Don’t let alternator problems strand you. Be aware of the warning signs your alternator is failing.

How do you know when your car is on the verge of having alternator problems? After all, the alternator is a key component of your car’s electrical system and, without it, your car won’t run for long.

What Is the Alternator?

The alternator charges the battery while the engine is running so that the battery will have enough juice stored to start your car the next time you need to drive it. Furthermore, the alternator provides electric power to a car’s various systems while the engine is running, as Angie’s List explains.

Signs of Failure

Here are some common warning signs that your alternator is on its way out.

Illuminated Warning or Indicator Light

If your car is equipped with one, a light will illuminate if the vehicle senses that the alternator isn’t working properly or is about to fail. If it lights up, you should take your car to a mechanic even if there are no other signs of a problem.

Dim or Flickering Headlights

If you notice flickering, it may mean the alternator isn’t supplying enough power to the headlights, which is a sure sign of a problem.

Other Electrical Problems

A dying alternator could be the culprit of other electrical problems in your vehicle, too. If you’re having problems with your power windows or locks, for example, they engage too slowly, it could be an issue with the alternator.

Irregular Noises

Strange noises coming from your car is often cause for concern. In this case, it may be an indication that the alternator bearings have failed. Specifically, these strange noises might include a rattling or clunking sound.

Stalling or Not Starting

If the alternator isn’t providing enough power to the spark plugs, the engine won’t have enough electrical power to keep running or to even start at all.

Dead Battery

Finally, one of the biggest indicators of alternator problems is a dead battery. Yes, batteries can fail on their own if a light is left on, if the car hasn’t been used in several days, or if the battery is old. But if the battery is relatively new and in good shape, yet it still discharged, it may mean the alternator simply isn’t charging it.

Keep an Eye Out

Be aware of the warning signs your alternator is failing and make sure the charging system, which includes the alternator, is in tip-top shape. If you aren’t careful, you may find yourself stranded, looking for a tow.

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About the AuthorTim Healey

Tim Healey is a writer and reporter specializing in covering the automotive industry and reviewing new cars. He also has experience covering sports in a past journalistic life. The Chicago-based journalist loves cars, sports, and music, and can write passionately and knowledgeably about all three topics.