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Does My Car Need a New Alternator? 10 Symptoms

Does My Car Need a New Alternator? 10 Symptoms

To better answer the question, “does your car need a new alternator,” look for these 10 potential symptoms:

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  1. Warning lights on the dashboard
  2. Dimmer headlights
  3. Flickering headlights
  4. Battery problems
  5. Loose and broken connections
  6. Weird sounds
  7. Damaged belts
  8. Strange smells
  9. Difficulty accelerating
  10. Vehicle stalling

Problems might start with only dimmer headlights, and then you might notice some weird smells coming from your vehicle associated with flickering gauges. This all could indicate a bad alternator.

What's the alternator? What does it do? What are the symptoms of a bad alternator? How much will it cost you to replace the alternator? Add more! We will answer all these questions in this article to help you eliminate any alternator problems in your vehicle and get your car back on the road without any issues.

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What is the alternator, and what does it do?

Before we dig into the details and answer the question, “does my car need a new alternator,” Let's step back and understand the alternator and its main role in the vehicle.


The alternator serves as a converter. It is responsible for converting the chemical energy into electrical energy that you can use to charge your car's different components, including the battery.

There is a very common misconception that the battery is the one charging the electric components like your engine running. However, it is the alternator's responsibility. Think about it this way, when the engine is running, the alternator is the one charging the electric components. However, when the engine is not running, the battery is the one charging the electric components, and that's why if you leave the lights turned on, for example, you will end up with a dead battery.

How long does the alternator last?

The alternator is a durable component, and it's expected to last between 6 to 10 years. However, there are some instances where it might fail prematurely. Depending on some other external factors, your alternator might fail at some point before it hits the six years.

Therefore, every driver must understand the different symptoms indicating a bad alternator so they can fix the alternator before things get more complicated and require extensive repair costs.

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Does my car need a new alternator? Symptoms of a bad alternator

As we mentioned earlier, there are some occasions where the alternator might fail prematurely. You have to rely on the different symptoms to help you answer that question, “does my car need a new alternator?”

Let’s take a closer look at some of the ten common symptoms of a bad alternator:

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1.    Warning lights on the dashboard

When your alternator goes bad, you will notice some warning lights on the dashboard. The warning lights are just ways for your vehicle to communicate with you and bring your attention to internal issues.

You must never ignore any warning light on the dashboard. Whether these warning lights are related to the alternator or any other components should be taken seriously.

When you notice some warning lights indicating that something is going wrong in your car, you have to check with your mechanic because your mechanic should better understand what is triggering these warning lights. Unfortunately, you cannot immediately replace the alternator because it could be a problem with another component.

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2.    Dimmer headlights

Since the alternator has to do with charging all electric components, you might start noticing that the headlights are dimmer than before. It could indicate that the alternator is not working properly or it's about to fail.

The best course of action you can take here is to check with your mechanic and describe the problem. The problem could also be related to a bad battery, but this depends on whether your engine is turned on or not.

Once your mechanic confirms the actual culprits, you can decide on repair costs.

3.    Flickering headlights

Sometimes the headlights might not be completely done. They might be just flickering. What is happening here is that your alternator is trying hard to charge these lights, and it is giving the right charge at some point, but then it's not able to do so. Clear itself the case; you will most likely deal with either a bad battery or alternator.

There are many ways you can confirm whether it's the battery or the alternator. For example, we can perform a quick jump start to see whether your car works just fine or not. If the jumpstart help, it means that what you're dealing with is a bad battery, not the alternator.

Your mechanic should have better ways and more confirmed approaches to confirm whether it's an issue related to the alternator or the battery.

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4.    Battery problems

The alternator is also responsible for charging the battery, and when you try starting your car at some point of time and realize that the battery is not working, you cannot immediately say that it's a bad battery because it's related to the alternator in some instances clear

Therefore, when the alternator is not working, the battery will not be able to be fully charged as running the vehicle, and the second time you try to start a car, it won't start. So take a look and confirm the actual culprit because it could be a combination of both.

5.    Loose and broken connections

Sometimes you won't have an actual alternator problem. For example, it could be that some of the connections next to the alternator are not working properly; they might be loose or probably broken. If that's the case, they will block or impact alternators' performance.

Therefore, before you go ahead and invest these expensive repairs on replacing the alternator, try tightening the connections and confirm that these connections are in good shape because they're much easier to replace or repair.

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6.    Weird sounds

A bad alternator can easily result in weird strong noises. Whenever there is a weird noise coming from your car, you should not ignore it because it could be related to a sensitive issue inside the car. Also, the faster you detect these noises, the easier it is for your mechanic to resolve that issue without needing to install new components, which means much lower repair costs.

In general, drivers described the weird noises as more like a high-pitched whining noise coming from the alternator. Unfortunately, if you confirm this noise, you'll most likely need to install a new alternator.

7.    Damaged belts

Depending on your vehicle's design, the alternator is connected to the engine through belts. When these belts are not working properly or broken, the energy will not be transferred from the engine to the alternator. Therefore, your vehicle will act like it has a bad alternator.

Therefore, one of the checklists you should consider is checking on these pulleys and belts because one could be bad, causing the alternator problem.

In general, when dealing with damaged belts, you won't see the symptoms related to the alternator only. In other words, some other components like the water pump, for instance, might get impacted depending on what's connected to these belts.

Therefore, you will most likely detect the problems early on than getting to this point. Thus, when you confirm an issue with your belts, you must fix them so you don't have to deal with other complications that will cost you lots of money on the repair.

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8.    Strange smells

Like the bad noises, we always liked to recommend drivers never ignore any weird smell. Sometimes the smell might be nice, but they still indicate an internal issue.

The alternator might trigger some weird smells as you get inside your car and start your vehicle. It's important that check with your mechanic and have him perform a thorough inspection. When you provide information to your mechanic, let him know that you've noticed this smell and smell like something you're familiar with. The more you describe the smell, the easier it is for your mechanic to detect the actual culprit and resolve the issue.

Typically, when your alternator goes bad, you might start noticing some burning rubber smell or probably some wire-burning smells. All these indicate that the alternator is starting to wear out, and the different rubber and electric connections are failing around the alternator.

9.    Difficulty accelerating

If you ignored alternator problems for a long time, you could easily get to a point where you can't accelerate. However, have you ever tried pressing on the gas pedal and noticed that your vehicle is not responding? This is critical, and the alternative could be an actual culprit.

10.  Vehicle stalling

Finally, a bad alternator might trigger other issues like vehicle stalling. One of the worst situations you might be involved in is when your vehicle stalls as you're driving in the middle of the traffic or at highway speeds.

There is a very high chance that you might get involved in major car accidents, which impacts the safety and safety of other people driving around you. Thus, never ignore a bad alternator issue.

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How much does it cost to replace the alternator?

Replacing The alternator is considered one of the moderate problems that don't require the maximum replacement cost but also, it's not very cheap. To insult a new alternator, expect to pay $573 and $742.

Keep in mind that this repair cost range differs significantly depending on what vehicle you're bribing. So, for example, if you're driving a small sedan car, you won't expect to pay as much as someone else who's driving a bigger motor vehicle.

Is it worth fixing the alternator?

It depends. Depending on your vehicle's value and what other problems you're dealing with, it might be worth fixing the car, but also, it might not be worth it.

For example, suppose you have other problems related to the engine or the transmission. In that case, fixing an alternator might not be the wisest choice because if you consider the overall or fair costs, it's not worth it.

That's why we like to answer this question on a case-by-case basis and encourage our readers to determine the overall repair cost value and compare it to the vehicle's value to see if it's worth it. Of course, if you got to a point where you want to sell your car because of the event alternator and some other problems, you can always consult cash cars at 773-781-4363!

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Final thoughts

The alternator is one of the very significant components in your vehicle that you have to maintain to continue charging and enjoying the electric components in your car.

This article provided you with 10 comment symptoms to help you answer, “does my car need a new alternator?” Of course, whenever you run across any of these symptoms, you must consult your mechanic and have him confirm that you need a new alternator.

Depending on your situation, you might realize that repair costs are piling up and getting close to 75% of your vehicle's value. If that's the case, you should consider selling your car rather than wasting your time, money, and effort

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  • Describe your car's type and condition
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To learn more about our process and our team, you can reach out to us by calling us at (773) 781-4363 or visiting our home page click on the free instant online offer.