Your car’s alternator is important for keeping your car’s battery charged. However, a bad alternator can cause you a host of issues. Therefore, it’s important to know what it looks like when this key piece begins to fail on you…

How-to Spot a Bad Alternator: Common Signs

Flickering lights & accessories

One of the first signs of a bad alternator is when your lights and car accessories won’t work properly. This is because they can’t get a consistent flow of electricity. As such, you may see your lights start to flicker or get dimmer than they should be. It could also be that your lights get way too bright because they’re getting too much power.

The same can happen with your other electrical accessories. Most modern cars have a “priority list” for what gets power first. So, you’ll probably notice issues with your radio or other “non-essential” features first. Over time, it could be that important features like your speedometer also begin to malfunction!

Odd noises & smells

Unusual noises and smells can also indicate that you may have a bad alternator. Growling or whining sounds could be because of bad or misaligned belts. It could also be the case that the bearings in the rotor shaft are also going bad.

At the same time, smelling burnt rubber or wires can also be due to a failing alternator. The drive belt is always under constant tension and friction, which means when it wears out, it can create a burnt rubber smell. If the wires are frayed or damaged, then it could also cause an electrical fire-like odor.

Battery warning light

Most drivers will assume that their battery warning light points to a battery-related issue. However, it can also point towards other issues with your car. Most notably, seeing this light could indicate that you have a bad alternator.

Alternators work within a certain type of voltage range, usually 13.5-14 volts. If this range drops due to it failing, then it could cause your battery warning light to go off. At the same time, if the voltage level is too high due to similar reasons, the light can also appear on your dash.