Discover The Signs of a Bad Alternator or Battery

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Discover The Signs of a Bad Alternator or Battery
battery car engine detail motor / close up of machine new batteries car engine checking car battery cleaning for deliver customers in the car service

One of the biggest fears of many motorists is getting into your car to go to work and it doesn’t start. Most drivers also fear other drivers being reckless. Sadly, anyone’s car can refuse to start in the morning. The trick is to know what the issue is.

Assuming that the starter motor isn’t turning, then the good news is that in most cases it will be either the alternator or the battery. These are essential to give the starter motor enough power to turn the engine over and fire it into life. 

The problem then becomes deciding which is the issue, the battery, or the alternator. Knowing the signs of these issues will help you avoid those mornings when the car refuses to start. It can also help you to click here and get the help your car needs before it becomes an issue.

Sluggish Cranking

If you put your key in the ignition and the engine turns slowly, it’s unlikely to have enough oomph to actually start. This suggests an issue with the battery. It’s likely to be worse in cold months.

The problem is the battery needs to give a large kick of power to the engine in order to get it to fire up. If the battery is low on charge it will struggle to deliver the charge required. This is compounded in cold weather as it takes more energy to get the engine going. 

If your car struggles to crank and perhaps starts after several minutes then you probably have a battery issue. Other signs that confirm this are interior lights dimming as you start the car, no sounds, and, if you pop the hood, you may find corrosion on the battery wiring. 

The question then becomes whether the battery is incapable of holding its charge and needs to be replaced, or whether it is not being charged properly by the alternator. 

Engine Stalls

If your engine starts okay, even if it is sluggish to get going, then you may have an alternator issue as opposed to a battery problem. 

The key signs of an alternator issue are dimming lights as you drive, stereo output declines and turning the heater on cause other electrical gremlins. Alongside this, it’s likely that your car will simply stall as you’re driving it. 

These are signs that your alternator is failing to send a charge to your battery, causing you issues as you drive.

What The Alternator & Battery Do

Your alternator is responsible for charging your battery. You may not realize it but your electrical system is being used constantly when you drive. When your engine is off the battery supplies the power to the electrical system. Once the engine is running this power comes from the alternator. 

At the same time the alternator pushes an electrical charge into the battery, recharging it. This ensures your battery has enough power to start your car next time you need it. 

If the alternator is failing there won’t be enough power for the electrical systems in your car, leading to lights dimming and the engine stalling for no apparent reason.

This is also why the battery won’t have enough charge to start your vehicle in the morning. 

Top Tip: If your car won’t start but you can jumpstart it you probably have an alternator issue.

Testing Your Battery

The above signs should tell you what the issue is and allow you to either replace the components yourself or, preferably, get the professionals to do it for you. 

But, if you wish to get additional confirmation you can test your battery using a standard battery tester or multi-meter. Simply connect the terminals to your battery and check the current level. You’ll also need to monitor the level when cold-cranking the engine. 

That’s when the car is cold and needs to start, such as first thing in the morning. This is when it uses the most power. By checking the amps it’s cranking at you’ll be able to verify this against the battery statistics and the car handbook. This will tell you if the battery has enough power to start your car or not. 

Don’t forget, if you’ve just bought the car it’s possible that the battery is not powerful enough for it. Don’t assume that it’s the right battery, check it’s cranking power against the specifications in the handbook.

Using A Professional

The battery and alternator are the prime candidates in a non-starting situation. However, it is possible that there is something else wrong with the charging and starting system. The professionals will be able to test the alternator and battery to establish that they are the issue Or, they can rule them out and look for other issues. You’ll find it more cost-effective than trying to work out the issue yourself.

Read Also : How and When To Change Your Car’s Battery