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The alternator is a key component in running the electrical systems in your car. The alternator takes the energy from the crankshaft and turns it into the electricity that is stored in the battery of your car. When your car is running the alternator helps to power the different electrical systems in your car and keep your battery charged.

When your alternator begins to fail it can cause a variety of different electrical problems in your car, and eventually cause a breakdown. Alternators can go bad suddenly, or slowly over time. If your alternator is slowly going bad over time there are some warning signs you can look out for.

So, how do you know if you are having trouble with your alternator?

The Warning Signs of a Failing Alternator

Indicator Lights

Most modern cars have a dashboard warning light to alert you to a problem with your alternator.

Typically this light is shaped like a battery, although some warning lights may display GEN (for generator) or ALT (for alternator). The triggering of these warning lights is typically based on how much electricity your car is using and if your alternator’s output drops below a certain level.

Headlight Trouble

Your alternator provides the power to your headlights.

One of the most common symptoms of a failing alternator is flickering, pulsating, or dimmed headlights. If your alternator is beginning to fail it won’t be able to power your headlights effectively.

Other Electrical Problems

The alternator is responsible for providing power to your car’s different electronics.

Things like power windows and power seats might start operating at a slower speed than normal or stop working altogether. A dying alternator may also cause your car’s radio and internal lighting to stop working.

Smell burning rubber?

Your alternator works with a series of belts within your car. If these belts are not able to move in their intended ways, they will generate excess friction causing the belt to heat up. This can cause a burning rubber type smell.

alternator power supply for the electrical circuits of automotive

Smell electrical burning?

Smelling what smells like an electrical fire could indicate that a belt is slipping and may need to be tightened. In the event that tightening the belt does not resolve the smell or increase your alternator output then it is time to visit a mechanic.

Dead Battery

The alternator is responsible for recharging your car’s battery.

Car batteries can (and do) fail on their own. However, a bad alternator can cause your car battery to drain and not be recharged. If you find yourself jumpstarting your car frequently or your battery dies, be sure to have your alternator checked.

Stalling or Difficulty Starting

Your car requires this electric spark to start.

The alternator in your car provides power to the spark plugs that ignite the gas in your engine. If your alternator is beginning to go bad there might not be enough power in your spark plugs to start your car or keep your car running. If you find yourself stalling for seemingly no reason, it could indicate troubles with your alternator.


Strange noises coming from your car can indicate a variety of problems.

Hearing strange noises coming from your engine in conjunction with some of the other symptoms listed could indicate a problem with your alternator. Listen for whining, grinding and rattling sounds as these could all indicate a failing alternator.


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