Is My Alternator or Battery Faulty?
There is no worse feeling than having a car that will not start. While many of us immediately think the battery is the issue, this is not always the case. While the battery supplies power to the vehicle, the alternator is what keeps the battery charged. If the alternator begins to die, then the battery cannot hold a full charge. This leads to the vehicle not starting. This blog will go over some of the symptoms of a bad alternator and how to distinguish a faulty alternator from a bad battery.
How to Tell if Your Alternator is Dying
One of the easiest ways to tell if your alternator is having issues is if the dashboard indicator light turns on. If this light turns on, do not ignore it. Take the vehicle to your trusty mechanic or dealership service department to get it checked out. Another indicator is if you have been having electrical issues in your vehicle. This could be the overhead lights not turning on right away or some of the lights on the console flickering. This goes along with the headlights. The headlights may be dimmer than normal. You would most likely notice this while driving at night.
Another way to indicate the alternator is to blame is if you hear rattling. A bad alternator can sometimes cause bearings to come off, which can cause a slight rattling sound. If you have been having issues with your vehicle stalling or not starting right away, this is a clear sign. Lastly, if the battery continues to die, the alternator may be the culprit.
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Signs Your Car Battery is Dying
Alternatively, if the alternator is not the issue it is probably the battery. One clear sign that your battery is the issue is if you hear a clicking sound when you attempt to start your vehicle. This clicking is the engine trying to turn over. It may take a few extra seconds for the engine to come alive. Similar to the alternator, you may experience some electrical issues or the lights may be dimmer. You may want to look under the hood, because a car battery that smells or is dented, bulging, leaking, or corroded is a bad battery. These should be replaced immediately. Finally, if the battery is over four-years-old, it is likely close to the end and should be replaced regardless.
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How Can I Tell If My Car Battery is Dying?
A dying vehicle battery can be a recipe for disaster if you don’t catch it in time. Being left with a drained battery can keep you from getting to where you need to go and can be a major inconvenience. But did you know that there are a few warning signs that can signal that your car battery is going bad? Find out how you can tell if your car battery is dying below.
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Watch Out for These 5 Signs of a Dying Battery
- Slow engine crank and turnover – Are you trying and trying to get your engine to crank but it keeps lagging? If your battery is close to an untimely death, you’ll find that your engine is slow to crank. Bring your car in to a local service center as soon as you notice this classic symptom.
- Clicking while trying to start the vehicle – If you are trying to start the vehicle and instead of any cranking noise you are left with just a clicking sound, your vehicle’s battery has bit the dust. This clicking signifies that the battery levels are too low to get anything moving.
- Electrical features stop working – Various aspects of your vehicle run on battery power and when that power is in short supply, these features are the first to go. If you notice that your radio, power seats, dashboard lights, or windshield wipers aren’t working like normal, consider bringing in your vehicle to get your battery checked.
- The headlights are dim – While you are driving around at night and you notice that your headlights are looking a little fuzzier than usual, there is a good chance your battery is reaching its end. If the headlights aren’t getting the correct amount of power then they are unable to illuminate as brightly as they should be.
- The dashboard’s warning light is on – Many newer vehicles are equipped with the technology to let you know when your vehicle’s battery is on the fritz. If you see a battery-shaped icon lighting up on your dashboard, the best plan of action is to bring your vehicle in to get checked at a local service center.
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Are you thinking that your vehicle’s battery might be on its way out? Stop by the Classic CDJRF service center in Arlington, TX to get your battery checked and replaced if necessary. Book your service appointment online today to get back out on the road in no time.
A bad alternator can leave your Jeep Wrangler without power and unable to move. Alternators don’t always go bad in the exact same way. We’ll cover the symptoms of when an alternator goes bad, and how to diagnose a bad one (which is really pretty easy).
How Your Wrangler’s Alternator Works
The alternator’s job in your Wrangler is to provide electricity as it is running. The battery stores enough voltage to be able to start the engine without the assistance of an alternator.
It is turned by a serpentine belt. It’s worth noting that a bad serpentine belt can cause the alternator to stop charging effectively. It’s pretty easy to tell if one is bad. It’ll look dry rotted. If it’s been slipping a lot it’ll have a glossy shine to it. You’ll have probably heard it squeal when you start the engine. They typically don’t fail quietly.
Symptoms of a Bad Alternator: Jeep Wrangler
Most of the time, when replacing an alternator, the alternator itself is relatively affordable. It’s the labor that makes the job expensive. Here are the most common symptoms of a bad alternator in a Jeep Wrangler:
The battery light is designed to tell you that there is not enough voltage to properly charge the battery, or that the battery itself is not holding the proper voltage.
In rare occasions the service engine soon light may light up. Also, some vehicles have an “alt” light that specifically tells you there is a problem with the charging system, and not the battery itself.
Outside of the battery warning light, a dead battery is the most common symptom of a bad alternator. As the alternator can no longer supply your Wrangler with an adequate power supply, it will begin to feed off of the reserve in the battery.
Once this battery reserve hits a certain level, the vehicle will begin to run erratically and will no longer start when the key is turned.
Often, the battery light will come on, the alternator gets replaced, and then a few days later the vehicle dies. That’s why it’s important to test the battery before you just replace it. Nearly any auto parts store will test your battery for free to see if it holds a charge. The process can sometimes take an hour or so, but it’s worth it to know before throwing money into a battery that you do not need.
As described above, a bad alternator will drain your Wrangler’s battery fast. When the battery gets so dead it will no longer be able to power your Wrangler’s ignition system. As the ignition system is no longer able to produce a full powered spark, the engine will begin to sputter and stall.
If you find yourself in a position where you suspect that your voltage is dropping, but you need to safely get off the highway, turn off everything that you possibly can. Kill the radio, daytime running lights, air conditioning, heated seats, EVERYTHING. That will allow all of the limited voltage in the battery to go to the ignition system.
If your Wrangler’s alternator starts to have bearings that fail, it’ll begin to make some very obnoxious noises. If the serpentine belt has gone bad, it can make some noises too, but it won’t sound metallic like the bearings going bad would.
Dimming headlights are one of the most common signs of a bad alternator in the Jeep Wrangler. Dim headlights indicate that the alternator can’t keep up with the energy request for the lights. As your Wrangler begins to eat through the voltage stored in the battery, the headlights will begin to fade.
Electric Accessory Issues
Many accessories in a vehicle require quite a bit of voltage. Heated seats, the blower motor, power windows, and even the radio will work erratically or not work at all when the alternator is bad.
Jeep Wrangler Bad Alternator Diagnosis
Some alternators go bad right away, and some slowly lose their ability to charge under heavy loads. The ones that fail completely are easy to diagnose. The battery drains and you are stuck with a vehicle that goes nowhere.
The challenge is diagnosing an alternator that is just not quite charging like it needs to be. You can easily diagnose it with almost any multimeter. Here’s what to do.
- Get a multimeter. They are cheap (you can get a decent one for $10), and you can get them almost anywhere.
- Set it to read voltage. Specifically, you’ll need to set it to 20V DC.
- With your Wrangler turned off, you’ll connect the negative side of the meter to the negative battery post or wire. You’ll then touch the positive side of the voltmeter to the positive battery wire. With the engine off, you should get a reading somewhere between 12.0 volts and 12.6 volts.
- Now that you have this baseline, it’s time to turn the engine on. Let’s go ahead and leave the air conditioner off, as well as the headlights and any other accessories.
- With the engine just fired up, you should get over 14.2 volts. If you got 14.2 or more volts, the alternator is charging fine. If it’s still showing in the 12’s, it’s time to replace the alternator. If it’s producing a voltage level in the 13’s, go ahead and take it into a parts store and have it tested. It’s probably bad.
- Now, assuming that the alternator was producing over 14 volts, go ahead and turn on the headlights, air conditioner, radio, and any other accessory you can think of, and run the same test all over again. If the voltage dropped back into the 12’s, it’s a very strong indication that the alternator is bad. It’s still worth having it tested, but be prepared to replace it.
Another test you can do that’s not nearly as scientific is to turn the headlights on and then start the engine. They should get brighter after the engine starts, since the voltage is increasing by almost 2 volts.
Now with the engine idling, rev it up a little bit. Did the headlights get brighter as you increase the RPM? This is a very strong indication that the alternator has in fact gone bad.
This test depends a lot on you to notice very subtle differences in lighting. It should not be used in substitute for checking the voltage as described directly above.
Over the life of any vehicle, the alternator is going to go bad. Good luck diagnosing the alternator in your Wrangler. If there is anything that you would like to add, please leave a comment below.
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