5 Common Symptoms of a Bad Car Alternator


An alternator is the battery of a vehicle’s electrical system. It generates electricity to charge the car’s battery. If your car’s alternator is failing, you will probably see some symptoms.

That said, a lack of symptoms does not mean that your alternator is healthy either. Even though most people aren’t aware of it, their cars have numerous electronics that work together to make sure that everything functions properly.

Let’s look at some common signs of a bad car alternator.

The Battery Will Not Stay Charged

If you notice that the battery in your car is not charging, the first thing you should check is your alternator. The alternator is responsible for charging the car battery and if it is not working, the battery will never be fully charged.

Before checking the alternator, check other factors that can affect the battery charging. If you live in a hot climate where the battery gets hot while charging, this can result in sulfation. This is when electrolytes in the battery break down and form a crust over the plates. The sulfuric acid in this crust will stop the battery from charging and result in the battery not holding its charge.

If your car has a heavy load on it, such as a trailer or anything that causes it to use a lot of energy, this could also cause the battery not to be charged. If you notice any of these issues, you may want to check your alternator.

The Cigarette Lighter Does Not Work

If the cigarette lighter in your car will not work, this could indicate a problem with the alternator. This is usually the result of a bad connection somewhere. Another possible reason why your cars lighter doesn’t work is the wiring may be faulty.

If you have replaced the lighter and it still doesn’t work, you want to check your alternator.

The Car will Stall When Stopped and Running in Neutral

Suppose you’re stopped at a traffic light and your car stalls. This may be an indication that the alternator is not charging the battery. To fix this, check your alternator. If the car will not crank, even if you wait a few minutes, you could have a bad battery.

A bad battery could result in a car that will not start but will crank. However, if the car will not crank, but the lights and radio work, you may have a problem with the alternator.

The Car Shudders While Driving

Is your car’s engine shuddering while driving? If so, this could be a sign that your alternator is failing. To fix this, you should check your alternator.

The Service Engine Soon Warning Light is On

If your car is exhibiting the Service Engine Soon warning light, you may want to check your alternator. This is usually caused by a bad alternator. If you see this warning light, pull over to the side and call a tow truck. 

Fixing a Bad Car Alternator

Any number of issues can occur in your car if you have a bad alternator. If you notice any of these signs, you should check your alternator for damage. If your alternator does not work how it should, you may want to replace it, or have your vehicle serviced as soon as possible.