on each time it starts up. Without a working alternator expect your car to flatline.
The alternator is a small, maintenance-free, generator of electric power that is found bolted to the engine and is driven by a serpentine belt. An alternator gets its name from the term “alternating current” and should last roughly 10-15 years without any repairs. Any car with an internal combustion engine (with the exception of some hybrid vehicles) is equipped with an alternator. The alternator is what charges the battery and it also supplies power to the car’s electrical systems. Electrical systems include the instrument panel, radio, climate controls, and the interior/exterior lights.
What Causes An Alternator To Fail?
There are a few reasons that can cause parts of the alternator to fail and most of the time, these failures cause the entire unit to be replaced. The following issues may be the cause of your failed alternator:
- Dying battery
If your battery is dying this puts added stress on the alternator causing it to work overtime and wear out quickly. Since the job of an alternator is to charge the battery while the car is running and to also give life to the electrical systems in your car (lights, radio, etc.) the alternator when having to keep a dying battery alive will overwork itself.
- Failed plates
There are three rotating plates that span across a winding of copper wires, this is how an alternator produces power. As these plates fail (which can happen one at a time) it can weaken, but not entirely stop the power output. When the plates fail, the power will drop power levels. This wear and tear will ultimately cause the battery to fail and the ignition system to die.
- Worn ball bearings
There is a rotor that spins on a set of ball bearings on the interior of the alternator. When these bearings wear out, they can “snag” as they develop flat spots. This can cause a boisterous clamor and can become a prolonged grinding noise. This racket can be so loud that it can drown out your radio and the engine noise.
- Loose or disconnected ground wire
The alternator serves as the mounting point for the negative ground wire. This wire Is usually mounted to the vehicles trame with a large wire that can come loose. If the alternator loses its ground, it can surge and cause severe damage to the alternator and the components within it.
- Damaged drive belt
If there is a worn or damaged drive belt it can cause slipping to happen on the
alternator’s pulley wheel. If this happens it can cause the alternator to put out less voltage. Without a properly fitted belt, it can cause the alternator to undercharge the vehicle’s system which will in turn damage the alternator and kill the battery.
How To Tell Your Alternator Is Failing
Now that you understand what causes an alternator to fail, let’s examine how you can self diagnose a failing alternator on your vehicle. Once an alternator starts to fail there are six sure-fire warning signs that can determine whether or not you are going to need to take a trip down to a mechanic and open up your wallet to this costly repair.
- Barely there lights
Like previously mentioned, an alternator’s sole purpose is to provide power to the ignition, starter and all of the electronic systems in your vehicle. You may notice dim lights both inside and outside, such as dim headlights or dim dashboard lights. These dim lights are usually key clues of possible alternator failure.
- Dying or weak battery
A car battery does not have eternal life. Even with a properly functioning alternator charging your car’s battery the alternator can only do so much, eventually, the battery will no longer accept a charge. To troubleshoot this issue and clarify if it is the battery that has failed or if you do indeed have a failing alternator, simply charge the battery and restart your car. If the car still has trouble starting even after a full charge, you are likely facing an alternator replacement.
- Dashboard warning light
Modern cars nowadays will usually have a dashboard warning light that will indicate when you alternator may soon be knocking on death’s door. The light will usually be shaped like a car battery but be sure to check your owner’s manual for clarity
- Weird sounds
If you hear a grinding or whining noise it could be because one of the many internal parts of your alternator has become worn out or is entirely broken altogether.
- An odd smell
This ties back to the damaged drive belt. If the belt is not able to move around freely this friction will cause the belt to overheat resulting in the oh so pleasant aroma of burnt rubber. This will cause poor alternator output. Try tightening the belt, if this does not remedy the smell or change the alternator output the alternator could be failing.
- I spy a worn belt
Visual cues are your friend and is one of the easiest things to detect. Look under the hood and check your belts, make sure they are properly connected to the alternator and not too loose, too tight, cracked or worn.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace An Alternator?
Now for the hard pill to swallow, how much will it cost to replace an alternator? While the price will vary from vehicle to vehicle, here are a few estimates pulled from RepairPal on some popular vehicle to give you a better idea of what costs you may be facing.
Why Are Alternator Replacements So Expensive?
The cost of replacing an alternator varies based on the car you have just like with any other repair. Your make and model will determine how much of a hit your bank account will receive. There are many factors that take place that can affect the cost of your alternator repair. An Alternator repair can be as simple as replacing the alternator belt or as complicated as an entire alternator replacement. You also have the option if you do in fact need an entire alternator replacement of going with either with a new alternator or rolling the dice on a rebuilt alternator which can be cheaper than a new alternator.
Is It Worth Replacing Your Alternator?
Before you decide to make such a costly investment into your old jalopy by replacing your alternator you may want to evaluate if your car is worth the hemorrhaging your wallet is about to endure. Thankfully in today’s day and age, we have numerous tools offered to us that can help make a daunting task like estimating the value of our car easier than ever. Reliable and trustworthy websites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds are great tools offered to the public. Keep in mind these are rough estimates and are not written in stone.
The next thing you need to evaluate is whether or not your failed alternator is an isolated incident. Does your car have any other mechanical or electronic shortcomings? It is not uncommon to have more than one issue, especially if you are dealing with an older vehicle. Chances are if you are experiencing an alternator failure that you probably have other issues as well. Are these problems worth the constant hit to your wallet? Having an older vehicle is a gambler’s delight, each morning you get into your car you have a 50% chance that your vehicle will start. That’s not exactly comforting but there are options to help put your mind at ease.
You Can Sell Your Car As-Is
In today’s world selling your car is much easier than it ever used to be. Nowadays we have options, it doesn’t even matter if your car is operable you can still get cash for your vehicle. Recycling and reselling parts means your car has value to the right buyer. Your vehicle is a treasure trove of valuable and useful parts as long as it is sold to the right buyer. Now the question is, who is the right buyer? You have a few options, Craigslist, junkyards, eBay, and dealerships. All of these options come with their own set of pros and cons, nothing is perfect right?
When you decide to list your vehicle online you open yourself to an onslaught of scammers who will contact you all hours of the day, and I do mean all hours of the day. Although there will be legitimate buyers who may want your vehicle it is hard to wade through the illegitimate calls, emails, and texts. Listing your car on eBay does not exclude you from these headaches. You will be given two options on eBay, to list it locally or to list it nationally which will cost you a fee to do so. Craigslist, while it is extremely easy and accessible to the masses is no exception to this problem. In fact, it may actually be your must untrustworthy option.
Junkyards and dealerships while they may seem like they are on opposite ends of the spectrum operate in very similar ways when you are trying to sell your vehicle. Their end goal is the same, profit. Both services will lure you in with salesman-like tactics just to undercut the value of your car and offer you as little as possible. These options do not have your best interest in mind, they are only looking for the best deal for themselves. Better options are out there believe it or not.
Stop Stressing About Alternator Costs- Sell Your Car to Us Instead
If you are trying to avoid the headache of selling your car through online sources like eBay and Craigslist and you don’t want to get involved in the salesman tactics that are involved with a dealership and junkyards you do have a better avenue to explore. Cash Cars Buyer is the hassle-free option that we all deserve.
Time is a valuable thing and Cash Cars Buyer knows and respects that. The procedure is forthright, visit Cash Cars Buyer’s website, request an “as-is” condition quote, and depending on the vehicle’s condition and other factors we will offer you a straightforward price for your vehicle. Should you chose to accept the offer you can schedule a pickup time that is convenient to you, the vehicle will be towed away with zero expense to you and you receive the cash you deserve to get for your vehicle. You get to watch your burden leave your driveway while you count the cash in your hand. Simple, easy and effective- that’s the way we like to do business.
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