The important role of an Alternator in your Vehicle Charging System
When it comes to powering your vehicle, you might think it’s the battery doing all the work, but you’d be mistaken. It’s the car alternator that is producing the majority of your car’s energy, from powering your windshield wipers to getting your favourite radio station.
What is a car alternator?
The car alternator, or generator, is responsible for distributing electricity to your vehicle and recharging your battery. Although there are some models of cars that don’t need alternators, they are typically mounted on the front of the engine and connected to the crankshaft.
It is made up of four main parts:
- Rotor and stator – the rotor is a cylinder piece surrounded by magnets that spins inside the stator that contains copper wiring.
- Voltage regulator – this monitors the voltage output of the battery and delivers power to the rest of the vehicle.
- Diode rectifier – this part is responsible for converting the voltage from the alternator into a form that can be used by the battery to recharge.
- Cooling fan – as is the case when generating voltage, alternators give off a lot of heat. The cooling fan is in place to keep it cool and performing efficiently.
How does a car alternator work?
Alternators are powered by the engine’s crankshaft via a serpentine belt. The movement of the belt causes the alternator rotor to spin and as the magnets move against the copper wire in the stator, electricity is created.
This voltage is then dispersed and managed by the voltage regulator. Any power intended for the car battery goes through the diode rectifier and is converted into a one-way direct current. After this, the battery can use the current to recharge.
If any component becomes damaged, your car battery will be unable to charge, and your vehicle will not turn on. That’s why it’s important to find the right car alternator generator for your car and have it replaced every 10 years.
Signs of a worn-out alternator
The serpentine belt that drives car alternators can wear them out and when this happens, the alternator will be unable to generate enough electricity to keep the vehicle running. It’s important to recognise the signs so you know what to do if your alternator is worn down.
Here are some tell-tail signs that suggest your car alternator needs replacing:
- Warning light – typically, if your alternator is worn and its output goes above or below the pre-set limit, a light will be shown on your dashboard to alert you. In most cases, this light is shaped like a battery.
- Dim lights – a common symptom of a worn alternator is flickering if your alternator is flickering or dim lights.
- Dead battery – if your car won’t start, there is a definitive problem with your charging system.