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Alternator Repair – How Much Does It Cost?

by Jordan Harris
Alternator Repair

Do you have a bad alternator on your car and do you want to do an alternator repair? If this is the situation that you are into, then you are at the right place because there will be a lot to cover on this topic.

Having a bad alternator is not something that we want in our lives. This is a crucial component for our vehicles to run properly. Without an alternator, nothing would work as it should. So, we can consider the alternator as a real essential thing that always needs to be in check if we want to avoid some bad situations.

Imagine that you woke up early in the morning to go to work and your car simply won’t start at all. You might assume that the battery is empty, which is a good conclusion. But what if I told you that the battery needs to get electricity from somewhere and that is the alternator.

So, if the alternator doesn’t work well and constantly leaves the battery with a half charge, the battery will go bad or will get empty. And eventually, you will not be able to start the car and go to work. And you don’t want that. So, we are going to help you out with that and see what we could do to make you solve this problem.

First, we are going to start from the basics. We will learn what is an alternator and how does it work. We will learn the components the alternator is made of. Then we will cover the symptoms of a bad alternator and then we will discuss the alternator repair and cost. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Is An Alternator, And Why Repair It?

So, before we learn the alternator repair, let’s first discuss what is an alternator in general. What are its main characteristics and what task the alternator does in an automobile? Let’s elaborate on the topic.

An alternator in simple words is a generator. The alternator is a device that is generating electricity in your automobile. This electricity is used to run the engine and run the accessories inside of your vehicle. A really neat device.

And the idea for this device is old as the cars are. In the past, there were different types of alternators called dynamos. The Ford Model T used one and the contemporary automobiles of that time. These dynamos were also known as direct current generators. But the downside of these devices was that they were complex and very heavy. Not that practical after all.

So, there was a need for something else to be developed. And that was the alternator. The first alternators were used in military applications during WW2. But the first commercial alternator was introduced in 1960. Chrysler was the first car to run an alternator.

This alternator was lighter and extremely cheaper and more compact than the dynamo. It was powered by a single belt and delivered a good charging performance even at idle speeds.

The original alternators were quite big, but as time progressed, they had become smaller and smaller. To the size that we are familiar with right now. And frankly, the design hasn’t changed much during the last 50 years. The alternator is one of the components that really haven’t changed much, like the car battery and spark plugs. As they would say, “perfect from the beginning”. But how to perform an alternator repair? We will get there in a bit.

Why The Alternator Is So Important?

So, before we discuss the alternator repair, let’s take a look at why the alternator is so important in general terms. Knowing the importance of this device installed in your vehicle will make sure that you speed up the repair process a bit. Since it is important for it to work for everything to function properly.

As we mentioned, the alternator is a generator and this generator generates electric power and this power is sent to the component that needs this power to work properly. You are probably thinking, hey I have the battery, doesn’t the battery powers the components inside of a vehicle?

Alternator Repair

Well, the answer to that question is, no. The battery has one specific task and that is to start the car or make you able to turn on some of the components like the hazard lights, radio, dome lights.

Whenever you turn on these components and the car alternator is not working, the power will be sucked from the battery and the battery will get empty very quickly.

So, you get where we are going, the alternator is simply producing enough power to power everything inside of your vehicle and also charge your battery in the process.

Whenever an alternator isn’t working right, you will experience battery problems and problems with the accessories inside of your vehicle. There simply will be not enough power output to power everything. And this is the time when you need to perform an alternator repair, and we are going to cover it in a bit.

How Does The Alternator Work?

Now before we learn the alternator repair cost and how to do an alternator repair, let’s first cover how the alternator works in general. Knowing how everything works will make your life easier when it comes to tackling this problem quickly and effectively. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.

As you know, the alternator is a generator. And something has to spin this generator. You know that when electricity is produced, there are steam or water turbines that spin the shaft so electric current is produced right?

Well, the same situation is here as well. Here instead of using water or steam, the generator is using the rotational force of the crankshaft to spin and produce power.

The alternator is connected with the crankshaft through something known as an accessory belt. This belt is also spinning the AC, water pump, and other components.

Nevertheless, this belt is spinning the pulley of the alternator and then the shaft inside of the alternator that is connected to the pulley. And here all the magic happens and the production of electricity begins.

The alternator is an enclosed device. Composed of housing that is made of the front and the rear brackets. There are holes that allow airflow inside of the alternator for proper cooling. At the rear of the alternator are the electrical connections that connect the alternator with the car battery.

In the center of the alternator, there is the stator which is static, and the rotor that is inside. Inside the rotor, there is an electromagnetic coil. The rotor spins around the shaft, thus creating electricity. Overall, a simple process. But how alternator repair is done? We will get to that in a bit.

Symptoms Of A Failing Alternator

Now before we cover the alternator repair issue. Let’s discuss the symptoms of a failing or a failed alternator. Knowing these symptoms is really important for you to be able to diagnose a bad alternator in the first place.

Alternator Repair

There are some obvious ones but as well as some hidden symptoms that can be problematic to connect with a failing alternator. So, if you want to learn how what are these symptoms, stay tuned till the end. Now, let’s elaborate on these symptoms of a bad alternator before we cover the alternator repair.

1. Car Doesn’t Want To Start

Now before we start with the alternator repair. Let’s cover the symptoms of this problem. The first and most probable symptom that you will come across is the situation that the car doesn’t want to start.

You will jump into your car and try to start it. There are two outcomes when the alternator is broken. One outcome is a click-click sound coming from the alternator. The second outcome is the car crank and not being able to start.

Either way, not an ideal situation. But why is this happening? What is causing the car not to start? Well, the problem could be the battery. But the problem could also be the alternator.

The alternator could not be charging the battery and the battery will simply not have enough cranking power to start the vehicle. In this situation, deeper troubleshooting needs to be done to be determined if you need to perform an alternator repair or you will only need to replace the battery or the starter solenoid (with some references to the starter solenoid wiring Chevy and Ford what wires go to the starter solenoid), which is another component that can cause similar symptoms.

That’s why the symptom when the car doesn’t start is too broad and doesn’t indicate that the alternator is faulty and alternator repair needs to be done. But is one of the possibilities. Now let’s move on to the next symptom.

2. Battery Light On The Dashboard

The second symptom that could indicate an alternator repair is needed is the battery light on the dashboard.

When the battery light on the dashboard is on, it could indicate an empty battery or a dead battery. So, the battery has to be inspected and recharged when this is happening and you need to make sure that this battery is holding the electricity.

If not, you can move on to the alternator. This symptom is a better lead to a dead alternator problem and there are basically two options, either the battery is dead or the alternator is dead. As we mentioned above, these components have to be bench tested and checked. If one of them is broken it should be repaired or replaced. If the alternator is broken, you will need to learn the best alternator repair places in your area to sort this out quickly and effectively.

3. Dead Battery Because Of The Alternator

Another symptom that indicates an alternator repair is the dead battery problem. If the alternator is broken and is not charging the battery well enough, it will cause the battery to die and cause a number of issues.

The battery needs an alternator that is working well in order to sustain its ability to start the car and power the accessories.

So, when the battery is dead we can assume that the battery is either reached the end of its lifetime. Or the battery is simply not well charged from the alternator.

If it’s the first case, then you will only need a new battery. But if its the situation number two, you will need an alternator repair performed on your car. And more on that we are going to discuss later in the article.

4. Malfunctioning Accessories

Another symptom that indicates the need for an alternator repair is the symptom when the accessories are malfunctioning inside of the car.

This can be a really frustrating thing to deal with since the car will have problems keeping up the accessories in good working condition.

You might experience how the headlights are getting dimmer and dimmer, the dome lights as well are going to show their downside and start to develop issues. The lights on the cluster could turn off and the radio not work properly and restart.

All this indicates a problem with the alternator if the problems happen when the car’s engine is running. So, your best bet would be to check the alternator and see if it is working well. If it doesn’t, you will need to perform an alternator repair to it or replace it in some instances where the alternator is too broken.

5. Grinding Noises From The Alternator

If you start up your car and you hear grinding noises coming from the engine bay, it could mean that you are in desperate need of an alternator repair. So, why is this the case?

Well, this is the case because when the alternator is broken, it knows to lose balance. And if there is a loss of balance in the shaft, there would be grinding noises when the alternator is spinning.

If you want to investigate the problem deeper, open up the hood of your car and open up your ears as well. Check if there is grinding noise and if this noise is coming from the alternator itself.

If the noise is coming from the alternator, this alternator needs alternator repair to be performed on it. The important thing is to act quickly because a bad alternator in some cases could even lead to an engine fire. And you don’t want that to happen in your car. Your car could burn to the ground because of this component. So, the best thing is to act quickly and make sure that you sort the problem as soon as possible in order to avoid some repercussions. Now let’s move on to the last symptom.

6. The Alternator Shaft Wobbles Around

Another indicator that is telling you that you are in desperate need of an alternator repair is the alternator shaft that is wobbling.

The shaft as we know is the core of the alternator. This is the component that spins the rotor. So, over time this shaft that the rotor is mounted on can lose balance. Once the balance is lost. The shaft will move around and the belt along with the shaft.

So, if you are experiencing some whining noises coming from the front of your engine. You should inspect the condition of the shaft and if it wobbles, then this means that the alternator is broken and alternator repair needs to be performed on this component. But how you can diagnose an alternator and deem if there is a need for alternator repair? Well, that’s what we are going to cover next.

How To Diagnose An Alternator For Repair?

So, how you can diagnose an alternator that is in need of repair and then perform an alternator repair? Well, it’s quite simple.

If you notice some of the symptoms that we covered above, you could easily diagnose a bad alternator on your car.

Let’s say that the battery is getting constantly empty, you have replaced it and it keeps getting low on juice. This is a clear example of an alternator issue. The alternator simply isn’t charging the battery well enough so the battery works without problems.

Another example is the noises coming from the front. A bad alternator will like to grind because the shaft has lost its balance and the bearings are done. The belt would also squeal and in more extreme cases, there will be a burning smell from the front end. And if the alternator is not sorted you could also get your car burned to the ground.

I’m telling you because an alternator can cause fire and this fire can ruin your car and also potentially hurt yourself.

Another way to check an alternator is with a multimeter tool. A multimeter is a very useful tool that will allow you to measure resistance and voltage. And here the voltage is the one that is important.

In the video that we attached, you can see how this procedure is done in the right manner step by step by CrisFix. Now if you diagnosed a bad alternator, let’s learn more about the alternator repair in the following chapter.

How To Repair The Alternator?

Performing an alternator repair can be quite a tricky thing to do because it requires some electrical knowledge and also a rebuild kit.

If you want to pull this off, you will have to order all of the components that you will need to perform a proper rebuild of your alternator. And this can come at a steep price. Here is a video of how a repair on a Denso alternator is done right. As you can see it is not one of the simplest things in the world.

Not to mention that you will also need a ton of tools to perform this rebuild in the right manner. So, it might be your best bet to take your alternator to a shop that is performing alternator repair. I’m sure that they will do it much quicker and cheaper. But how cheaper can get the alternator repaired? Well, that’s going to cover next.

Cost For The Alternator Repair

So, what is the cost of an alternator repair? As we told you, there are a ton of shops across the country that are doing these alternators on a daily basis and they are also doing them for cheap.

The average cost for an alternator rebuild is between $50 and $150. Depending much on what needs to be replaced inside of the alternator in order to bring it back to the OEM spec.

You can also choose to replace your alternator with a new one. A much better option in my opinion because you will never ever have to worry about it in the future. But a new alternator is a bit on the expensive side, costing about $350 and up to $500 with the labor. Not ideal for everybody. That’s why it might be your best bet to perform an alternator repair on your alternator.

Can I Drive With A Broken Alternator?

Yes, you can drive without an alternator repair. But it is not recommended to do so. Why I’m telling you this? Well, it is the case because driving with a bad alternator is potentially dangerous.

Set aside the problems with starting and ending up stranded. If you are driving with a bad alternator you are also risking your car catching fire. Yep, that’s right. Your car could burn to the ground if you are not sorting the alternator on time and you leave it like that grinding and producing sparks. This is dangerous stuff we are talking about here.

Alternator Repair

So, whenever you notice problems with the alternator it is important to perform an alternator repair or replace the alternator altogether and this will guarantee that you did not end up with a potential fire hazard vehicle.

Facts: Alternator – Cost, Function, Signs of Failure, and Replacement Frequency

  • The alternator is responsible for providing electricity to all of your car’s electrical needs while the engine is running and needs to be fixed if there’s a problem.
  • The cost to replace an alternator can range from $100 to $1,000, depending on various factors, including the year, make, model, and engine size of your car, amperage, mounting style, types of electrical connections, and new part’s warranty.
  • The alternator takes power from the battery, amplifies it as an electromagnet, and generates enough power to deliver some back to the battery, topping up its charge.
  • Signs of a failing alternator include a dead battery, an illuminated battery light, burning smells, lighting issues, unusual electrical issues, limited availability of cores to rebuild, and whirring under the hood.
  • It is generally safe to drive a short distance with an alternator problem, but overcharging can damage computer modules, the battery, and other electronics or wiring even during a short drive.
  • An alternator should last between 7 and 10 years, or between 100,000 and 150,000 miles, but its lifespan depends on various factors such as the make and model of the car, driving conditions, and maintenance history.

Conclusion To Alternator Repair

In this article, we covered everything about alternator repair. First, we learned what is an alternator and how alternators work why they are so important.

Then we covered the symptoms of a bad alternator. As we noted, grinding noises, weak battery, malfunctioning accessories are some of the common symptoms of a bad alternator. Then we learned how you can diagnose a bad alternator.

Later we covered the alternator repair and the alternator repair cost. Lastly, we gave our though on this problem and its importance of solving because if you leave it like this, a fire could be caused by the alternator. A scary scenario. Overall, not an expensive component to get sorted out.

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